Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Wednesday in Holy Week

Merciful and everlasting God the Father, who did not spare your only Son but delivered him up for us all that he might bear our sins on the cross, grant that our hearts may be so fixed with steadfast faith in our Savior that we may not fear the power of any adversaries; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lies and reigns with your and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

The Gospel for the One-Year Series is Luke 22:1-23:42. In the Three-Year Series it is Matthew 26:16-25. Both accounts record the revealing of the betrayer during the Passover seder. However, the One-Year Series also includes the institution of the Lord's Supper, which duplicates the Gospel in the Three-Year Series tomorrow (Maundy Thursday.) Therefore, these devotional thoughts will concern mainly the Matthew 26 account.

Judas has always been a fascinatingly tragic figure in the Passion. The only non-Galilean in the group, it seems that he was destined to have a unique history from the beginning. With the recent appearance of the Gnostic "Gospel of Judas," there is renewed sympathy for him and his need to betray the Master. It is claimed that Jesus even wanted him to do so. However, we know this is far from the truth. Just like to today there is always a need to soften the blow of the law as it condemns sin. We always want to rehabilitate the sinner and give excuses.

Judas was a man consumed by greed. This could not be clearer than to imagine that someone would betray his own master and friend into the hands of his enemies for any amount of money. Greed is a sin that can destroy a person and the gifts God has given to him. Witness the many who lose so much by an addiction to gambling. It can alienate a man from his family as he puts career before all else in a mad climb to the top. Yet even in lesser mistakes the sin of greed causes problems for the believer: dissatisfaction with jobs and pay, compulsions to shop for the newest clothing to stay in style, jealousy of neighbors who are more blessed. The last two commandments call us to contentment, a virtue not easily maintained in our modern materialistic world. Judas was a man who coveted and was willing to do anything to have what he wanted.

One may wonder why the Savior bothered to reveal the betrayer to the group. But this is a warning to Judas. He is giving him one last chance to repent and turn from his path. Some may feel that because of the prophesies of Holy Scripture Judas never had a chance. He was "locked in," as it were. Not true. Jesus reached out to him to the last minute. But Satan has entered the man and now directed his path from here on.

Many have debated whether Judas actually partook of the Supper that now followed. According to Matthew he could very well have left at this point, although we are not told. In the Lukan account Judas is still there after Jesus institutes the Supper. Although we are not told if he partook or left. But what if he did? We know from Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 11 that there were some in those days who ate and drank "unworthily." We also confess that all those partake of the supper receive the true body and blood, whether to their condemnation or their salvation, depending on faith. If Judas did partake, he obviously did it to his own condemnation. It would have been the final appeal of love from one who always gave of himself to all.

Tomorrow we will celebrate the institution of the blessed Sacrament. To see it framed by this treacherous act of greed, though, makes us remember that those who commune do so always as sinners in need of the Gospel's liberating power of redemption. Although one must commune "worthily," we are never "worthy" of God's grace. We are poor, miserable sinners, just as guilty as Judas or Peter or any of the others at the Table that night. Yet, by God's grace we are spared, we prayed, from being hardened in our sins and controlled by the evil one.

May we be thus preserved in God's grace again today, that at the Table tomorrow night we might experience again the true joy of our salvation and the comfort of his divine presence.

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