There is an interesting situation which takes place during the Passover feast with Jesus and his disciples. They are referred to as “the twelve” which John calls “apostles”. After Jesus has told them one of them would betray him, the gospels tell the story of Judas’ betrayal in slightly different ways. Luke says, “they began to question among themselves”. John says they didn’t know which one it was. It is Matthew and Mark who say each the twelve asked Jesus if he were talking about them, including Judas. All of the gospels call Judas a traitor.
But it is Luke alone who says, “Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor”. Luke’s implication is that Judas was not a traitor when he was first selected to be one of the twelve. I find that interesting. Interesting enough to spend some time wondering what happened to turn him into a man so despised that his name became a curse. So let me do what I can, not to exonerate him, but to perhaps understand him. And in so doing, perhaps understand the Judas in all of us.
I loved synagogue school. I could almost see myself with the great prophets as they spoke of the coming Messiah. I sometimes imagined myself as King David, leading God’s kingdom to its proper place among the nations. But it was at my bar mitzvah three years ago, that I felt the swelling of pride mixed with hatred in my chest. When the elders and the rabbi looked at me and said, “Today you are a man!” and I said, “Today I am a man!”, I knew my destiny. I would find the one who, with his army, would restore the glory of Israel.
Growing up I would ask my grandfather to tell me about our nation. We would sit by the firelight as he spoke of the champions of old. But when I asked him why our people were now under the heels of an oppressor, he just looked sad and told me God would not forget his people. I asked him how long we would have to wait? It had been almost a hundred years since there was any sign of independence. He just hung his head and said he hoped to see the redemption of Israel.
The rabbi’s had taught us about the “Hammer”, a Jewish priest named Mattathias, who killed a Greek official when he tried to make a Jewish man sacrifice to a pagan god. He and his five sons became known as the “Maccabees” It is the Hebrew word for “hammer”, because they struck blows against the enemy. So victorious did God make them, that about a hundred years ago, under Mattathias’ son, Judas, our nation was free to govern itself under God. I was proud to carry the name of such a warrior for God, And I wanted to live up to that name.
Then came the end of the Hasmonean Dynasty and about ninety years ago, after some infighting, the Romans came and took over our land. That was what made the hatred swell in my chest every time I thought about it.
I was fifteen when Ira told me about a man from Nazareth named Jesus. He said there were people who claimed he sounded like the promised Messiah. Ira and I were part of a small band of rebels who fought against Rome whenever we could.
Once I saw a Roman soldier kicking an old man who had dropped the soldier’s backpack he’d been commandeered to carry. I was surprised to see a Roman soldier alone, as they usually traveled in groups. I went to them and said I’d carry the load. As the soldier turned to face me I drove my knife into his belly. I’ll never forget the surprised look on his face as he died. I told the old man to go home and tell no one.
What I did brought the Romans down on the town, trying to find the killer. I knew we would have to be part of a much larger force if we were to win our land back.
I wasn’t expecting much when I went with Ira to see this possible Messiah. I’d heard of too many failures in the past. But when I saw Jesus, I was drawn to him. He didn’t speak about revolution, but about the Kingdom of God, which we all knew was Israel. I knew he would change things.
I was surprised when he asked me to become one of twelve disciples who were part of his closest group of followers. Ira was hurt that he wasn’t called, but said he’d stay in touch and maybe he’d join later.
In the following months I watched him do all the things the Messiah was said to do. He fed thousands with hardly nothing. He healed the sick and raised the dead. The crowd wanted to make him the Messiah,but he refused and went into hiding. I suppose the time was not right because his popularity grew more and more with each passing day.
Then one day he excited the twelve of us by telling us to go out across Israel and tell the people that the Kingdom of God was near. He told us to heal the sick and cast out demons, which to my surprise, I was able to do. It was after that trip that I knew he had everything it took to be the Messiah. However, there was one problem. He never assembled an army, and he never spoke hateful words about the Romans. In fact, he upset the leaders of the Jews by showing the hypocrisy which had become commonplace among the scribes and Pharisees.
I knew an overthrow had to be well- planed, so I went along, watching for the moment he would call for a strike. But as the third Passover approached, he began to talk about going to Jerusalem to die. I was not the only one upset by such talk. Peter spoke for all of us when he objected, and was called Satan for doing do.
As I look back, I think he knew all along I would be the one to try to force his hand. I would put him in a position where he’d have to use his heavenly power. So I made a deal to betray where he could be captured. What good is a Messiah who tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? That had never worked.
It was terrible. He did nothing, and even yelled at Peter when he tried to fight. I realized he was not the Messiah, just an innocent teacher of justice and mercy. But it was too late. When you cause the innocent to be killed, what else can you do but die?
CONCERNS: Kasey Sizemore and family. Doug Bolin, Del’s brother is recovering well after a stroke. Judy McWhorter fell and broke her wrist while in New Hampshire. Gary Overstreet is in Raleigh Court for rehab. Steve Gaynor’s sister, Betty is making slow improvement from a stroke. Judy (Shivers) Edwards is now at home, but still recovering from a stroke. Melisha Scruggs asks pray for a co-worker named Jeanie, whose child has several health issues. Remember Jim White’s mother, Carol Jones (heart surgery) Sheila Jansen and daughter, Amber Weaver. Marjorie Wilson (cancer) Melanie Gentry Wayne Phlegar, Tolly Nicklas, Ray & Darnel Barns, Gil Richardson, Jim & Mary Smith and Tim Elder.
OUR DAILY BREAD: MAY 22-27
Monday: John 5:19-47
Tuesday: Philippians 1:19-30
Wednesday: Genesis 7:1-24
Thursday: Lamentations 1:8-16
Friday: Romans 8:12-25
Saturday: Psalm 133, 134
OUR DAILY BREAD: 5/28-6/3
Monday: Hosea 11:1-9
Tuesday: Matthew 10:24-39
Wednesday: Exodus 16:1-36
Thursday: Luke 7:36-50
Friday: John 13:31-38 & 18:15-27
Saturday: Psalm 103:1-22
This evening, at six o’clock in the annex, we will honor and celebrate those who are graduating from various levels of education. It is not too late to sign-up to come, but see Erma Williams if you do. She is taking care of the food. Wayne Flora will be the MC for the evening.
A THANK YOU NOTE
As you know, we hosted a graduation banquet for the Virginia Tech/Carlion School of Medicine Graduates in the annex a few weeks back. The following is the thank you note sent by Dr. Aubury Knight.
Dear friends at Roanoke Church of Christ,
On behalf of the Roanoke chapter of the Christian Medical and Dental Association, thank you so much for hosting our graduate recognition. The venue, the food and your hospitality were perfect. I’ve heard many comments since that evening about how perfect the whole evening was.
We look forward to further collaborations.
We were sorry to hear of the death of Kasey Sizemore’s father, Roger. Kasey is the granddaughter of former members, Harriett and Ralph Shivers. The funeral was Wednesday in Salem.
Today is Super Sunday. Plan to stay and enjoy this monthly fellowship dinner.
The Rescue Mission needs several things. As always, they need volunteers. They also need school supplies. A list is on the foyer table, as well as where they can be dropped off.. There is also a pamphlet showing the work of the Mission.
The service today is arranged by Del Bolin. It will be a service of songs and praise. Our thanks to Del and all those who make the third Sundays special. Be sure to thank him, as well as those doing the media. And thanks to James Downing for doing it last week in Erma’s absence.