Today’s scripture readings cover prophecy of Christ’s fate, Christ’s actual fate and raise all sorts of questions. Isaiah hints of Christ’s pain saying, “My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.” And the psalmist says, “In my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” Matthew tells of Judas’ betrayal.
Endings and beginnings. It’s the cycle of life. I never do very well with endings and beginnings. I’m pretty resistant to change and endings and beginnings always mean change. And yet Lent is a season where we anticipate the greatest of all endings and beginnings. A time that is supposed to be life changing. The death and resurrection of Christ.
Every Saint Patrick’s Day my family hosts a wonderful and joyful party. We celebrate with what we call the Irish Tea. All sorts of wonderful food and drink, friends and family, music and laughter, old and new acquaintances. At our most recent gathering at my parents’ house, we looked at pictures of past celebrations. One picture reminded me of the absence of my younger sister, Megan, who died many years ago. An ending. We also celebrated the arrival of my great-niece, Megan Shea, the first of the next generation and my sister’s name-sake. A beginning. Both bringing change to my life.
In Matthew, Jesus prepares for the end of his ministry and for his death. Jesus celebrates the Passover with his disciples. Food and drink and great company. However, the mood changes instantly when Christ reveals that one of the disciples will betray him. All are in disbelief. Jesus warns of the dire consequence of this betrayal. Is he giving Judas a chance to repent? Judas denies his treachery and his name becomes synonymous with betrayal.
Studying scripture can be frustrating. It’s like someone walks into the Upper Room and takes a snapshot of Jesus and the disciples. From this snapshot we must try to discern motives, desires, feelings, plans. And I’ve often wondered about Judas. Could he have repented? Could he have changed his mind? Was he simply greedy? Was he trying to force Jesus’ divine hand? Was Judas’ betrayal part of the atonement plan and essential to Christ’s death and resurrection? I don’t know. I do know that even if we love Christ, we can still make mistakes and do horrible things. I think of Peter. Peter loved Jesus and yet denied Him three times. So, why does one man become the leader of the early church and one hangs himself in despair? Perhaps it has to do with repentance and acceptance of God’s love and forgiveness. Perhaps it is recognizing that, in an ending, there is the opportunity for a beginning.
Lent is a mixed season for me. It contains both sadness and joy. Sadness at the story of Jesus’ betrayal. Sadness knowing that Jesus is headed to the cross. Sadness that Christ’s life will end. But there is also comfort, hope and joy. Joy that Christ loves me enough to lay his life down for me. Comfort in knowing that, if I repent, Christ can forgive my sins. Joy in the knowledge of the resurrection. My prayer is that everyone’s Lenten season would be meaningful and contain some sadness and joy.
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