Sermon: Palm Sunday, March 20, 2016 – “Through the Eyes of Judas”

“Through the Eyes of Judas”

Hi-my name is Judas. Judas Iscariot. Most people think they know who I am, they think they know all about me, they think they know the story about what happened. But most people don’t really know anything at all. My name is despised. They say I killed Jesus. They say I was a betrayer. They say it would have been better if I had never been born. They say these things because they simply do not know. They don’t know that among all the disciples I may have loved Jesus the most. They don’t know how my heart ached for the people we ministered to and how desperately I wanted things to change.

I remember the day we arrived in Jerusalem. The air was electric. You could feel the excitement as tens of thousands of people filled the streets. They were singing, some were cheering, others laid leafy palms at the feet of Jesus. Imagine that-the palm is a sign of victory-the people had already chosen their victor-the people had already declared Jesus King! The victory was ours for the taking!

That is what I was looking for; I was waiting for Jesus to give the word, I was waiting for Jesus to call the people into rebellion. All he would have had to say is “let’s not be oppressed any longer” all he would have had to say is that “we will no longer be occupied” – and with God on our side, we could have easily run the Romans out of town.

I remember thinking to myself, why is he waiting so long, what is he waiting for, the time for a call to action is right now-the streets are full of your followers and they would all do anything you tell them to do. Go for it, Jesus. But he didn’t. He stayed calm. He didn’t even offer any teaching or a speech or anything. By evening the crowd had dispersed and most of the excitement of the day was gone. He had missed a good chance to bring about the revolution he sought. Jesus was always talking about freedom from oppression and the coming of the Kingdom of God. He had his chance and he did nothing.

The next day I thought maybe I had been too hasty. Jesus went to the temple to teach and found it full of money changers and priests and Pharisees. The people in power were cheating those who had travelled a great distance to celebrate the Passover here in Jerusalem. It was a rigged system and Jesus knew it. I have never seen Jesus as angry as he was that day. This is it!, I thought to myself, Jesus has finally had enough, he will call upon the people to revolt, he will command his army of God and once and for all drive these occupiers from our midst.

Jesus picked up a branch and began to use it like a whip. He tipped over tables and shouted at the merchants-this should be a house of prayer and you have made it a den of thieves! I was right behind him, I had a branch in my hand as well. We were a small group, but I was ready to fight. Come on Jesus, let’s get after them!

He chased some of the merchants to the door of the temple, and he threw his branch onto the ground in disgust and then just walked away. He didn’t encourage the crowd that had gathered, he didn’t tell them how they had been cheated, he didn’t say anything about revolution…he just left. And I followed.

Now, what? I’m thinking to myself. We have all this momentum, people know who Jesus is, they respond to his teachings, they are tired of the Romans they are tired of the oppression. Why doesn’t he act? What is he waiting for?

Over the next couple of days I continued to wait for Jesus to make his move. Now was the time, Jerusalem was certainly the place, did he have a plan? What was our next move? Then it occurred to me that what we needed was a public confrontation. A huge spectacle where the crowds would clearly see the corruption and the oppression of the Roman guard, where they could see Jesus and be reminded of his teachings and be reminded that God is on our side and be reminded that the kingdom of God is at hand! A public confrontation is what was needed…and maybe Jesus just needed a little push.

So I met with the chief priests. I knew they didn’t like Jesus and didn’t appreciate his brand of religion. I thought I could use them. I thought I could leverage their hatred and despise of Jesus into our advantage and create a scene, create a confrontation where the people would finally revolt and we could be free of the Roman oppression once and for all. I had it all worked out.

On Thursday night, I told the Chief Priests, you will find Jesus exactly where you want him. He will be away from the crowds, just a few loyal followers next to him. He will be in the Garden of Gethsemane…you can arrest him there.

What I didn’t tell the Chief Priests was that once arrested there would be a public uproar, there would be an outcry and there would be the confrontation we needed to begin the revolution. I had thirty pieces of silver to contribute to the treasury. Think of things we can do with that money, we can finance our revolution, we can buy weapons or food or even a hired thug or two. This was the jump start we needed. Everything was working according to plan.

Thursday evening we celebrated the Passover meal. It was awkward. Jesus made reference to some feelings he had that told him I had acted on my own. I didn’t really deny it, but I thought we were still on the same page. I wonder how he knew? I figured that Jesus knew what I had planned and was playing along.

Later that night he was in the Garden. I went to the Chief Priests and we arrived at the Garden together. As we had discussed, I greeted Jesus with the customary kiss upon the cheek. “Rabbi”, I said to him, “our time is now.” He looked away and the Roman soldiers seized him. The rest of the disciples had been sleeping, they were a little groggy-one drew a sword and cut the ear of a Roman Centurion.

“Put away your swords”, Jesus said. “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” And then he reached out and touched the ear of the Roman Guard. It quit bleeding immediately. Then Jesus turned to the priests and said that he had been among them, teaching with them, in the temple with them, but they come now in the middle of the night to arrest him like a common thief…why is that? Then they led him away.

Some of us followed in the shadows. I was waiting for the right time, I was waiting for Jesus to give the signal. But it never came. Daylight began to fill the courtyard where they brought Jesus for trial.

They kept asking questions and Jesus would not respond. They beat him. They spit on him. All the while the crowd was getting larger and noisier and I began to think the plan might be working after all. Then they offered to release a prisoner and my heart jumped into my throat. This is it, I thought, the crowd is here, the anger is here, Jesus is here-it is all falling into place, Jesus will be released and the revolution will begin.

“Barabbas” the crowd roared, “We want Barabbas!” I couldn’t believe my ears. But then it got worse, much worse.

The crowd turned on Jesus. “Crucify him!” they shouted-“Crucify him!”

I couldn’t get my mind around what was happening. Jesus didn’t do anything, none of the others were around, everything was happening so fast. I ran back to the chief priests and told them they had to stop this, I told them that Jesus was innocent, I returned the 30 pieces of silver, but they said nothing could be done; it was out of their hands.

By now they were leading Jesus out of town on the way to Skull Mountain. What have I done? I kept asking myself, what have I done? I watched until Jesus disappeared from sight. I knew I couldn’t live with the guilt and the shame, I knew I couldn’t live if Jesus died at my hand. What have I done? What have I done? My choice is clear.

Matthew 27:3-5 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Suicide of Judas

When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself.

 

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