Tag Archives: force

31 March. Spy Wednesday: what was Judas thinking?

Jesus abused under arrest. Strasbourg.

Well, what was Judas thinking when he went to the authorities for his pieces of silver? He will not have told himself that betraying Jesus was the worst thing he could do, so that’s just what he would do; no, he must have convinced himself that it was the best possible course of action in the circumstances.

Was he trying to force his Master’s hand, engineering a scene such as had happened in Nazareth at the start of his ministry, when Jesus passed through the crowd that was trying to stone him? (Luke 4:16-30) That seems unlikely as Luke says he was looking for a time when the crowd was not present in order to hand Jesus over. (22.6) Was he hoping that Jesus would then and there abandon his peaceful mission, instead establishing the Kingdom of Israel in a brilliant coup d’etat? Or did he see himself as clear-sighted, holding out no hope for Project Jesus, so he would cut his losses and take the money and run.

His suicide suggests that he was not that clear-sighted and cynical. I do not think he expected events to work out as they did; his self image may have been of a Mr Fix-it, forcing change on Jesus. Perhaps he expected the 11 and other disciples to rally round, overpowering or recruiting the posse sent to arrest Jesus and rampaging triumphant into the city. If he thought Jesus would enter into his Kingdom by military or mob force he was profoundly mistaken about him; but so were the other disciples, every one in their own way. But they clung together and did not hang themselves.

And then what? Clearly Jesus meant more to him than the money, the blood money that could not go into the treasury. (Matthew 27:3-8) His suicide speaks of hope abandoned – as we read yesterday, those who have something to hope for survive. Judas surely felt unable to return to the community of the disciples after what he’d done. Peter wept bitterly, but still stuck around. The reality of his prophetic words – you have the message of eternal life – did not sink in until Sunday morning. Too late to save Judas.

But never too late for his Lord and Friend to save Judas. That’s clearly what the artist of Strasbourg Cathedral felt, when he carved the Lamb of God rescuing Judas from his noose at the very gate of Hell.

Hope springs eternal.

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8 June, Year of Mercy: Compassion has everything to do with God.

The compassion of Francis: he prays for water for his thirsty guide and a spring wells up.

mercylogoReligion and mercy have often spearheaded protests against injustice and violence as well as providing the impetus for social action. Seeking to get rid of misfortune and innocent suffering by force [as Marxism] did not just fail but caused intense suffering and persecution for millions, it became Lenin’s world, with the death of God paving the way for superman. It is reported that on his deathbed Lenin regretted the cruelty and bloodshed of his well-intentioned revolution: I have deluded myself. Without doubt, it was necessary to free the oppressed masses. However, our methods resulted in other oppressions and gruesome massacres. You know I am deathly ill; I feel lost in an ocean of blood formed by countless victims. This was necessary to save our Russia, but it is too late to turn back. We would need ten Francis of Assisi.”

Germany’s National Socialism praised whatever made you strong; lauding I did it my way! The impact of this was self-centred living, marginalising and excluding. Words like mercy and pity were no longer fashionable. Pity took on a negative connotation – and yet, experiences of compassion and pity remained strong and evident; with many choosing to follow such ways.

The cries for sympathy are by no means always unheard – even though the actual words mercy and pity are not much used. We are disturbed and alarmed by so much inhumanity and cruelty; natural disasters like earthquakes and floods evoke a response, when charity giving is most generous. Compassion, entering by choice into the sufferings of others, is doing well and temporarily, brings us more together – compassion is still around, though under new names.

There is much more than sentiment here; we are moved by the passion in compassion; hearing the cry of the poor enough to be determined to respond. Perfeopen handct [universal] justice is not achievable in this world, which is why Genesis tells us that it is not for us to decide what is good – not a prohibition, but we are not big enough to do it. When we decide what is good for us, there will always be exceptions, whereas God’s justice is universal mercy: The father of mercy… 2 Corinthians 1.3.

There are numerous victims of natural disasters where support depends entirely on compassion – thankfully such compassion is not in short supply. The presence of God, the father of mercy, is readily detected here.
pain and innocent suffering are as old as humankind, and all religions ask why and try to answer; asking for deliverance from pain and the strength to endure. How can we believe in a merciful God in the heart of this? Can suffering and mercy live together in a positive way? What does the sermon on the Mount mean by blessed are the merciful?

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