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Posts Tagged ‘Judas Iscariot’

Jo 17A few weeks ago, we enjoyed a restful break away. I had plenty of opportunities to walk on the nearby beach and to explore further afield. But I also had time to indulge myself in a feast of reading. In the process, I discovered all over again how amazing it is to become so absorbed in a novel that the real world recedes and time seems to stand still.

First, I re-read a Maeve Binchy novel, Circle of Friends, and was soon immersed in the lives of Benny and Eve and those other interesting Irish characters from Knockglen, relishing their successes and grieving for them in their failures and disappointments. From there, I gravitated to another favourite author, Kate Morton. I had not read The Distant Hours and was delighted to find it in a second hand store for all of four dollars! This story transported me far away from my beachside surroundings and deep into the English countryside, leaving me to wander around creepy Milderhurst Castle, on edge as to what scary event would happen next.

It was a relief to leave this dark, foreboding environment and return to Ireland via another Maeve Binchy novel, Firefly Summer. I wandered beside that brook near Ryan’s pub, as the young people gathered to swim and jump off the bridge and grow up. I felt Kate’s pain and fear for her family and loathed the cad Kerry. It was another great read, although I was a tad annoyed to be left wondering what happened to some of those characters after the story ended. And it was a long time before I was able to return fully to the real world again.

In the midst of all this holiday reading, however, I did not forget the best book of all. I continued my current project of journeying through parts of the Gospels. What a privilege to sit and reflect on these events, as I gazed out at God’s creation of ocean and sky and clouds and listened to those waves crashing on the nearby beach! I was well and truly grounded in reality as I read. Yet I was also far away again, this time watching as Jesus walked on water, talked with Moses and Elijah, raised the dead, rode into Jerusalem and celebrated the Passover with his disciples.

How moving to stand in the midst of two large crowds converging on the road into Nain and hear Jesus say gently to the grieving widow, ‘Don’t cry!’—then to see her son sit up (Luke 7:11-17). How heartbreaking to hear another crowd shout ‘Hosanna!’ and to see them spreading cloaks and palm branches on the road as they welcomed Jesus (Matthew 21:1-11), yet to know they would shout ‘Crucify!’ not long after. How humbling to be at that Passover meal, to hear Judas ask, ‘Surely not I?’ and to witness Jesus, in return, talk of giving his body and blood for him—and for us all (Matthew 26:17-30).

Our imaginations are a wonderful, God-given gift, don’t you think? I love using mine not only to create stories of my own but also to enter into and fully appreciate those worlds others write about—especially the world of the Gospels. After all, that’s where I meet Jesus all over again, face to face.

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I love Easter. To me, it’s as if God is extra close all around. It’s as if Jesus is reaching down through the centuries since he hung on that cross, looking straight at me, willing me to see the love and forgiveness in his own soul as he looks deep into mine. And it’s also as if God is crying out to a world that is rushing on, heedless, ‘Listen—all of you! Remember what my Son did for you. And remember and celebrate that death could not hold him down. Remember the price that bought your freedom!

On Easter Sunday, I received an email from a friend who lives in a country where most of the population do not celebrate Easter. She shared with me how, when life is continuing as usual around her, it feels a little surreal to be celebrating events that others do not acknowledge. Yet, the true meaning of Easter is so much a part of her that she still goes ahead and celebrates it with great joy. Meanwhile, here in Australia, I was free to attend any number of church services, as well as see family members and delight in buying those Easter eggs for our grandchildren (with a few stray ones making their way into grown-up hands too!). But best of all for me are those moments of quiet reflection, alone in the presence of God.

This year, I decided to read the account of the crucifixion from John’s Gospel. I read how Judas betrayed his Lord in that olive grove, how Jesus was brought before Annas, how Peter denied him for the first time, how Jesus was bound and sent to appear before the high priest Caiaphas and how Peter then denied him twice more. I read with increasing horror how Pilate, despite believing Jesus to be innocent and wanting to set him free, had him flogged, then caved into pressure and handed him over to the people to be crucified. I read how Jesus was nailed to that cross, with a mocking sign above his head, and how he died—for you and me.

And on Good Friday night, as I went to bed, the result of all this struck me with almost overwhelming force and simplicity all over again. This means I’m saved—completely and forever! The realisation was so strong that I almost shouted the words out loud, until I realised my husband might not be impressed with this revelation as he lay there, trying to get to sleep! ‘I’m saved’ is such a hackneyed phrase—one that is even ridiculed at times. But this to me is the bottom line of our Easter celebrations—we are indeed saved from the consequences of our desire to go our own way by Jesus’ death on that cross. We have a whole new start in life and our relationship with God is restored. And one day, because Jesus conquered death and rose again, we too will rise and be with him in heaven forever.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Now that’s a bottom line I find absolutely mind-blowing and well worth celebrating—not only at Easter but all the time. How about you?

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I love Easter and the lead-up to it. It’s a fun time of the year, with Easter eggs and family celebrations and extra days to relax. But it’s much more than that. For me, this is where the rubber meets the road—where we get to the kernel of what it’s all about to be a Christian.

I remember attending a special three hour long service at our local church one Good Friday when I was about twelve. The service was built around the ‘stations of the cross’, which were depicted in various paintings on the walls of that old stone church. Every so often, we would be invited to gather around the next ‘station’ and listen to special readings and prayers. Somehow, even though I was so young, the awesome events we were remembering touched my heart. While I did not fully comprehend it all at that stage, I knew something earth-shattering had happened when Jesus was crucified.

Since then, in the days leading up to Easter, I have always liked to follow Jesus’ journey to the cross by reading one of the Gospel accounts of the events involved, stopping often to reflect. Time and time again, I have been deeply moved by what I have found there—and inevitably, something in particular challenges me, demanding a response. This year, it was the conversation Jesus has his disciples just prior to the Lord’s Supper. In Matthew 26:20-22 we read:

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?”

Eventually it comes to Judas’s turn. As I read his own “Surely not I, Rabbi?’ (25), I began to wonder what was in his heart as he said those words. Was he aghast at himself at what he knew he was about to do? He had already been paid thirty silver coins to hand Jesus over to the authorities (15). Was he feeling ambivalent about the whole deal by this point? Or was he just plain pretending?

Then comes Jesus’ simple but confronting ‘Yes, it is you.” Or, as some translations put it, “You yourself have said it. From such a brief response, it is hard to tell what he must have been feeling. No doubt there was love as well as deep grief in his eyes as he looked at Judas and uttered those words. But could there also have been deep disappointment and even anger in his words? Was he trying to challenge Judas to the very end?

In ‘The Message’ version of the Bible, Eugene Peterson expresses Jesus’ response this way: “Don’t play games with me, Judas!” Whoa!! Now that certainly caused me to stop and think. Do I ever try to fool myself when God’s Spirit convicts me of something and come back with the same smart rejoinder, ‘Surely not I?’ Does Jesus have cause to say to me at times ‘Don’t play games with me, Jo-Anne’? What an affront to my Saviour, who loves me and gave his life for me!

This Easter, may you and I find time to stop, reflect and be real with God. May we put aside our little games and our ‘Surely not I?’s once and for all and kneel with contrite hearts before Jesus, the Son of God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

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I never cease to be amazed at the new discoveries I make each time I read the Gospels. Just when I least expect it, God kind of ‘ambushes’ me with some truth that leaves me almost breathless with its profound challenge.

One day this past week, I was happily wending my way through John’s Gospel when I came to the following words:

The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:2-5)

My mouth fell open as I registered the massive contrast in these words. On the one hand, here is Jesus, knowing full well who he is and that he has all power and authority from his Father God. But on the other, here is the all-powerful Son of God choosing to strip down, wrap a towel around him and undertake the humble task of washing his disciples’ dusty feet. It is almost too shocking to take in, and I can well relate to Peter when he objects strongly (6-10).

Yet even as I am trying to register what this means for me, I find it clearly spelt out by Jesus himself:

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, not is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (15-17)

But this is a slightly bitter pill for me to swallow. I’m not sure I want to negate myself and serve others. I want to do the interesting, exciting things in ministry. And that doesn’t include washing dirty feet or cleaning up after others or helping behind the scenes where my wonderful efforts will not be recognised. Yet Jesus says I will be blessed if I do these things. So how does that work?

And then, as God’s Spirit gently but firmly wrestles with my own rebellious spirit, I begin to understand. Jesus knew who he was, where he had come from and where he was going – no one could take those truths away from him. He also knew he was here to do his Father’s will. And right now, because of Jesus, I can live my life with this same sure knowledge. I know I am God’s precious child, totally loved, forgiven and accepted through Jesus. I know I was created in God’s image and have been recreated through faith in Jesus. And I also know that God has a place prepared for me in heaven that will last for eternity.

Is it really such a problem to choose the humble road, just as Jesus did? How does the highest honour in this world compare with the privilege of spending eternity with God in heaven? I may well, in theory at least, produce the greatest novel ever and be feted as the next Francine Rivers, but if I lose my servant heart, the heart that Jesus had, then it is all pretty meaningless.

So right now, I’m heading off to find that towel to wrap around my waist. How about you?

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