Wednesday of Holy Week
Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
We all have a Judas, one (or more) who betrays us. Sometimes, Judas lurks in matters of the heart, the intimate betrayal of one who has gained our trust and said with great sweetness, “I love you.” Judas may also be in a work setting, when one has bent over backwards to provide a place for someone in need of employment and the sudden need to make a living. Judas may be that friend, who stabbed us in the back when we have previously been that one, on whom he or she counted. But isn’t it most obvious but least expected that Judas shows up in Christ’s Church?
My elderly German grandmother repeatedly hissed, “Judas… Judas Iscariot,” as my mother flew with her to admit her to the Lutheran Nursing Home in Philadelphia, where one of Grossmutti’s eldest granddaughters was the administrator and old friends from the Frauen Verein (Women of the Church) were residents. She was no longer safe to leave on her own while Mama went to her evening nursing shift at the local V.A. Hospital. But until Alzheimer’s held Mama in a tight grip, she would cringe if she heard the name “Judas Iscariot.” Doubtless, Mama thought her final years were a kind of karmic payback, for she had also sent away our frail, widowed grandfather, Papa Joe, when he had come to live with us my 18th year. My father was so furious with her command decision, without consultation or (he felt) compassion, that he couldn’t speak with her for weeks.
One Judas had begged that I share with him “just a little corner of the altar,” meaning he wanted an opportunity to serve in another parish where I was the Senior Pastor. Later, when he was unhappy with me, he very publicly stood in opposition to me in front of a large crowd. When I shared with a large church consultant about what he had done so publicly, that pastor advised me to terminate Judas immediately to make clear that such behavior is never acceptable in Christ’s Church. I did not, but I no longer trusted him in any way. Doubtless, he was convinced of his rectitude.
The biblical Judas hanged himself when the full weight of how he had betrayed His Lord took his breath away. Judas strangled in the knowledge that he had done more than betray a friend. Judas had betrayed the living Word of God made flesh. So, it seems not so strange that, at least metaphorically, Judas’ spirit hovers around Christ’s Church. On Good Friday, we will sing, “I crucified Thee.” Each of us is Judas to our Lord Jesus.
The longer we live the more we learn what is in the heart and mind of every human being. Husbands and wives rhapsodize over faithful spouses, our dearest friends, but, even in the best of marriages, one of us will be Judas by leaving feet first and when they are least prepared to lose us.
Judas despaired when the weight of thirty silver pieces, blood money, sent him slipping and sliding toward the abyss. The effect of being betrayed is always physically nauseating when the truth of what another has done is unavoidably faced. But when one knows he or she has been Judas not only to a dear one but to the Lord God Himself? Satan cackled in his ears: “There can be no grace, no forgiveness for you, Judas Iscariot!”
On this day before the drama of Holy Week draws us more deeply into the mystery of God’s great love for us in Jesus Christ, we think of Judas’ place in our lives and remember that Judas also peers out at us from the mirror. Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord….
Thank you, Father, for Judas and all those who teach us to place our trust in Christ alone, the Friend of sinners. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Put forty-three pennies, nickels, or dimes in a bowl or box today to help to provide food for the local food bank to share with the poor.
Pastor Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS
St Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.