Updated: May 5
Happy Easter! Happy Resurrection Sunday!
For many people today is a wonderful time to remember the sacrifice that Jesus so selflessly made for each and every person who has ever or will ever walk the face of this earth. Here in our home, we are feeling especially blessed and thankful for all that God has done for us. We are trying every day to take less for granted. Every moment is a precious gift. We are so undeserving of all Jesus has done for us. What an amazing journey it is to be part of God's chosen creations. I truly believe Earth has a near and dear place in God's heart.
Because there are sure to be countless sermons and blog posts going up about the love of God (and I encourage you to enjoy and read those pieces by other speakers and authors), I wanted to take a different approach. Someone who has really been on my mind this Easter season is Judas- the very man who betrayed Jesus and began the weekend journey to Jesus's crucifixion.
Like every other good Christian schoolgirl, I learned to villanize Judas at a young age. He was the creepy villain of every Easter pageant, often bearing a sly look on his face and dark stage makeup around his eyes. If you weren't paying attention you might confuse him for the devil himself. I remember exiting the church auditorium with my family feeling nervous about running into the "Judas" character- even though I knew he was played by a normal man. As we got into our car I built up the courage to ask the question that was really bouncing around in my mind- "Will Judas be in heaven?"
The short answer is: there is no way of really knowing.
Some people argue that he will not be there, other people feel that he will. His story is rather vague and mysterious, but I've briefly pieced it together below:
Judas Iscariot was likely not from the same regions that the other disciples were from. Historians use his name as reasoning to determine that he was not from Galilee. This would imply that he was a bit of an outsider from the rest of the group. In John 12:4-6 we see Judas questioning Jesus for the first time. As Mary is pouring out perfume on Jesus's feet, Judas comments about the expense of the perfume, implying that the money she used to purchase it should have been used on the poor instead. the Bible explains that this comment was not made out of compassion for the poor, but because of Judas's own greed. We learn in this scripture passage that Judas was a thief. This helps us understand that long before Judas betrayed Jesus, he was making the wrong decisions- stealing and mishandling money. Judas goes on to "sell" Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. He accepts the money and leads the Jewish leaders to Jesus for capture.
Why did Jesus call someone like Judas into service with him? I believe this helps us realize the Jesus does not discriminate. The option to serve and follow is for all. Christ is available to everyone.
I don't think Jesus only chose Judas because he needed a betrayer. Even though he knew about everything that was going to happen, I do not think he called Judas to join him merely because he had to. God is God. He could've brought on the crucifixion story in countless ways.
Something that stood out to me as I studied Judas in scripture was the simple fact that he even accepted the invitation to follow Jesus in the first place. Any time a disciple was asked to come and follow Jesus, they had a choice. No one did it because of a threat or because they were forced. At some point in Judas's thought process, he was open to Jesus- he wanted to follow and be a part of what Jesus was doing. This is important to think about. Some people argue he merely went along because he wanted to start a rebellion among the Jews, but we don't see scripture about this.
As we read the well-known passage of the Last Supper, we see that during this dinner Judas succumbed to the influence of the devil and allowed Satan to fill him. Again, this is fascinating to think about. Somewhere between deciding to follow Jesus and deciding to kill him, something in his heart and mind had to significantly change. I can't help but think that greed and love for power had a key role to play. I believe the Bible gives us all the information we need to understand what Jesus wants us to know. The story about Judas commenting on Mary's foot washing is included for a reason. I believe that was a pivotal and unfortunate moment for Judas.
Did he have to do it? No... so why did God allow the death of Christ to be brought on by one of his very own followers? Surely the God of the universe could've allowed this event to occur in another way. Again, I am reminded that everything in scripture is there for a reason. Judas was allowed to be the catalyst for Christ's death for a reason. Part of the reason was the fact that he chose to be, but I also think it is to teach us a very powerful lesson.
So often we wrestle with our faith and our sins telling ourselves that maybe if we were just closer to Jesus those temptations would magically disappear. We think back on the characters of the Bible and envy their in-person interactions with Christ. How easy it must've been for them! Yet through the example of Judas, we find that this just isn't true. Judas spent every waking moment of his life with Jesus and the other disciples for many years, yet despite all the positive influences that were around him he still held on to his secret passions and selfish loves. For him it was money, maybe for you, it is something else.
My point in sharing all of this with you is this: it is not enough to be in church, around Christians, or even reading the Bible if you aren't choosing to believe in it. You can go to all the Christian concerts and conferences in the entire world, and still miss out on salvation. The thing that binds us to Christ, the thing that transforms us, is our own personal decision to have faith and believe. It is our own personal decision to confess our short-comings. The thing that allows us to overcome or secret sins, is a determination and sincere desire to overcome them. If we say we want to stop watching porn, stop stealing, or stop sleeping with our boyfriend yet do absolutely nothing to alter the course of our actions we run the risk of being as unreachable as Judas was. We can be surrounded by the opportunity to experience Jesus's transforming power, but nothing will ever force us to partake.
Everything about faith, spirituality, and even religion is a heart issue. We do not need to live in fear of being "good enough" for Christ. The desire to be like him and follow him is what carries us through. This is why I spend every day of my life encouraging people to develop their personal motivation and passion for reading scripture themselves. Your desires will fuel your lifestyle. When you are able to capture that personal drive to know God and be known by God- you will be. Reveal your brokenness to God and He will reveal Himself to you.
Judas's story comes to a bitter end after the capture of Jesus. Judas tries to return the money, with one final quote, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." With this in mind, Judas goes out and commits suicide by hanging himself.
Theologians argue greatly over this final act. Some say that because there is no scripture about his repentance, Judas surely went to hell. Others think that his grief and admittance of sin shows that he was sorry and likely received forgiveness. I can see a decent argument for both viewpoints. I think the thing that stands out to me the most is the fact that he died by suicide.
I have watched several people I know experience the tragic loss of a child due to the individual taking his or her own life. Suicide is not something that I think is chosen out of selfishness (as some people claim) but rather it is chosen out of hopelessness. People feel there is no escape, no option for them to get out of the pain they are in. Judas himself felt he had gone too far... he lost all hope. The money didn't satisfy him. the grief he suffered was literally unbearable. What a terrible but very real-life lesson for us all.
All hope is found in Jesus. Without him, there is only temporary joy. Choose him today.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide and depression, please visit this website https://afsp.org/ or call this hotline directly 1-800-273-8255. There is always hope, sometimes we just need help finding it.