March 19, 2008

Thirty Pieces of Silver

Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him. (Matthew 26:14-16)

Judas is our scapegoat this week. He is the one who bears the guilt of all of us. We have made him a kind of monster in our minds, someone who did something unthinkable, who committed the scandal of selling out and doing in his friend and companion. But, if we are truthful with ourselves, we know in our hearts that we have all betrayed Jesus, we have all taken our own thirty pieces of silver.

Our thirty pieces of silver are those things we have wanted more than we wanted to follow Jesus. Sometimes our purse of betrayal holds “ambition” or “fitting in and being popular” or “failure to forgive” or “lack of compassion” or “blindness to the needs of another.” I will spend some time this day naming thirty things that I have sought instead of seeking to follow Jesus. And (God have mercy) I don’t think I will have a hard time coming up with the list.

What is on your list? Can you name your own pieces of silver? Try it and then .... give it up. We keep careful accounts, but somehow it seems Jesus does not. Consider this story (from Madeline L’Engle, in The Rock That is Higher):

There is an old legend that after his death Judas found himself at the bottom of a deep and slimy pit. For thousands of years he wept his repentance, and then the tears were finally spent he looked up and say, way, way up, a tiny glimmer of light. After he had contemplated it for another thousand years or so, he began to try to climb up towards it. The wall of the pit were dank and slimy, and he kept slipping back down. Finally, after great effort, he neared the top, and then he slipped and fell all the way back down. It took him many years to recover, all the time weeping bitter tears of grief and repentance, and then he started to climb again. After many more falls and efforts and failures he reached the top and dragged himself into an upper room with twelve people seated around a table. “We’ve been waiting of you, Judas,” Jesus said. “We couldn’t begin till you came.”

And maybe this is the ultimate scandal -- not what Judas did but rather what Jesus is still doing. No matter what we have done, no matter how we have sold out, Jesus is waiting for us, ready to welcome us back as his friends and followers. Let us look at our lives honestly this day, but do that knowing that when Jesus looks at us, it is with unbearable love.

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