What would you say to Judas?

fullsizerender-4-copyThis post is dedicated to the men and women who know what it is to fail and let others down. You are the same person you always were yet you are looked at very differently and for some people that you were close to apparently a continued relationship will be too much. I don’t pretend to understand all of the dynamics others may feel that cause them to react in certain ways but I offer these thoughts

Jesus was in the house of Simon one evening when a woman came in unannounced and poured a bottle of very expensive perfume over his head. The disciples were indignant and suggested that the money to purchase it should have been given to the poor. There is no evidence in scripture that the original disciples cared all that much about the poor but much like many church folks today they were thought it would be spiritual to complain about the expenditure.  Apparently it really got to Judas. After all he was in charge of the finances for this rag tag group of disciples.

For whatever reason we find out that Judas went to the leading priests and offered to tell them where Jesus was. I really think it was just bitterness and discontent that made him do this and that he had no idea it would lead to Jesus death. When it dawned on him that Jesus was going to trial and about to die we find these words in Matthew 27:

Very early in the morning the leading priests and the elders of the people met again to lay plans for putting Jesus to death. Then they bound him, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor. When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”

What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself. Matthew 27:1-5 NLT

I have read this over and over and contemplated for quite awhile what I’m about to write. I offer these thoughts as a challenge to all of us as we practice redemption and grace to those that may fall or fail around us. I remarked to one of my sisters recently that moral failure within the church leaves you with very few options. One of them is to kill yourself . . .literally kill yourself and remove yourself from the hate that you will feel. (Pastors in America are being tracked for the high rate of suicide. It is everywhere online if you want to read more.)  Another is to disappear and hope that you never cross paths with the people you thought you were close to as ministry partners. Apparently they take it the hardest. Recently on a Sunday, I encountered a mother that used to attend where I pastored last. Her kids were with her and I said hi but felt pretty gun shy about it. She was open, friendly, happy and even thanked me later for engaging her kids. What a contrast to a few parents who’s children I was closest to that have made sure they or their children never cross my path.

I need to say that the vast majority of  people I/we have dealt with have been very kind, compassionate and full of grace. I appreciate that more than you can know unless you have walked this road. Having said that I must be honest and say that the quietness of the few has been painful, disconcerting and felt more like hate then love. The avoidance, the shunning, the “passing by on the other side” is reminiscent of nothing I read in scripture. With all that in mind let me take you back to Judas’s story.

He woke up the day after his failure and betrayal and realized he had made a terrible mistake. He never dreamed that his actions would bring about the death of Jesus. The scripture above says that he was filled with remorse and so he made his way back to the “church” or high priest. He admitted that he had sinned and made a mistake. He begged to be able to fix it. The answer he received makes my blood run cold. It causes me to feel sick to my stomach.

The one place he could of and should of have found hope was the last place he would receive it. There was no grace. There was no mercy. There was no compassion. This is what he received:

“What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.”

And so it is. Not much has changed I’m afraid. Yes, I know this was the Jewish faith and not Christianity but it makes very little difference. Our roots are in the same God and even Jesus was a Jew as were all the disciples. This was the religion of the day. This was the place of faith and hope. This was the only place of refuge for forgiveness at that moment in Judas’s life. If he could have just waited a few more days before choosing to end his life he might have discovered the resurrected Jesus.

The church didn’t offer it but based on Jesus and who He was and based on my own story I can assure you He would have found him and restored him. When you fail you can’t undo some things. Judas could not undo or take it back but he would have been forgiven and Jesus would have not held it against him for days, months or years or the rest of His life.

It was Jesus that told the story of leaving the 99 sheep to find the one lost lamb. It was Jesus who said “that everyone that believes in Him will receive eternal life.” It was Jesus that forgave his executioners. It was Jesus that came to seek and save those that were lost.

To those who fail in the future . . . and I so hope you do not, be aware that Jesus is your only hope. He will not fail you. He will not run away from you. He will not avoid you or ignore you. He will not hate you or speak meanly to you. He will not hope you fail at things you try to do with the rest of your life. He will not wish you dead.

Jesus would have loved Judas and welcomed him back just like He did with the disciple Peter who also denied Him but in a different way.  Yes the standard of authentic faith is high. I have always believed that and tried to live it.  I did live it . . . until I faltered and failed. That’s when I was faced with the decision: Live or die? Give up or keep going? Move forward or sit sidetracked for the rest of my life? I still have moments . . . not suicide moments but moments of wondering what it would be like to have received help from the people I thought I was close to. By God’s grace, I have moved on. I do not wait for their phone calls anymore, and someday I will probably quit wishing I still had a relationship with them.

Many times in the last two years I’ve heard the voice of Jesus whisper in my spirit:

“I do care.” and “This is not your problem alone.”

Thank you to friends both old and new that have stayed a part of our lives. You helped save me and I am grateful for that. Thanks to new friends in ministry that have wept at my losses and failures but held out the hope and grace of our loving God. They have extended His mercy as real ambassadors of Christ

What would you say to Judas? My fear is that most of us apart from God’s mercy at work in us would say these words:  “What do we care, that’s your problem.”

Thank you Jesus for loving me. When I have my moments of doubt about your love I understand why Judas ended it all. Life without you is not worth living. But in the words of a song I grew up singing . . . “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives all fear is gone. Because I know, He holds my future, and life is worth the living, just because HE lives. I will press on. In a few weeks we will celebrate the resurrection but for some of us it will begin with Ash Wednesday and we will fast something and add something to remember our Lord’s 40 days in the wilderness place .He didn’t fail or fall but he declared that He came to seek and save those who were lost. He came to bind up the broken hearted. He loves you more then you can imagine. He never walks away. He never quits or gives up on you. Life is worth living.

 

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5 thoughts on “What would you say to Judas?

  1. Wes, Thank you for this. I understand and FEEL every word deeply and personally. My story mirrors yours in detail in so many ways. Obviously I was not a pastor but I was very known in many churches back home from the music ministry I was in. I also taught Sunday school for many years. The shunning is the worst, these people were “family” to me, I was raised by them, they were at my baby dedication when I was an infant. No one reached out to me, no one, stopped to say words of incouragement or even took me to the side to point out that the road I was on led to “death”. Did it hurt? Yes. Was it shocking? Yes. BUT.
    They too are also human and make mistakes and their reaction to My falling is in part a sin of their own, a human sin, a sin of Gods law of Love. SO I can not hold this against them or wish and wait for them to be or respond differently. They are who they are and God is and will deal with that within them. My love for them has not changed, my heart breaks for them that after all these years sitting in the church pews they have never grown to know what it truly all about. Love and Grace.
    What would I say to Judas? “I love you man, you made a mistake, you were not perfect join the club no one is. Let’s go grab lunch, we can meet Jesus there” 🙂

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  2. I will always remember the help you were to me when my daughter Deb was going through her days of failure and return to grace. As I walked through it with her God taught me much. You, young enough to be my son, were pastor to me. The Lord makes all things work together for good. He redeems our mistakes. He uses Deb to reach many who are losing hope. Last week she visited a Hispanic lady in Tampa she had led to Jesus and baptised in swimming pool…they keep in touch. Many people are being discipled by her. It amazes me how God never wastes anything we encounter in our lives, but redeems all. Praise to our Redeemer! Love to you and yours, BJS

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  3. Judas’ response is perplexing to me. He states he had sinned because he had betrayed and innocent man. At that time the only law broken would have been one of the Commandments. He may have felt that he violated the ninth commandment. However, It was not a false testimony. All he did was identify Jesus. It was a betrayal of a true friend. But Judas did not lie, extort or falsify anything. He proclaimed himself a sinner because he knew that Jesus was the Messiah and thus became entangled with the first four commandments.
    When we fail… we begin to self medicate on scriptures that may not be in in context of the intended audience, nor relevant to the issue at hand. Therefore, Judas’ remarks are self deprecating as he searches for his heart. So… he returns the filthy lucre and takes his own life, breaking another commandment. Think about this… First, we apply scripture inappropriately to our own need. Hopefully recitation of scripture may take away the sting for the moment. But the grief, loss and separation is still there. Example, officiating a funeral. We(clergy) recite all of the proper scriptures and cliché’s giving people hope and comfort in the moment. But they go home alone after the fanfare and sob themselves to sleep. Or do as Judas did …
    Focus here must on the response of the church… to which I hold great accountability. The chief priests said, “it’s your problem…” Wow! that is the most profound part of this discussion. I too am an outsider. Have been for many years. Actually, I don’t want be an insider anymore. I don’t think I ever betrayed a friend, nor caused harm, nor received money for ratting out someone… but I have failed and been told by the elite that my situation is “my problem”…

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