Saturday, May 19, 2012

The case for Judas

John 17:6-19

            Who are the villians of the Bible?  If you think about scripture as the story of God within the world, who is opposed to God fulfilling what God want to do in the world?  We're in the summer blockbuster movie season, and already, we have seen villians who are disgruntled Norse gods and aliens who have come to destroy our world.  Many of our favorite stories have a main villain who we can all root against and hope for their destruction or neutralization.  So who are the villains of scripture?  Name some:

            Of course the primary villain in many of our minds is Satan, the devil, the Accuser.  And there are plenty of instances in which the Devil is trying subvert the will of God.  The Devil provokes God to rain destruction down upon Job to see if Job would still trust in the Lord even if everything was taken away from him.  The Devil tempts Jesus in the wilderness , trying to turn Jesus away from the path that is laid out before him.  And then the Devil gets portrayed as that one who is finally thrown into the eternal fires at the end of the book of Revelation.  But what other villains are there in the Bible?  There's the snake who convinces Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit in the garden.  There's the monstrous Goliath who is the champion of the Phillistines.  There are the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees (people who very well could have been Jesus' cousins) who antagonize Jesus throughout the Gospels.  And then there is Judas.  Judas, the one who was destined to be lost.  Judas the one who betrays his friend, teacher, and master with a kiss all for a mere 30 silver coins.

            Judas.  Certainly here is another villain who is unredeemable, right?  It could be easy to think that,  but today I want to challenge that.  I want to make the case for Judas this day.  I want to make a case for the one who set everything in motion that ultimately led to Jesus being beaten, ridiculed, and publically executed.

            The evidence is certainly stacked up against him.  It is Judas who questions why expensive perfume should poured out onto the feet of Jesus.  It is Judas who the author of the gospel of John accuses of being a thief who stole regularly out of the common purse that the disciples had.  It is Judas who accepts the bribe from the chief priests and Pharisees of 30 silver coins.  It is Judas, who in the guilt of what he had done, hangs himself in despair.  Going by the evidence, Judas was gulty of the terrible crime of conspiring to murder an innocent who had done nothing to him other than to call him to be a disciple and love him.  Yet with everything that is stacked up against Judas, with everything that points to Judas getting exactly what he deserved, I still want to stand here this day before you all and make a case for Judas.

            I cannot deny that Judas had done a great and terrible wrong.  I will not even stand here and try to convince you that he was simply out of his mind and possibly temporarily insane.  What I will do is stand here and proclaim to you that Jesus love enfolds around Judas just as surely as we are all wrapped up in the never-failing arms of Christ this day, the days we will all die, and into that future in which we will all be raised up into new life with all saints who now reside with the Lord.  I have this confidence not because of all the good things that Jesus did for people while he was living, but because he gave up his life so that we all may be raised up with him in the Easter resurrection.  Judas was indeed the one who was destined to be lost so that scripture may be fulfilled and that we may look upon our Lord as one who gives up everything, even his own life, so that we may not be condemned and lost forever.

            Furthermore, my confidence comes from the prayer that Jesus lifts up for the disciples and for us all, literally right before he is betrayed by Judas and sent on his way to the cross.  Jesus knows that this is the last night before he is to die.  Jesus knows that Judas has already left group to betray Jesus and hand him over to those who would have him killed.  Jesus knows that he is to be the sacrificial lamb for the forgiveness of the sins of all creation.  Yet with all that going on in his mind, Jesus prays for the lives of all the disciples whether they be deniers, abandoners, doubters, or even betrayers. 

            The case for Judas is simply this.  Jesus' death and the events that led up to his death are the good news that embraces us all, the whole of creation and raises us up into new life in Christ as a people who find our joy not in our own accomplishments, but in the great love that our God has for us.  The truth, the truth that makes us holy, is the truth that seeks us out in our failings, in our mistrust, in our dark places where it may seem like all we have done is done wrong in the world.  That is grace.  Have faith in that grace, and you too will find that Jesus still loves you and has always loved you.  Faith in what Jesus has done is what lifts us up.

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