Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Daily Devotion for Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Scripture Reading for Today: John 13:21-32

Key verse for today: John 13:26, "Jesus answered, 'It’s the one to whom I will give this piece of bread once I have dipped into the bowl.' Then he dipped the piece of bread and gave it to Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son." 

Judas is the disciple whose very name is a synonym for betrayal.

The Judas Kiss by Gustave Dore' 1866
Recent treatment of Judas has been varied.  Mel Gibson's The Passion takes the harshest view.  In the film, after Judas betrays Jesus, he begins a descent into madness.  He sees the local children as demons who are tormenting him until he hangs himself.

Matthew's Gospel records the hanging but the demonic visions are the embellishment of Gibson.  

The Acts of the Apostles also tells about the death of Judas and the details are a little different if not more grisly.

The 1988 Martin Scorsese film, "The Last Temptation of Christ" was controversial for many reasons - one of which was his portrayal of Judas as a faithful disciple who only betrays Jesus because he is instructed by him to do so.  

Interestingly enough, this was essentially the portrayal of Judas in the 2006 rediscovery of a lost text entitled, The Gospel of Judas.  This is a Gnostic text considered heretical by the church.  It focuses on the spiritual nature being good while the earthly body is considered evil.  Within this text, Jesus seeks to escape the earthly bonds and Judas is the one to help him with this through his turning Jesus over to the authorities.

Both of these views of Judas stray from the New Testament's teaching.

I wonder if this is out of some sense of empathy for Judas.  Is is because we can't imagine someone who studied with Jesus - who spent so much time with Jesus - being able to turn against him for mere money?

We would like to invent a back story that helps to explain it.

Maybe we can see ourselves in Judas when we really look.  Are there ways in which we betray Jesus through our actions today?  A tough question but this is the Lenten season.  We may wonder if there is really any redemption for Judas because we are actually wondering if there is redemption for ourselves.

In actuality, the Gospel of Matthew mentions that Judas repents (reread the above Matthew link).  Did Jesus forgive Judas along with his other tormentors when he prayed, "Forgive them Father, for they don't know what they're doing" (Luke 23:34)?

I like to hold out hope for Judas because I hold out hope for all of us. And it says something about the nature and mercy of God.  After all, Jesus did teach us to pray, "Forgive us our trespasses just as we forgive those who trespass against us."

Breath Prayer: O Lamb of God, have mercy upon me.

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