Thursday, April 2, 2015

My name is Judas

My sermon for this Maundy Thursday was based on John 13:1-35.

To download a podcast of my sermon, click here.

My name is Judas, and I think I have made a terrible mistake.

For the last three years or I have been a follower of this Jesus of Nazareth, maybe you have heard of him.  Before I started following him, I was a member of the Sicarii, a group much like the Zealots.  These groups are both dedicated to expelling Rome from the Holy Land.

You see, for us, the Roman rule in our country is the greatest offense we can possibly imagine.  They desecrate our places of worship, they profane our markets with their unclean wares, they force us to pay homage and taxes to their magistrates and Emperors, and they rule the land that is rightfully ours.  It was given to us by God, who are they to occupy it and tell us how to live?

But I digress.  The Zealots (of whom another Apostle of Jesus, Simon, is one) are dedicated to expelling Rome from the Holy Land, and they figure the best way to do this is to incite the people to armed rebellion.  Force seems to be the only thing the Romans understand.

The group I was a part of, the Sicarii, are willing to take things a step further than the Zealots.  Sicarii actually means “murderer” or “assassin”, because we even killed fellow Jews if they were caught collaborating with the Romans or if we thought they were sympathetic to them.

We call ourselves freedom fighters and patriots.  Others, I suppose, call us terrorists.

Either way, we, like everybody else groaning under the weight of foreign oppression have been waiting for the Messiah to come and lead us to glorious victory!  We have been waiting for that man to take up arms, rally our people and to finally drive out the occupying Romans.

I thought I had found that person in Jesus of Nazareth.  When I first met him, he was so powerful, so charismatic, so enigmatic, calm, poised, articulate.  Well, I just had to follow him.  I felt certain that he was the Messiah our people had long hoped for.  I wasn’t the only one!  Wherever he goes, crowds of people flock to him.  Oh my, the things he can do, the miracles, the stories he tells…they are just so insightful, they cut to the very heart of me.

But some time ago, I began to feel that Jesus had gone off the rails a bit.  It must be said, he never really was very warlike, which I feel the Messiah should be.  He never really tried to incite the people towards taking up arms, but I just thought he was trying to earn their trust, and then he was going to start gently introducing the message.  I even tried to steer him a bit, you know, help him get to that point a little sooner, but he was either obtuse or he just wasn’t interested.  I mean, how else are we going to get them out of here?  God gave us this land, not to anybody else, and that gives us the right to defend it.

But I guess the first thing that happened to really shake my faith in him was that he started opening up our movement to the Gentiles.  The Gentiles!  I mean, they’re almost as bad as the Romans!  There is no question Jesus is a gifted man, but I just can’t see the point of him offering his gifts to those who are not “of us”, not part of our group, our race or our movement.

Anyway, just a few days ago, we all came into Jerusalem together, and we had crowds of people lining the road leading up to the city gates.  They were shouting “Hosanna” (which in our language means saviour), waving palm fronds to welcome him as a king.  You see? The people know and understand he is the man who can rescue us, but he insisted on riding a donkey in.  A donkey!  What kind of king comes riding to make war on a donkey?

Anyway, that may not have been such a big deal, but while we were eating dinner at a friend’s house a few nights ago, this woman came in with a big alabaster jar of oil and began anointing Jesus with it and washing his feet.  And he let it happen!  First of all, this woman was unaccompanied and who knows where she’s been, but the nerve of a woman anointing a man!  A: you don’t touch a man that is not your husband, and B: anointing is the job of a prophet, and it is supposed to be done  respectfully and ceremonially.  That’s what makes a man a king, and if Jesus is going to king, he can’t go around having just anybody anointing him with oil.  It flies in the face of our deepest-held beliefs and customs.  He’s Jewish, he should know this!

But he last straw for me was earlier tonight.  It is the Passover, and so the core group, we were all gathered together with Jesus to celebrate.  Jesus had sat me at his right hand side, the seat of honour, and I thought, “Right on, he is finally giving me the respect I deserve”.  I thought he was finally beginning to come to way of thinking, to see the need for him to get on with the mission.

But do you know what he did?  He got a bowl of water and started washing our feet!  Just like that woman had done to him!  That is something slaves do, not kings!  What kind of king debases himself in that way?

Some of us tried to tell him.  Peter spoke right up and said Jesus would never wash his feet, but he insisted.  I just could not bear to see the man I thought was the Messiah debase himself in that manner.

So I left.  I had one strategy left.  I went to the Sanhedrin, the chief priest and scribes, and I made a deal with them.  I said I would tell them where Jesus was going to be later tonight, and I would identify him for them.  Most of them have never seen him before and would have no idea what he looks like.

They offered me 30 pieces of silver.  It’s not about the money, that’s only about 2 weeks’ wages for a working man.  But I have a secret hope.  I hope that when the authorities come to take Jesus into custody, his back will be against a wall, and he will have no choice but to fight!  He will have no choice but to take up arms, because if they arrest him, they are going to kill him, and he knows it.  That is going to be the spark that ignites the fire I have been waiting for.  And with the following Jesus has amassed, he is the man to do it.

You see, I still think Jesus is the Messiah, I really do.  If anyone can lead us to victory over the Romans, it is he.  But the problem is that he is going about it all wrong.  This message of peace won’t stick.  What great nation has ever been founded on peace?  What war has ever been won by the more peaceful side?  What foe has ever been vanquished through humility?  What conquest through love?

Jesus would probably say I am not getting it, but I say he is the one who is not getting it.  I mean, I agree with his message of peace.  Wouldn't it be nice if we could all get along, huh?  And maybe in a different time and a different place, that message may have been appropriate.  Maybe sometime in the future.  But we have been held captive for so long!  We just want to be free, and you have to fight for freedom, don’t you?  No one is just going to hand it to you.  You have to take up arms to establish peace, right?  Right?

God, I hope I am right, because if I am wrong, I will have personally delivered the Messiah, the greatest hope for peace over to certain death.  I will have given up my best friend and teacher to the very forces I am trying to overthrow.

My name is Judas, and I think I have made a terrible mistake.

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