October 10, 2017
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death. They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.
When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.” After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one on whom a price had been set, on whom some of the people of Israel had set a price, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”
Actions and Reactions
The laws of physics dictates that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Far too many times this law spills over into the arena of human affairs. We push the limits of technology – man and machine – and press to higher speeds, deeper oceans and further into space. We drive the limits of human endurance to say we were there – Everest, the North and South Poles, the Moon – and if the Lord tarries, Mars. We do learn in the effort. Science and medicine delve deeper into the body, down into the DNA itself to the point where a living creature has been cloned. The stuff of science fiction only a few short years ago.
But, there is often a backlash. Scott did not live to return from the South Pole. The men of Apollo 13 and the Mir Spacelab have had their own near misses with the vacuum of space. The men and women of Apollo 1, the Challenger Space Shuttle and a few of the Russian cosmonauts have fallen on the other side of the margin and passed into eternity in their efforts. And now we are embroiled in a debate over the wisdom of cloning human beings. Sadly, someone will do it – just to be first.
It is the competitive spirit in humanity that seeks to push back the envelope just a little further. At its best, it drives us to learn to save lives, reap more per acre and reach for Don Quixote’s farthest star from The Impossible Dream. At its worst it drives mankind to grapple for political power at the expense of those they represent – even friends, and chafes against the wisdom of God given out of love to protect us.
None of us knows what Judas’ motivations were. I see him as a political opportunist. He saw Jesus as the Messiah King who would throw off the Roman yoke and free Israel. But the Lord had higher sights first. It is true, He will return in majesty and power to free Israel when all will seem lost. First, the Messiah had to free the hearts and minds of all mankind from the slavery of sin.
There are times when I wonder about odd things. One day, when I was struggling with my faith, I thought how much easier it would be to have been with Jesus. To have been one of the disciples would surely have dispelled all my questions and mental issues. Judas could not see or was not listening to what Jesus was saying. For the better part of three years, he walked and talked and sat at the feet of Jesus. Here, I believe he is trying to force the hand of Jesus to take the Throne of David. There is no doubt that Jesus could have done exactly that at any time. But He would have passed up the plan of the ages to redeem mankind from the fall of Adam and Eve. So it seems that being a disciple is no guarantee at all.
Judas was hoping for a Cabinet posting; perhaps as Treasurer. He did have the inside track and experience. The 30 pieces of silver – the price of a slave – was no small matter. But it would have become pocket change. But Judas tried to make God do it his way – the way Judas thought it should happen. Jesus had told him, “Do quickly what you must…” at the Passover meal. The keeper of the money purse bolted from the room with his plan in motion. But it was not God’s plan after all. In the morning, Judas returned to the religious leaders grief stricken and searching for answers. These same men who had paid him for Jesus betrayal. Again, Judas’ plan. God’s plan is for us to turn to Him for help in those times. Sometimes the Lord will lead us to a friend, but that friend will be pointing us through our pain to Jesus. In the end, Judas’ plan cost him his life and the Paradise that the second thief on the cross was promised. Judas’ enormous action had an equally huge reaction.
Peter’s enormous boast that he would die with Jesus if need be also had its reaction. Peter spiraled into grief that racked his body with sobs. But Peter held on to a thread of hope that God the Father would be as merciful as his Master. Peter had made the enormous step of faith in claiming Jesus as Messiah, the Christ. As the rooster had crowed and Jesus and Peter’s eyes met Peter must have seem a well of love and mercy so deep. It broke Peter’s heart to find out he was not the man he had boasted to be, and to think it might have cost him Paradise. At breakfast a few days later, Peter would learn personally what Paul would write a few decades later.
Rom 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written, “For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Do you feel separated from the love of God by some event in your past? Verses 38 and 39 sum up the hope that is available to those who know Jesus. Nothing at all can break the bond between you and Jesus once it is established. If you don’t believe me, ask Him. I think you will find Him waiting for you – just has He promised.
Lord Jesus – so many of us know the pain that Peter and Judas suffered. We have blown it so big that it seems that nothing could ever make it right. And here you assure us that that is not the case. That your love, mercy and grace is deeper and wider than anything we can do or say. The promise and assurance of forgiveness is a comfort that You have for Your children. May we all learn that You are waiting to wipe the cuts and scrapes and tears after our falls. And that You will help to pick us up and put us on the right road again. Amen.