B Cycle – Holy Thursday 21
Did you ever wonder why after three years of discipleship, Judas never understood the mission of Jesus as reconciling a sinful people to God? We know the disciples had moments of complete and utter confusion over some of the things Jesus said and did. But Judas would have been there when Peter proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah, the one who was to come. He would have heard the response of Jesus, telling Peter he could not have known that by any means other than an inspiration by God.
Judas would have been present when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. That alone was acknowledging he had some special connection with God allowing him to speak to God as a lover speaks with their beloved. He had to have heard how Jesus as he begins his ministry reading from the prophet Isaiah and then proclaiming that that prophecy was being fulfilled in their midst. Jesus spoke in parables, but he also spoke to them about sin, forgiveness, mercy and how God’s love was going to overcome all their failings. Why was he unable to not see who Jesus was and how to respond to him?
It is too easy for us to simply state that Judas was there to fulfill the words of the prophet Jeremiah (Mt. 27:9). Judas had seen and heard and followed Jesus how could he not know. We can grasp the confusion that night as all the disciples fled the scene as Jesus was arrested, but Judas had already accepted the thirty pieces of silver and was the one whose kiss identified Jesus as the one to be arrested. All of us have failed Christ at some time by giving into our own concept of what Jesus means to us. Each of us like judas has had that moment of overwhelming remorse.
It is at that moment we have a choice to make. Do we seek forgiveness, or do we like Judas feel the weight of sin so greatly we cannot see how God can forgive us? Even if we seek reconciliation, we still feel the weight of sin and feel as if there can be no redemption. Judas, we know did not seek forgiveness for his betrayal. Perhaps a lesson to learn from Judas is how each of us can spend time with Jesus and still not know the deep desire of God to forgive us and rejoice because we at a minimum seek his forgiveness.
The parable of the prodigal son should always remind us how that son sought to be a “slave” in his father’s house and how the father gave him more than he believes he deserves. It is ironic that, the prodigal only desires to be a slave and Judas betrays Jesus for the “price of a slave” (Ex. 21:32). God offers us life eternal, removing the penalty we deserve for our own self indulgence and sinfulness and we simply cannot believe it is that easy. Then like Judas we run off and hang ourselves because we cannot get over how we failed the one we said we believe in.
Judas was so overwhelmed with guilt he never saw the end of the story when Jesus rose from the dead. Peter by contrast, was also overwhelmed with guilt for denying Jesus. We know from the scriptures it took a while for Peter to move from his remorse and to have the courage to proclaim Jesus as Lord. Take the time to read his story in John 21 by first reading verse 3 when Peter says, “I am going fishing.” Jesus has already risen and appeared twice to the disciples in the upper room when Peter makes that statement. They did not understand what was going on and we are just like them we do not understand. So, we like Peter go off and get busy doing something we are comfortable doing. We remove ourselves from the challenge of Jesus to believe for comfort. But Jesus does not give up on us as Judas gave up on Jesus. Jesus goes to Peter and lets him know he loves him and elicits a response from Peter. Read John 21 from verse 4 to the end of this gospel.
There are two more lessons for us to learn in the conclusion of the gospel. One is how Peter is concerned with “the one Jesus loves.” Meditate on that for a while, ask yourself if you feel you are less loved than others who have never failed Jesus. Of course, the answer is no but that does not change how we view our sins as preventing God from loving us. Lesson two is the final statement of what John does not include in his Gospel. Meditate on that and think about all the things God desires to do in your life and our openness to receive those blessings.
Judas missed out because he did not in all those years of following Jesus understand the heart of God. How many others embraced what he offered even when they did not understand. Holy Thursday is a night for us to decide how much we want what God made possible for us through the obedience of Jesus to die for us.