“Damned for all time”
We had friends back in Yorkton whom our children called Grandma Kathy and Grandpa Tommy. They accepted us like family and we often invited to their family gatherings.
Grandpa Tommy had been in world war two and was injured in action. He had been shot and had a big scar on his arm.
He told his mother-in-law years earlier that the scar was a result of a sabre wound.
For years his mother-in-law believed it until the day came when she found out the truth. She told him that she could never forgive him, because she had told friends that it was a sabre wound and those friends had died and didn’t know the truth.
He couldn’t be forgiven.
I don’t know about you, but I suspect that most of us have had someone in our lives that we have not been able to forgive.
I remember one time years ago watching a hockey game and a particular team was playing. I said that I did not like that team. My daughter Kirsten asked me why. I said it was because some of my former friends who betrayed me in the last church were fans of that particular team.
Kirsten said: “Dad that was a couple years ago. Get over it.”
“Get over it.” Good advice from a 12 year old.
But sometimes we have trouble forgiving.
And sometimes I think, that we think we have biblical warrant not to forgive.
If the sin is bad enough. If the person doesn’t repent.
And we point to Judas…
the one who betrayed Judas for thirty pieces of silver. Roughly about a half a year’s wages for a working person in Jesus’ day.
The one about whom Jesus said: “Woe to him.” …the one who committed suicide…
The one Jesus talked about with words that went: “it would be better if that man had not been born.”
Ron Long from our choir a couple of weeks ago sang the part of Judas from the rock opera “Jesus Christ superstar” music by Andrew Lloyd Weber and lyrics by Tim Rice.
And in that musical Judas doesn’t want to be “Damned for all time.”
But for many people Judas was considered damned for all time.
For some, Judas was beyond forgiveness.
But in looking more closely at the text you will notice some interesting things.
Jesus doesn’t condemn Judas.
Jesus actually invites him to the table and serves him communion.
This is my body, is the body that Judas consumes. This is the blood of the new covenant.
Judas is part of that covenant.
When Judas comes to him in the garden to kiss him and betray him, Jesus calls him “friend.
Interestingly enough even the phrase about it being better if Judas is not born is commonly mistranslated.
What I read was from NRSV was:
The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’
But the literal translation from the Greek is “It would be better for him, if that man had not been born.”
In other words. It would have been better for him, Jesus, if that man, Judas had not been born.
There are a number of translations that have it translated more accurately even if they don’t name the him as Jesus and that man as Judas.
But it is a whole different meaning.
And of course “Woe to Judas.”
Woe to anyone who does something heinous, or betrays their friends, their family or their Lord…
Not because of punishment but because of the inner turmoil, the ripping apart of the fabric of the soul or spirit.
And maybe the point is that we all do things like that.
Every last one of us has betrayed a loved one, with word or actions or thoughts…
Everyone last one of us has betrayed our faith, our Lord, our God.
Every last one of us has ripped apart the fabric of our soul and betrayed our own good intentions and our own conscience.
And every last one of us has done something we wish we had not done.
Every last one of us has one time or another tried to give back the thirty pieces of silver and repent of the terrible thing we did.
And sometimes we cannot take back what we did or what we said.
And sometimes the people we hurt will never forgive us.
And that is why there is God? Sometimes it is only God who can forgive us to the depths we need forgiveness.
Sometimes it is only God who can continue to love us when we have betrayed love.
Sometimes it is only God who can wipe the slate clean, though my sins were as scarlet, they are white as snow…
In Rabbi Harold Kushman’s book, “Who needs God?” he tells of a woman who wrote to Ann landers many years ago chronicling how she and her husband had gone to a New Year’s party and had a few drinks and driving on the way home killed a thirteen year old boy.
They were so sorry, but the family would never forgive them.
Not to minimize the trauma of the family who lost the child, but the guilty ones too had trauma lasting years. IN the letter she went into the mental, emotional, physical and social trauma they had experienced
She signed the letter “Forever guilty.”
Kushner suggested that sometimes it is only God who can forgive and redeem us, that it is God who can see through our bad side and see the good in us, the divine image in us, and restore that image in a person.
The story of Judas is not that of “unforgiven” but of a man who didn’t realize how forgiven he actually was, who didn’t see that the suffering he caused Jesus, was the suffering that redeemed him and forgave him.
We are Judas, and to us who cannot take back the terrible things we have done to hurt ourselves and others, Jesus calls us “Friend.”
And to us who now want to give back our thirty pieces of silver Jesus says: Father forgive them, they didn’t know what they were doing.”
And to us who betray love, Jesus says: here is my body broken for you. Here is my blood poured out for the forgiveness of your sins. Amen.