Consider Judas during Lent

Lent is a season for many Christians that includes prayer, soul-searching, and activities that help them rededicate themselves to their faith. Some churches also use this time to educate those who wish to formally join their congregations. Lent originated in the early days of church formation, probably in the 4th century, and it spans 40 weekdays — beginning next Wednesday and ending on the Saturday before Easter.

The 40 days of Lent are most closely associated with the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness (see Matthew 4:2) preparing for His ministry by facing the temptations that could have — but did not — lead Him to abandon His ministry.

As we edge ever closer to Spring, let’s look at various aspects of Lent as well as key players in the Easter story. The most notorious player, Judas Iscariot, is a good person to begin with. Not much is known about him before he became one of Christ’s 12 disciples. We do know, however, that he was the son of a man named Simon with the surname Iscariot — thought to be taken from the Hebrew Ish Kerioth which translates roughly, “A man from Kerioth.”

We also know that as an adult Judas expressed both an interest and ability to keep records. He demonstrated an ability to manage money and became the keeper of the disciples’ funds, which probably amounted to hauling around a simple cloth bag filled with coinage. Least we diminish the role Judas played in Christ’s early ministry, we must think of the role money plays in our lives today.

Judas was fiscally conservative. At one point he challenged Mary, identified in scripture as the sister to Jesus’ friend Lazarus, about her use of money. It seems he watched Mary anoint Jesus’ tired and dirty feet with expensive perfume and considered the choice wasteful. Had he been given the choice, he would have sold the perfume and given the proceeds to the local poor. Sound anything like conversations you share with your teenage daughter or members of the service club to which you belong?

The real controversy surrounding Judas involves speculation about his motives for betraying Jesus’ whereabouts to chief priests and Roman soldiers, hoping to eliminate Jesus and His perceived threat to their power. Was Judas greedy, wooed by 30 pieces of silver? Was he jealous because he began to view Jesus as a celebrity? Did Judas become convinced that Jesus should have led a political uprising against the oppressive Roman government and became frustrated when He refused? Did Judas long for an enlightened rabbinical teacher, only to learn Christ chose to work in areas of the divine, instead?

Bigger still are speculations about the cause of this whole nasty ordeal. Was Judas a misguided betrayer or a preordained player in an event that would, from that moment forward, offer life everlasting to believers in Jesus’ offer of salvation? We will never know with absolute certainty. We are free, however, to debate the issue and it’s perfectly acceptable to come to your own conclusions.

The indisputable facts are these: Judas accepted 30 Tyrian shekels from arresting Roman soldiers by identifying Jesus with a kiss. In a fit of guilt and rage Judas quickly returned the shekels and retreated, a man in complete isolation. In this emotional darkness he hanged himself.

Although this is Judas’ story, it could be our own. Trusted, inner-circle people do fall. It is for this reason that Jesus ultimately chose to move past the role of trusted teacher and on to Savior of mankind. He chose, instead, to cover our mistakes so during our death and eventual judgment we will be viewed as perfectly forgiven.

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