Thursday, March 20, 2008

Maundy Thursday—Betrayal & Arrest of Jesus

Judas’ betrayal of Jesus is well known to Christians and non-Christians alike. But other than being a glib, passing reference of Bible trivia that gives unbelievers comfort in knowing at least this part of the Bible, it should be reason for weighty introspection.

This was the night—so tradition says—so many, many years ago when the earthly ministry of Jesus of Nazareth would be brought to an end. This night marks the anniversary of Jesus’ loss of freedom.

Jesus had said “the foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no where to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). Still, homelessness is one thing; imprisonment (and subsequent execution) is quite another. While Jesus was intentionally dependent on the generous material provisions of his friends and followers, he was free to travel whenever he wanted to wherever he wanted.

All four gospel accounts of Judas’ betrayal remind us that Judas was one of the twelve (Matthew 26:14; Mark 14:10; Luke 22:47; John 6:71). Luke would later write “[Judas] was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry”(Acts 1:17). The prophecy in Psalm 41:9 was that it would be a “familiar friend” that would “lift up his heel” against Jesus. That’s the first bitter pill to swallow. Judas was an insider.

A brief perusal of church history will show that insiders, not outsiders, do more harm to Christianity. Nero, Claudius, Domitian are a few of the thousands of names of outsiders who sought to do great harm to the mission of Jesus. And while they brought much pain and sorrow and suffering and death, their persecutions actually helped strengthen Christian faith. Tertullian’s great observation in the third century that, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” was and is a truism. Names like Marcion, Arius, and Pelagius are names that have led many away from the truth of Christ. Judas was an insider.

The Church today still has external threats. But far more sinister are the threats from within. Christians leave their “first love” (Revelation 2:4-5); tolerate false doctrine and compromise their beliefs (Rev. 2:14-16), even to the point of turning a blind eye to false teachers (Rev. 2:20) and following “their pernicious ways” (2 Peter 2:1). Christians live sloppy, unwatchful spiritual lives (Rev. 3:1-3) and becoming lukewarm and ineffective (Rev. 3:15-16).

Today gives Christians an opportunity to look within ourselves; to find Judas-like qualities and behaviors that are treacherous and traitorous to our beloved Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Before we condemn Judas, maybe we should examine our own heart and life.

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