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Rev. Harrison Goodman
There was a guy in the bible named Judas. He was introduced as "Judas, who became a traitor." The bible isn't really big on cliffhangers. He's the guy nobody wants to think about when someone's depressed, because he made such a mess and hurt so bad he hanged himself.
Judas stole. He was the guy in charge of the moneybag. He used to help himself to what was put into it. Scripture never said why. You can put whatever spin you want on it. Maybe Judas was so evil that his mustache curled up, and he stole because he wanted to take money from God. Maybe Judas was just a normal guy who tried to do what he thought was best and made a mess of it. Jesus wasn't exactly known for being financially responsible. He kept giving away money and allowing expensive perfume to be poured on His feet instead of sold, so maybe Judas just tried to cook the books a little to keep everyone fed. After all, if the whole traveling band keeps going, it helps everyone. But, whatever the motive, Judas stole.
In Jerusalem, Judas was getting closer and closer to being found out. He went to the chief priests and said, "What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?" And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. Again, spin it however you want. Maybe Judas was doubling his money and getting rid of Jesus in one move. Maybe he sat in his evil lair and literally laughed like, "Mwahahahaha!" Or, maybe Judas was just a normal guy who realized he messed up and was trying to fix what he broke the best way he could. Maybe Judas was so convinced that Jesus was innocent that he thought even if Christ was handed over, He would be declared innocent. Then, with 30 pieces of silver making up for what got spent, everyone would ride off into the sunset. But, whatever the motive, Judas betrayed Jesus.
Sin ate at Judas until he found himself at the most awkward meal of his life. His sin cut him off from his friends and from his God. He sat in the upper room during Jesus' last supper just staring at his plate, wishing it was over. If you've ever sat at a family meal furious, ashamed, or guilty, you know how heavy silence can be. You know how loud every clink of silverware is in absence of what should be said at a normal dinner. Finally, Jesus lays it all out on the table. "The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born." Judas, who would betray him, answered, "Is it I, Rabbi?" Jesus replied, "You have said so." Judas probably agreed. It would have been better if he had never been born.
Then came the kiss, the trial, and the cross. Judas saw how much he broke everything, and hated it, so he tried to fix things himself. He confessed his sin and tried to give back the money. Giving back the money didn't undo the sin, though. Sometimes things break and we can't fix them. Sin broke Judas. Judas hanged himself.
Peter sinned, too, that night. Really, it was the same sin as Judas, only he didn't cast aside his Lord once. Peter denied the Lord three times. Judas and Peter committed the same sin. Peter even sinned more, but Peter lived while Judas killed himself. Peter has churches named after him, but Judas is the name we call each other when we backstab our friends.
There's only one difference between Peter and Judas. It's called repentance. I think we use the word too narrowly, though. Whenever I hear calls to repent, it only ever seems to focus on making sure someone feels sorry enough, but calling guilty, ashamed broken people to repentance doesn't mean whipping them with their sin. They're good at doing that to themselves already. My broken friend, whom we'll call Ashley, never needed to be told to feel sorry or guilty or ashamed. Judas and Peter both wept in shame. The difference between Judas and Peter was not how sad or sorry they were. Ashley's problem wasn't that she couldn't be sorry enough. Repentance isn't how sorry you are. Repentance is faith. Repentance is trust--nothing more, nothing less.
Repentance is believing everything God's word says, both the stuff about you being a sinner, and the stuff about Him being a savior. If repentance is just about being sorry, Judas was plenty repentant. The only difference between Judas and Peter is not that Peter was sorry for betraying Jesus and Judas wasn't, but that Judas tried to solve his problem himself. Peter found help in the Lord. Both confessed, but Judas thought he had to fix his problem himself. Peter thought Christ would have to fix it for him. Both had the confession part down, but Judas stopped there, while Peter looked for absolution.
God doesn't want sin to break you. He didn't want it to break anyone. He wants it to break His own Son. He wants to give you real forgiveness. He doesn't want it to be far from you. He showed up behind a locked door and spoke peace to Peter. He sends pastors to you to bring that forgiveness right to where you need it. They bring Jesus right to where you need Him. These pastors absolve sins. They say God-given words: "In the stead and by the command of my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." These pastors are here because it's not your job to deal with these sins on your own. Just like your parents might have a tax guy because they can't handle their taxes, you have a sin guy. You have a pastor. He's there to forgive you. Don't carry around guilt and shame on your own. Don't even wait until Sunday. Call your pastor. He wants nothing more than to drop everything and say those words to you.
I wish I knew to tell Ashley to go see her pastor. I wish I knew to tell her that she didn't have to walk around feeling broken all day, and she didn't have to try and fix everything herself. There was a man sent by God Himself to absolve that hurt. If you're hurting, don't carry this around yourself. Christ brings real peace to broken sinners in this gift.
Find peace and pardon in a God who bears your sins for you. Find hope in a God who fixes what's broken. Find life in a God who bore all your sin on the cross, rose from the dead, and then actually showed up for you when you needed Him most. Over and over, He will tell you some of the most important words you'll ever hear: "In the stead and by the command of my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." You are forgiven. Do not be ashamed. Be healed.
Pastor Harrison Goodman serves St. Paul Lutheran Church in Winside, Nebraska and St. Paul Lutheran Church in Carroll, Nebraska. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Created: September 9th, 2015