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Looking at Judas in the Mirror

“Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?’ And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus.” – Matthew 26:14-16

“When Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ But they said, ‘What is that to us? See to that yourself!’ And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.” – Matthew 27:3-5

We want to distance ourselves from Judas. Dante, in The Inferno, put him at the very center of Hell. But sometimes Judas’ actions are closer to us than we think.

Consider what transpired in the above verses from the gospel of Matthew. Judas is, quite frankly, disappointed and disillusioned in how Jesus is acting: Jesus has just predicted his own death yet again. Judas doesn’t want a suffering Savior. He wants a conquering King. I suspect, given the fact that Judas used to steal from the disciples’ moneybag (John 12:6), that he had been envisioning himself as Treasurer in Jesus’ kingdom – with incredible opportunities to line his own pockets.

But here Jesus is, praising the poor, living as a Servant, and talking about his death. Judas decides to betray him.

He goes through with the whole business, carried on the wings of anger and bitterness and resentment. And Jesus is condemned to death.

It is only then, with a shock, that Judas realizes he doesn’t want Jesus to die. All his anger and bitterness and resentment leave him, and he is consumed by remorse. But it is too late. He cannot change what he has done. In overwhelming despair, he commits suicide.

Now, let’s make it personal. Imagine for a moment that you are in a relationship with someone and he or she is not living up to your expectations. Maybe a friend has let you down at a time when you were in crisis. Maybe a family member has told you a truth you didn’t want to hear. Maybe a spouse has failed to fulfill your needs and desires.

You are angry. You are bitter. You are resentful. And, fed by these negative emotions, you lash out. You say or do something you know will hurt the other person. You do it on purpose. You do it meaning to cause pain.

The other person is hurt. He or she is in pain. And in that moment, you realize that you didn’t want that. Not really.

But you can’t take the words back. You can’t undo the actions you took. The relationship is injured – possibly fatally.

Let’s take away three lessons here:

First, examine your expectations of other people. Are they realistic? Are they true? For example, a wife might expect her husband to lavish flowers, jewelry, and romance on her at Valentine’s Day, her birthday, and their anniversary. He doesn’t; he’s just not that kind of guy. He shows his love in a thousand other ways every day of the year. If the wife doesn’t modify her expectations to conform with reality, she is going to be regularly – but unjustly – disappointed.

Second, do not act out of anger, bitterness, or resentment in your relationships. You risk injuring or killing the relationship. If you feel such emotions rise, take a step back, close your mouth, and pray. Talk to God about your pain. Ask him for a proper perspective about the situation. Where necessary, confess your own sin.

Third, ask forgiveness when you fail. Judas betrayed Jesus. He did not seek forgiveness, and hanged himself in despair. But there could have been a different ending. Peter denied Jesus. He did seek forgiveness, and Jesus restored him completely. So when you do lash out at another person in anger, bitterness, or resentment, ask forgiveness – of God and of the other person. Jesus is amazing at healing and restoring – and, yes, resurrecting – injured and even dead relationships.

We started with the story of Judas. Let’s finish with the story of Peter. Jesus knew Peter would deny him, and he told him, “Behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).

Remember that: Jesus is praying for you. He knows you will sin, and he is right there to forgive and restore you. Trust him.

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