Monday, February 08, 2010
I Thought He Was My Friend
Waldorf College Chapel 2/8/10
Luke 22:47-48 47 While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; 48 but Jesus said to him, "Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?"
33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." And they cast lots to divide his clothing.
#323 "God Loved the World" and #802 "Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus".
I've never put a ton of thought into Judas' betrayal of Jesus until recently when it came to my mind. For me, it's just always been one of those Bible stories that I've always known: Judas betrayed Jesus, and then that led to his crucifixion. There isn't much more to it than that…or is there?
As I was thinking about it recently, I realized that this betrayal could only have happened because Judas was close to Jesus. He wasn't simply some random person who had been in one of the many cities and towns in which Jesus had preached, but he was someone in Jesus' inner circle. He was one of Jesus close friends. He spent time with him, learning from him, getting to know him.
Can you imagine the hurt that Jesus must have felt, knowing one of his closest friends had turned on him? What kinds of thoughts must have gone through his head? Did he think "How could he do this to me? He was my friend. I trusted him."
Judas may have thought he was doing the right thing; he may have thought that by selling Jesus out he would force Jesus' hand to step up and be the Messiah that everyone was expected.
But that's not what happened. Judas' plan went wrong; it sent Jesus to the cross instead of to the throne of Israel. And then, when Jesus was dying, he asks God to forgive the people who are doing this to him.
I don't know about you, but when someone hurts me, deliberately or not, my first thought isn't usually forgiveness. Sometimes, it has taken me many years to forgive people.
I also want to think about it from Judas' point of view. He probably didn't think of what he was doing as betrayal. To his way of thinking, it was something that he needed to do for a specific reason. Wanting the Messiah to overthrow Rome was a long-held Jewish desire and belief, and in Judas' mind, he was helping it along; he was looking for a positive outcome. He probably didn't expect Jesus to actually be crucified and die.
I know a lot of people simply have the idea of Judas as betrayer and that's it. But I actually feel a little differently. I feel sorry for him. As I said, he may have had intentions other than that of maliciously betraying Jesus for money, and I think we see that when we see what happened next to him. In Matthew's relating of the story, we see the following:
3 When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4 He said, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." But they said, "What is that to us? See to it yourself." 5 Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself.
We see that Judas repented; he tried to make things right again by bringing back the money, he admitted that he was wrong. But the chief priests and elders didn't care; they had what they wanted. And Judas was so despondent about what he'd done that he committed suicide. Now, I don't know a lot about suicide, but I can only imagine the deep, deep despair that he must have felt in order to take his own life.
One commentary that I read put it this way:
"It is much more likely that Judas kissed Jesus as a disciple kissed a master and meant it; and that then he stood back with expectant pride waiting on Jesus at last to act. The curious thing is that from the moment of the kiss Judas vanishes from the scene in the garden, not to reappear until he is intent on suicide. He does not even appear as a witness at the trial of Jesus. It is far more likely that in one stunning, blinding, staggering, searing moment Judas saw how he had miscalculated and staggered away into the night, a forever broken and forever haunted man. If this is true, at that moment Judas entered the hell which he had created for himself; for the worst kind of hell is the full realization of the terrible consequences of sin." (Barclay, William. The Gospel of Matthew. Volume Two. P. 392).
If one of the reasons Jesus died was for the forgiveness of sins, then doesn't it stand to reason that Judas is included in that? Would Jesus have forgiven everyone but Judas? I don't think so. I think that the level of forgiveness we see in that is the same level of forgiveness that we are supposed to strive for to forgive the people that hurt and betray us.
When we are hurt or betrayed by someone, it is only someone who has somehow become close to us. We don't think of a stranger on the street as someone who could possibly betray us, so sometimes there's a disconnect when we read about betrayal and forgiveness and when we actually experience it. It's pretty easy to sit in a Bible Study talking about forgiveness or even to be up hear speaking about forgiving people who have hurt us, but exponentially harder to actually do it.
In the second reading this morning we saw that Jesus forgave the people who were crucifying him even though they didn't ask for it. He just did it.
Forgiveness may look or feel differently to each of us. We won't all react to hurt or betrayal the same way, and likewise, forgiving others may not look or feel the same either. The big question that people often ask when faced with this dilemma is how much contact to have with the person who has betrayed them. And I don't know the answer to that, because we have all been hurt by different people in different ways, and there is no one answer that is a fit for us all. For some, it may mean verbally saying "I forgive you" to the person and finding a way to reconcile. For others, it may be writing a letter that expresses forgiveness but is never mailed and never having contact with that person again.
Because we all react differently, even if the same person hurts multiple people, it makes the topic of forgiveness a tricky subject.
But the important thing is that forgiveness takes place. We can't control what other people do to us. We can only control our reactions and responses to what they do to us. This doesn't mean we let people continue to hurt us; but sometimes, that unforgiveness that sticks with us is going to make that hurt stick around a lot longer than it needs to.
We also have to remember that God loves the person who hurt us, whether we like it or not, and we must still try to find a way to love that person as well. It may be that the best way to love that person is to pray for him or her. Nothing we can do is comparable to the changes that God can make in a person, and so our first course of action should be to consult God in the matter. It can help us in our healing and it can help the person who hurt us. We may never know what goes on inside that person as a result of prayer, but it is something we should probably turn to when we don't know what else to do.