Next week is regularly referred to in high church circles as Holy Week, and sometimes as Passion Week or the week of Jesus’ passion. This somewhat dated usage rings oddly in our ears today, but it accurately speaks of Jesus’ strong desire, his determined perseverance in completing the mission given to him by his Father, regardless the cost (which he knew well in advance). It strengthens our faith to take time to reflect on the day-by-day progression from the fanfare-accompanied entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday, the first day of that week, through to his death and burial just a pitifully few days later. This was, after all, the pivotal series of events which signed, sealed and delivered the Salvation of our souls. It is by no means irrelevant to be absorbed by the drama, the tragedy, the glory of Jesus’ final week. It may even humble us again to realize the extent to which Jesus was willing to go, the humiliation, the disgrace, the pain, and the separation from his Father, to bring us to a place of acceptance and adoption – forever! Wow!
In this assignment space of imagining how the disciples lived all that took place in Jerusalem in that short span of time, I’d like to add my two cents’ worth concerning one we might call the twelfth disciple: Judas. Like all of us, he was a flawed human being. He was the group’s bookkeeper/treasurer, obviously gifted with numbers and possibly this was his greatest contribution to this itinerant ministry. As is so often the case, Judas’ greatest ability was co-opted by Satan and led to his downfall. Judas was zealous for the cause of the Kingdom as most Jews in his day understood it, so much so that his passion to see Judea liberated from Rome, to see Jesus take his rightful place as Messiah/King/Deliverer/Warlord, to be the one credited with orchestrating the long-awaited overthrow of the oppressive, foreign regime, he tragically missed, as did the other disciples, Jesus’ oft-repeated warning of his approaching death. Much debated in theological circles is what Judas thought he was accomplishing by going to the High Priest. I think it is possible he thought he would be helping Jesus, forcing his hand, if you will, by setting up the climactic showdown of powers. Even when Jesus instructed him to leave the dinner and quickly take care of the business matter at hand, it could have sounded to him like approval, commendation, in his then-twisted thinking. His horrified response at watching the whole thing contort into a grotesque and macabre mockery, his violent, screaming return of the blood-money and subsequent, horrific suicide, to me, demonstrate that only too late did he realize that Jesus ‘saw’ his heart, that Jesus understood what was happening and chose not to circumvent the Father’s mission. If ever Scripture included a cautionary tale for us, the demise of Judas is among the most stunning and among the most terrible to contemplate.
Regardless of what actually occurred in Judas’ thinking or that of the other eleven guys, we can be certain that that week’s developments changed their lives forever. We stand as grateful grace-recipients all these years later in large part because of how Jesus’ original posse cowboyed up, manned up, stepped up to the plate, ultimately for us, for me, for you. Be blessed as you continue sitting with this strangest and holiest of stories. PD