Passion:The Betrayer, Betrayed

          Perception may not be everything, but it sure weighs heavily on how men live their lives in this vale of tears.

     I have often wondered at the strange phenomenon, in the Christian world, we call back-sliding. How can a person who has truly experienced the love that Jesus brings leave off the walk of faith? Some of my friends say that anyone who back-slides never really knew Jesus to begin with. I am not sure I buy that.

     Judas knew Jesus. People can say all they want about how Judas only had a head knowledge and not a heart knowledge of the master. Certainly, by the end  that was true, but to say Judas never knew Jesus… was never a follower, that just might be supposing too much. Didn’t Judas leave everything to follow Jesus like the other disciples? Wasn’t Judas used to cast out demons and cleanse the lepers too? Now I am not saying that Judas was ever a fully devoted follower of Christ on the level of James, Peter or John, but I wager he would have given most of us a run for our money in the “intimacy with Jesus” department.

     I don’t think Judas started out as a Satanic sleeper cell in Jesus organization. So what happened? How did someone who started out enamored with Jesus become the Messiah’s foil?

     It’s just speculation and perhaps we will never really know but I think it might have something to do with perception. Something had to change in the way Judas viewed Jesus.

     I think Judas joined the Messiah’s band of merry men because he thought he had found Israel’s Savior. As I have said before, to the Jews of the time there were certain expectations they had of the Messiah. Jesus in their understanding was to take David’s throne and build an earthly kingdom. When the displays of God’s power began to shoot forth from Jesus fingertips Judas probably revelled in the certainty that at last Israel was going to rise to the top and the rest of the world was going to get theirs.

    But there were cracks in this Messiah’s castle walls at least according to Judas’ perception: Jesus wouldn’t build a political base by making nice with the political powers of Israel; His preaching was radical he said things…many things that made even his followers edgy; He flew in the face of convention and tradition; He talked with women and let them touch him; He was good to foreigners and even performed healing for the Roman oppressors at their request. We can’t be sure when it happened but with some certainty we can say there was a point when the betrayer felt betrayed. Maybe it was a “slow fade” as the song says. Maybe the feeling built up over time. Maybe Jesus’ rebuke of Judas in John 12 was the lit match that set fire Judas’ fury. Something in Judas’ perception convinced him that it was time to act. Judas decided Jesus needed to be stopped.

     I have known many back-sliders. I’ve even dabbled in the art of back-sliding a bit myself. I know my own back-sliding had to do with my perception  that God was unfair…that He wasn’t doing a very good job with my life. Most of the people I have known who have back-slidden have done so because they saw something else in life that looked better to them than Jesus. One man commented to me  that at the time his memories of all the miracles he had seen were removed from him. He was left with a  perception  that God had never done anything in his life. It was only after he came back to God that the memories were restored. 

       When we give room to the feelings of bitterness against God that Satan would inspire within us we are walking a slippery slope. Look, there are moments all of us feel  abandoned or hurt by God. Feelings aren’t sin. They are indicators of internal struggle. Judas’ feelings of betrayal or anger or hurt weren’t sin. They were indicators of his internal faith struggle. The decisions, mind-sets, and actions he based off those feelings, those were sin. Judas should have turned to the word of God to lead him. Anyone struggling with their mind-set towards God needs to turn to the Bible for guidance rather than their feelings. We have to live by principle these days not by “how we feel” about things. Judas chose to live by his feelings. In the end the betrayer betrayed himself as well as the Savior. Jesus recovered in case you don’t remember the end of the story. Judas never did.

What struggles do you have with your perception of God? What are you doing about it?

Passion: Begins With Anointing Pt. 1

                             (  Mary anoints Jesus’ feet. The Anointing in John (John 12:1–8).  picture courtesy of timesandseasons.org

 

    As Easter approaches I find my thoughts turning again towards the passages I love so much in John Chapters 12-20. I want to take some time to share some ideas with you from these chapters.

Six days before the Passover ceremonies began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead.A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus sat at the table with him.” John 12:1,2

     In this passage, I am struck by the obedience of Christ to his Father’s plans. You may remember that prior to these verses Jesus had been forced to leave Bethany because he had caused such a stir by the raising of Lazarus from the dead.

     Christ knew the time of his death was upon him. So he marched willingly into the lion’s den. Now I know he was “Very God of Very God” but he was also “very man of very man”. I can only imagine the waves of fear which must have been washing onto the shore of his life as he sat down to supper with Lazarus in the home of Simon, the ex-leper.

     I can’t imagine it was any picnic for Lazarus, either. He was also marked for death because he was the poster boy for Jesus’ miracle ministry. Maybe that’s why Martha had opted to serve dinner at Simon’s home. I can just picture Lazarus’ protective older sister pouring out drinks around the room gazing suspiciously into each eye. Did she see danger in every drinker that night?

    As I read this passage I am filled with a tension… a sense of the danger they were all putting themselves in. How did Simon feel? He invited two marked men into his home for supper. Surely he had to know it wouldn’t stay a secret. Nothing Jesus did stayed a secret for long in those days. The whole city was on the look out for “the King of the Jews”. What trouble was Simon bringing on his own head just by having the two enemies of the Pharisees over for coffee?

      I can almost feel the stress of the disciples as they recline at the table. Thomas had followed Jesus loyally but with not a little concern for his own well-being. Peter may have acted “devil-may-care” but something deep inside of him was ready to bolt.

     Into the midst of all this intrigue and tension little sister Mary walked

     “Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar [fn] of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with fragrance.”  John 12:3 NLT

     Anointing… what a strange ritual. Why do people do it? To signify importance. To signify the presence of God, the approval of God. To cover the stench of death.

     Here’s another question who else in the Bible was anointed? Aaron the High priest, every high priest since him, King Saul, King David, every king since them, oh yeah and every dead person who could afford embalming spices. It’s interesting to me that Mary had not broken the jar of nard over Lazarus body when he had died earlier.

     All those thoughts aside, there she was the impetuous little sister breaking the family retirement over the feet of Jesus. What an interesting picture. What a way to begin the passion week.

What would you have felt if you were there that night?