Conscience, by Nicolai Ge, Russian painter (1831-1894)
Judas watches as the soldiers lead Jesus away
(… continued) In the same way, Philip Yancey and the couple that lost their son to cancer, in spite of disappointment and confusion, kept looking to God. And though they were disappointed and heartbroken, sadness and tragedy did not get the last word. In the Old Testament book that bears his name Habakkuk cries out “How long, O Lord, must I cry out to you and you do not listen to me… and you do not save me?” Habakkuk has to wait a very long time, but by the end of the book he decides that no matter how long it is and no matter how bad it gets, he will keep crying out to the Lord. The book ends with Habakkuk still calling out to, “My God and my Savior and my strength.”
Judas, though misled by Caiaphas, disappointed in Jesus, and overwhelmed by despair, still could have been alright. He just didn’t wait long enough. He should have kept looking to Jesus, even in his despair and confusion. Judas saw that things did not go as he had hoped, and he gave up. He took all his regret and remorse and put it on himself, and he wasn’t big enough to handle all that guilt. No one is big enough or strong enough to handle all their guilt. That was why Jesus went to the cross that very day. But Judas made the mistake of not waiting for Jesus. When he learned that Jesus was going to be killed, he thought that was the end of hope. If he would have just kept the faith, he would have found that Jesus was stronger even then death; and strong enough even to forgive Judas– as Jesus forgave Peter for denying him, and the others for deserting him. But it was too late.
Think of the difference in the reaction of the women who were with Jesus in his last days. These women appear often in the story, especially in the last days. They are there to help Jesus and the others in whatever way they can, and their faithfulness is remarkable. They are there at the foot of the cross, and, they are the first ones up on Sunday morning, the day after the Jewish Sabbath, to see to the proper anointing of the body for burial. One can only imagine the depth of their disappointment and despair at the death of Jesus, and how confused and hopeless they must have been. But even then, they did not give up on Jesus. They remained faithful and kept doing whatever they could do for Jesus, even if it was nothing more than seeing to a proper burial for him.
In their faithfulness, they received a great blessing. They were the first to see the empty tomb, the first to hear the message from the angels that “He is Risen,” and the first to proclaim that Good News that death has been defeated. It looked to Judas like it was all over, and he gave up. But even when from the women’s limited perspective it was over, they still did not give up. How long, O Lord?, asked Habakkuk. The women with Jesus showed us how long. They showed us that if need be, we can wait even longer than life itself. We can wait even until life is over. We can know that even then, there is the resurrection promise for all who believe in Jesus.
Matthew 27:3-5 — 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.
Luke 24:1-6a — On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”
How long, O Lord, must I call for help…?