Sometimes It’s Hard Being True To Ourselves – A Sermon On John 12:1-11 For Monday In Holy Week

Painting of Judas Iscariot
Painting of Judas Iscariot
Jadas Iscariot by Eilif Peterssen – Own work Themightyquill, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Today’s gospel (John 12:1-11) is the one we hear every year on Monday in Holy Week, and every year it starts me thinking about Judas.  

What’s the first word that comes to mind when you hear the name Judas? My guess is that for many of us the first word we think of is some form of “betray.” It was for the four gospel writers. Of the twenty times they mention the name Judas thirteen are in the same sentence as the word betray and all twenty are telling about the betrayal. His name has become synonymous with betrayal. 

I don’t doubt that Judas betrayed Jesus but I wonder if betrayer or traitor is all he ever was? Who or what was he before the betrayal? I wonder what he was like as a little boy. I wonder what passion and hopes were ignited in him when he started following Jesus. I wonder when and why things began to change for him. How did he get to this point? 

How do any of us get to that point? Those aren’t just questions and wonderings about Judas. They’re also questions and wonderings for you and me. 

Most of us, I suspect, know all we need to know about Judas. He’s the one we blame, judge, and scapegoat. He’s the one we point at. That’s what John is doing in today’s gospel.

John’s comments about Judas read like an editorial opinion. According to John, not only is Judas the betrayer but despite what he says about the poor, he doesn’t really care about the poor. He is a thief. He keeps the common purse for Jesus and the disciples, and steals from it. 

I don’t know if any of that is true or not. I don’t know why Judas did what he did, and I am not excusing or condoning it, but there’s one thought that keeps coming to me as I think about Judas this Holy Week. It must have been hard to be Judas.

Let’s not forget Judas also will be dead before the end of this week. Matthew says he “hanged himself” (Matthew 27:5), and Luke says he fell and “burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out” (Acts 1:18). It must have been hard to be Judas.

Haven’t there been times when it was hard being you? Haven’t there been times when you couldn’t smell the perfume of life? Haven’t you sometimes struggled to remain true to yourself and be the woman or man you want to be? 

As much as we may not want to see or admit it, we’re probably not that much different from Judas. What’s hard about being you today? What keeps you from smelling the fragrance of life today? In what ways are you struggling to remain true to yourself today?

I wonder what it would have taken for Judas to see the value in what Mary was doing with that “costly perfume” and to smell the fragrance of life instead of seeing only a price of 300 denarii. I wonder what it would have taken for Judas to see his own value and not feel as is if he had to pay the price for what he’d done. I wonder what it would take for you and me to see those things in our lives.

Surely, we’re all – and I do mean all; you, me, and Judas – we’re all more than our latest or worst betrayal. Isn’t that the promise of Holy Week? 

11 comments

  1. Thank you for this offering of grace, Father Mike! I have always been bothered by Judas – about what he did but also because we don’t know anything more. And there had to be something! He was a follower of Jesus for some reason. He must have felt something to begin with that he would be sitting at the table with Jesus. I always felt bad about feeling bad that he died the way he did – I hard time with the good riddance I was “supposed” to feel. And now I am beginning to see why.

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    1. Erika, I think Judas is probably more complicated (aren’t we all) than we might like to admit. If I can look at and blame him, I don’t have to look at myself.

      I hope you had a blessed Holy Week. Happy Easter.
      Mike+

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t usually think about how Judas felt after seeing the fallout of what he’d done. I only think about the act and the guilt he must have felt when it was too late to undo it. This is a different look at it. Maybe he DID feel bad, feel overwhelmed by the guilt at seeing what Jesus was facing as a result of his actions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jeri, I think there is more to Judas than what most of us have been told or come to believe. He reminds me that I never really know or can know someone else’s inner story – so I need to make some room for that.

      I hope you all are well. Happy Easter.
      Mike+

      Like

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