All Saints Episcopal Church, Hilton Head Island, SC
Rector's Thoughts and Reflections
April 1, 2006
The name conjures all sorts of images, not only
for the Christian but also for the casual observer. The name and the person
behind the name are hardly welcome as we move towards Holy Week: the Passion,
Death, and Resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. The nascent Church tried its best
to relegate Judas into oblivion.
He was placed last in the list
of apostles; he was, after all, the "betrayer", in the eyes of the church the
unforgivable sin. (The fourth Gospel practically identifies him with Satan and
the Antichrist, John 6:70; 17:12.) The apostle is certainly the most enigmatic
person in the gospel story. The meaning of his name (or designation), his
background, his character, his motive in betraying Jesus, the manner of his
death are riddles now quite insolvable.
Jesus chose Judas. Jesus saw the
possibilities in Judas that the church and the world have tried to forget. The
love of Jesus, that knew no bounds, reached out to Judas, and they became very
good, trusted friends in a tight circle of friends. We have speculated for
centuries upon the motives behind Judas' betrayal. Did Judas' enthusiasm wane?
Was Jesus not decisive enough for Judas? Did Jesus associate with the "wrong"
people, tax collectors and prostitutes? Or was Judas attempting to force Jesus
into a display of power so that the religious and political authorities would be
convinced of his messiah-ship? Perhaps it is possible that Judas was simply
avaricious and dishonest and couldn't resist an opportunity for personal gain?
Judas loved Jesus. My
faith informs me that Jesus loved Judas just as deeply, and with full
forgiveness, after the betrayal. I can only imagine the deep turmoil within
Judas before, as tradition suggests, he hanged himself. As grievous as his sin
of betrayal, regardless of his motives, Judas was in the presence of a Savior
whose love had and continues to have no bounds.
I find it remarkable that Judas
betrayed his friend Jesus at the critical
moment in the swirling events that surrounded and influenced the life of Jesus
before the Passover, and that Peter, also a close confidant, denies Jesus not
once but three times at a critical moment and yet finds salvation. One friend is
condemned by those who would follow, and another helps lead the "church" into an
We have a bit of Judas in us, in
that we "betray" our faith at times, that our own desires override the will of
God, and that we love God and yet find ways to walk in other directions. Was
Judas just plain willful, trusting his own desirous outcome over and above his
love and admiration for Jesus? The cross of betrayal, the burden of that sin or
sins is a cross that Judas apparently could not carry in this life.
I trust Christ carried it with
him into the next life.
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