by peter traben haas
“For you will certainly carry out God’s purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John.” - C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, p. 98.
In a way, we are all Christians because of Judas Iscariot. He played a difficult but important role in God’s journey with humankind.
According to the New Testament Gospel accounts, Judas played the role of being the one who gave in to his deepest fears and desires, and because of his sense of guilt and shame Judas did not let the grace of God into the deepest, darkest place of his broken heart. It is easy to identify with Judas when we put it like that.
How many times have we felt unworthy of God’s love and forgiveness? Perhaps you might still feel that way in a hidden corner of your life. Perhaps there is something you have said or done; some secret addiction or temptation you struggle with that you keep in hiding from everyone, including yourself, because you can’t believe or accept that God’s love is big enough to handle that.
What is interesting to note is that both Judas and Peter failed their Master. Judas betrayed him and Peter denied him. They are both actions driven by the false self (or shadow side), both psychological terms that give nuance to the human condition.
However, the insight regarding both of these failures was how they responded and dealt with their shame and guilt. Whereas Peter grieved and wept his sin, Judas despaired and gave in to the overwhelming negative thoughts which led him to not only betray Jesus but also resist Christ’s healing love into his human brokenness. Peter grieved and was restored (John 21. 20 – 23), but Judas despaired and took his life.
Perhaps we might ponder what might have happened if Judas had not despaired and taken his life. Would he have been able to receive the forgiveness of Jesus knowing how he contributed to his death? Surely we are given a clue as to the possibility of total forgiveness from the lips of Jesus on the cross, “Father forgive them for they know now what they do” (Luke 23.35). Surely this included Judas who played a key role in what was being done to Jesus.
Finally, consider this profound truth in the light of the majestic declaration of the Apostle Paul, someone who once also had a hidden shadow side acting out with judgment, hatred and violence, but who had also repented in the light and love of Christ and was healed, transformed and redeemed forever:
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8. 38 – 39).
The “anything else” includes our own negative thoughts, feelings of shame, guilt and unworthiness, and even our darkest shadow side. When we surrender to God’s love, all things are possible and we, and all the Judas’ who have ever lived are invited to discover our new life together in Christ (2 Corinthians 5.17).
Nan Merrill’s translation of the Psalms is utterly beautiful and meaningful. Her translation of Psalm 140 is particularly poignant in light of the story of Judas and our own inner struggles. Take these words as we journey into the dark hours with Christ in the Garden, and await the Good Friday Cross:
“Deliver me, O Giver of Breath and Life, from the fears that beset me; help me confront the inner shadows that hold me in bondage, like a prisoner who knows not freedom. They distract me from all that I yearn to be, and hinder the awakening of hidden gifts that I long to share with others.”
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