Lenten Devotional - day 35 Holy Week - Wednesday
Today is Wednesday of Holy Week. Since you asked about the days of Holy Week, I figured I’d let you know today is often called “Spy Wednesday.” It refers to the day that Judas decided to betray Jesus.
We easily judge Judas, and certainly the gospel writers do. However, I try not to judge him. Instead, he has become a warning for me during Lent. He reminds me of the stark reality of sin in this world, and how easily I too can betray the Christ.
Some will say the reason Judas betrayed Jesus is because he was simply a bad apple. Others will say the devil made him do it. Some will say he was trying to force Jesus to become the kind of messiah he was expecting.
That last one is the only one that bears meaning for me. The idea is that when Jesus marched into Jerusalem, Judas was hoping for the Messiah that would be a conquering hero. If this is true, Judas was looking for Jesus to establish an earthy kingdom, not inaugurate a heavenly one. He was looking for a hero, not a savior. He was looking for swords and guns and bombs, not love and compassion and forgiveness.
The thought goes, that by betraying Jesus, perhaps he believed that Jesus would be forced to take up arms. Of course, it didn’t work that way. That isn’t who Jesus was, that isn’t who Jesus is, and that isn’t who Jesus ever will be.
While the gospels all tell us Jesus had some harsh words for his betrayer, I cannot forget that Jesus hosted Judas for dinner that last night. Jesus gave Judas the bread that symbolized his broken body. He gave Judas the wine that was the new covenant, sealed in his blood for the forgiveness of sin. He made sure Judas was there for that.
Why? Why would Jesus want Judas there? Why does Jesus want us there when we betray him? And make no mistake we do. We betray him when we choose violence and hate. We betray him when we do nothing to stop violence that runs amok on our streets and in our schools. We betray him when we refuse to forgive, refuse to give grace, and refuse to love. We betray when we try to use the ways of might and power.
Yet he wants us there to remember. “Do this in remembrance of me.” He wants us to remember his ways when we forget. Matthew says Judas killed himself. Luke says he was trampled to death in a field he bought with the money. Who knows what happened to him, but I suspect Matthew is closer to the truth of it.
I suspect that, because I know the heaviness of guilt. I know the shame of doing something stupid because it felt like a good idea in the moment, and then terrible things happen. I wonder if Jesus wanted Judas there to remember that Jesus had already forgiven him. He gave him the bread and the cup and said, “Remember this, don’t forget.” But he forgot.
However, I am also glad that there are two stories of Judas’ demise. The one where guilt and shame claim him, and the other where he goes on thinking nothing is wrong. Both led to death. In our religion these days there are many who betray Jesus. They espouse violence in God’s name. They claim God hates people who aren’t like them. They experience no guilt, no shame, and no sense that they are far from the way of Christ. Their way leads to the trampling to the death Luke gave Judas.
They are the ones who eat at the table and betray Jesus, and think nothing of it, because they think they are right still. Regardless both betrayals lead to death, because neither has any meaning.
During this Holy Week, I'm focusing on surrendering my will to God's will, just as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane. It's not always easy to let go of our own desires and follow the path that God has laid out for us, but I'm learning that it's essential if we want to live a life of meaning and purpose.
In a world that can sometimes feel so chaotic and uncertain, I'm grateful for the grounding and perspective that Lent provides. It's a reminder that there is more to life than our own fleeting desires and fears, and that true peace comes not from accumulating wealth or power, but from living a life of love, service, and connection with others.
And, when I realize that I’ve betrayed Jesus, I remember that he set me a place at his table, and gave me his broken body and his poured out blood, and forgives me so I can try again. May we not forget it.