Lent Reflections @ CEC (4/4/20)
“God is completely sovereign. God is infinite in wisdom. God is perfect in love. God in His love always wills what is best for us. In His wisdom, He always knows what is best, and in His sovereignty, He has the power to bring it about.” – Jerry Bridges
SCRIPTURE & DEVOTION: Mark 14, Mark 14:1-2, 10-11, 17-21
Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him. “But not during the Feast,” they said, “or the people may riot.”
Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me.”
They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I?”
“It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips his bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man!”
Trusting God’s Plan
Few figures in history are as reviled as Judas Iscariot. He, like Benedict Arnold, is considered the very personification of disloyalty, made more despicable because the one he betrayed was a close personal friend. Even Roget’s Thesaurus lists the name “Judas” as a synonym for “Traitor”.
To understand Judas’ motivation for betraying Jesus, it is helpful to examine this passage of scripture in context. This story immediately follows the account of the woman who poured a bottle of expensive perfume over Jesus. John’s gospel informs us that it was Judas who objected most strenuously to the “waste” of such a valuable commodity, one that could have brought in almost a year’s wages had it been sold. John goes on to say that Judas, the keeper of the disciples’ money bag, used to help himself to its contents (John 12: 4-6). Matthew 26:15 tells us that Judas asked the chief priests what they would give him for agreeing to betray Jesus, and that he was paid 30 pieces of silver. It is easy to assume that the love of money was a primary motivation for the greedy Judas to hand Jesus over to the authorities.
Many biblical scholars believe that another contributing factor to Judas’ betrayal of Christ may have been his disillusionment with Jesus’ ministry: “With the other disciples, Judas shared a persistent misunderstanding of Jesus’ mission” (marginal notes, The Life Application Bible). Many of those who believed that Jesus was the long-prophesied Messiah expected him to start a political rebellion with the overthrow of Rome as its ultimate objective. When Jesus began talking about his approaching death, saying that the woman who poured perfume on him was helping to prepare his body for burial, Judas realized that Jesus had no intention of ousting the existing governmental regime. Unable to reconcile his expectation of a glorious political coup with the idea of following a doomed martyr, Judas allowed his anger and disappointment to render him vulnerable to Satan’s manipulation (John 13:27).
During this season of Lent, Christians the world over observe traditions and customs dedicated to the contemplation of the life and death of Christ. As an offering of devotion in the weeks leading up to Easter, many abstain from everyday pleasures such as watching television, corresponding over social media, or eating chocolate. Some fast and pray; others increase their monetary giving or step up their efforts to volunteer in their communities. Many attend special worship gatherings that commemorate specific events in the life of Jesus and spend additional time reading the Bible, seeking to discover more about the meaning and application of the scriptures to life in the present day. The idea of betraying Jesus seems so foreign to us, so specifically pertinent to the person of Judas in the week immediately preceding the crucifixion, that it is hard for us to believe it has any possible relevant association for us.
However, most of us are acutely aware of our shortcomings, especially those which result from a lack of faith, from resistance to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, or from failure to live up to the teachings of scripture. We acknowledge God’s power but have trouble trusting in his mercy and grace, especially in times of crisis, hardship, and sorrow as in the case of the current COVID-19 world health pandemic. We are not unlike Judas in our expectation that God “should” act in a particular way, a way which we may even mistakenly assume is more in line with our fallible human interpretation of his character than the way in which he chooses to act. Isaiah 55:8 reminds us not to assume that God’s will is in line with our desires: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”
Lent offers us another opportunity to rearrange our priorities, to attempt to align our beliefs and actions more consistently with God’s intentions for our lives and for our world. Especially in this difficult time, let us banish anger, fear, greed, despair, and every other destructive emotion that would make us vulnerable to being led astray. May we refrain from acting rashly when things don’t go the way we think they should. Most of all, may we remember God’s purpose in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. By his sacrifice, he conquered death and made us heirs to a kingdom far greater than any earthly realm. Let us continue to place our hope in him, no matter what the circumstances we see around us.
Lord, we acknowledge that all of our hope is in You. We are completely dependent on You for every breath, for Your provision in our lives. Would You continue to transform us so that our lives reflect Your love and Your restoration in this world. We need Your strength and Your grace in our lives.