Judas, giver of history’s best-known kiss, has always had a bad rap.
While Judas was a very capable individual – he was picked to be the treasurer of Christ’s preaching and healing and wandering and laughing troupe for a reason – we know that he was more interested in skimming the coffers and in other questionable behaviour before he undertook that most unbecoming act of betraying Christ late one night by kissing him on the cheek.
All for 30 pieces of silver that Judas ended up throwing away anyway, money that was left to roll all over the floor at the feet of the religious leaders who he cooked up the deal with.
This, prior to Judas throwing his own life away by hanging himself before, as the story goes, his body fell on some rocks so hard that his innards came spilling out.
While the scriptural account doesn’t explicitly state it, the long-held speculation of historians is that Judas felt, quite simply, let down by the Messiah. Judas had a different image of what Jesus should be like. There would be no revolution, Judas finally realized. Not how he would have liked it, anyway.
No, there would be no crowning of the Messiah as king and there would be no ministerial post for himself in the new messianic government, no BMW and fine-dining, and no glory, no, not in that sense.
Had Judas stuck around another day or so, he would have witnessed for himself how ugly it would all get: the Messiah – or this man who claimed to be the Messiah, this man who had healed the sick and raised the dead and had a freakish power over the natural world, this apparent God-Man – would, in fact, hang naked on a cross as the object of jokes and scorn and utter humiliation.
But in this large disappointment, Judas isn’t so much different than anyone else who expects more from their messiahs. And who of us wouldn’t like their god to be more like, say, Zeus, with thunderbolt in hand, or, at least with gold in a kingly crown on a royal brow? We like to see power. And justice. And plenty of things. Before breakfast if possible.
But this? This, what happened on a Friday some 2,000 years ago? No thank you.
Then, to think, somewhere along the way, they came up with the name Good Friday for it. At the time, there wasn’t a shred of good in any of it.
You have to wonder, though, what the rest of Judas’ story might have been if he had been a little less full of himself and his own expectations and a little more filled with patience and an openness to a God who, after-all, likes to do things his own way.
Because then Sunday came. And with it, a different sort of revolution. A revolution that we still remember this weekend, all this time later, because more than anything, it was one that revolutionized human hearts.
Because God loved the world. This is how Judas’ colleague John put it. God loved the world so much, he even gave his Son. His precious Son. To take away the sins of Judas. And to take away the sins of those of us who are just like Judas.
And in its place, in some strange way, replace our failures with life that we otherwise don’t even believe is possible.
This Friday morning, here in our Africa home, my children and their mother and I read about all this. Like millions of others around the world also have meditated on, this Friday. This Good Friday.
And we are profoundly grateful.