On the eve of Election Day 2016 I read an article in The Wall Street Journal which quotes Donald Trump saying, “Go vote because believe me, if we don’t win, we’ve all wasted our time. They may say good things about us…but it won’t mean a damn thing.”
There as been a lot of hype, to give it a positive word, around the 2016 presidential election and the day has arrived when all the anticipation will come to an end; someone will win and someone will lose. As a nation we will be divided, but not as bad as we will have thought and we will be unified in the end though not as closely as we will have hoped.
Anyway, going back to Trump’s quote, I deeply resonate with the feeling and even the fear of wasting my time. I know what it is like and I feel like I go through a few days a week where people say really good things about me, most of which doesn’t mean anything to me because their words affirm only the most shallow depths of my managed image. Regardless of the context, intention or level of insecurity in Trump’s statements I know I too fear not ‘meaning a damn thing.’
Today I felt a profound sadness and boredom with my work. Each problem or task I encountered I came to it knowing full well that it was insignificant to me. I could admit that it was significant to others, to the university and to my company but I could say with great confidence that my soul had nearly no concern for these problems.
When I opened my daily emailed devotional the title read Why Do People Commit Suicide? It was a title that briefly shocked me from me melancholy state, and maybe too much for it was much like jumping into a cold shower out of a warm bed, I could hardly stand the contrast of Excel spreadsheets and self harm.
The devotional was on Judas and the sad story that was his final day on earth. We read in the early verses of Matthew 27:
“When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “For I have betrayed innocent blood.”
“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”
So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.
The author of this devotional writes, “It may be the saddest verse in all the Bible.” I will have to agree. I have to agree for many reasons but mainly because Judas’ final words were against himself and so for the rest of history his words will speak against him.
It’s so sad because it seems that repentance is on the tip of his tongue when he was seized by remorse and threw the thirty pieces of silver at the corrupt priests. It seems that maybe there was still room for him to cling to the one who he had betrayed to confess to his brothers who he sinned against. Maybe if he had confessed to his brothers, Peter would have surely killed him and denied Jesus a fourth time.
If Judas had survived I think the church would have preserved the deepest story of redemption yet; the one who had handed over the Son of God to be killed was given new life. Surely Judas’ life story would have brought that many more people out of the shadows and into the light.
Instead, Judas’ story is one that drives us back into the darkness for it is a shot across the bow our soul that makes us hesitate in thought that maybe there are sins that just aren’t forgivable; maybe there is shame that is too deep to tell another person; maybe there are wounds which have both been inflected upon us and wound which we have inflicted upon others that we may have confessed but their weight is too much and to bare them in community would be certain death.
It is the story of Judas that causes me deep sadness because his story is close to all of us. If we’ve experienced the mercy of God at all, we will eventually, if we don’t already, know the suffering of Judas, the world’s most isolated man. My sadness comes because I deeply know of the isolation around me. From the students I pass on the campus sidewalks, to the single mom I stand in line with at Fred Myer to the acquaintances at my church there is a deep love within me to pastor and comfort Judas.
I cannot reconcile my daily activity with spreadsheets with my desire to warm others with the fire shut up inside my bones. I cannot care about instituting an alumni discount on merchandise while people still believe God is present only in their most noblest sins. I cannot care about those things and even if I could, I do not want to.
I am sad tonight because Judas continues to die all around me. I think as the church we have relegated Judas to this “untouchable” ring of hell that was reserved only for people that betray God. As we survey the Gospels we see story after story of people who were without hope who found hope it Jesus. We read of lepers, demon possessed men living in tombs and even the dead who were healed and restored when Jesus encountered them. All these stories have happy endings and where there were loose ends, Jesus ties them together and gives us a nice bowtie of a sermon illustration.
But Judas is different. If we are honest with ourselves we will acknowledge that we do not know what to do with Judas; with gospels full of redemption we do not know what to do with such a loose end like Judas. Judas? He doesn’t mean a damn thing.
I am profoundly sad tonight because I want to be where Judas is because I think it is where Jesus is.
There was another man who too was rejected by the chief priests and elders, the man born blind.