I've been reading the historical fiction book Iscariot: A Novel of Judas by Tosca Lee. It is interesting to think about what Judas may have been like and his motivations that led to him betraying Jesus. But all I could think about while reading (and maybe it's because I'm reading it during Holy Week, just before Resurrection Sunday) is how Judas missed it. Judas missed all that Jesus came to do. And I pray that I won't miss it this Easter/Lenten season, or ever. And I pray that you won't either.
For thirty pieces of silver (approximately $10,000 today) Judas betrayed Jesus. Yes, that is definitely a sin and Judas in fact admits his sin and tries to rectify it by returning the money to the high priests, but the priests refuse to accept the money back or to let Jesus go. So what does Judas do? He kills himself. (Matthew 27:1-5) And he misses the fact that Jesus did forgive him. We know that because on the cross Jesus prays to God to "Forgive these people because they know not what they do" Luke 23:24. He is referring to the people who nailed him to the cross. To those who whipped him and mocked him and cried out for him to be crucified and to Pilate and to Judas and even to you and me, for He died for all of our sins. But even if Jesus had not said that from the cross, or spoken the words of forgiveness to Judas individually, we know throughout Scripture that "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us," Psalm 103:4. That "Though our sins are like scarlet they would be white as snow," (Isaiah 1:18a) Forgiveness was available for Judas. It's available for us. His sin was not unforgivable, nor are ours.
According to Matthew 27, Judas died before Jesus did. He died just days before Resurrection Sunday, when Jesus rose from the dead and fulfilled all that He had been preparing them for. Judas never got to see Jesus alive again. To touch Him or speak to Him again. He missed the opportunity to see what Jesus' death and His teachings were all about all along. And what I find interesting is that Peter also felt guilt for a sin committed around the time of Jesus' death. Peter denied that he knew Jesus three times. After Jesus rose from the dead, Jesus spoke to Peter alone, demonstrating His love and forgiveness for Peter, while giving Peter a new purpose in life. (John 21:15-17) Peter got to release his guilt and embrace the risen, resurrected Savior of the world. While Judas had a relationship with Jesus before their deaths, he never got to experience one after Jesus' resurrection. We may not be able to have a face to face conversation or touch Him like the disciples did, but we can have a relationship with Jesus if we believe He died for our sins.
Judas lived in a time of turmoil for the Jews. It is no wonder he wanted Jesus to establish a new kingdom that would create peace for the Jews. But Jesus did not establish peace the way Judas wanted and Judas took matters into his own hands and experienced consequences that he couldn't forgive himself for. And so not only did Judas miss the peace that would have come from being forgiven by Jesus, but he missed the peace that Jesus came to bring. At a time when the disciples feared for their lives, Jesus showed up in the upper room telling His disciples "Peace be with you" John 20:19. Jesus wants all of us to experience peace on earth, but it is a peace that comes from knowing and trusting in Him. It doesn't come from having our circumstances aligned with our desires, but from knowing and trusting Him despite our circumstances.
Not only did Judas miss out on the peace and forgiveness that Jesus had to offer, but he missed out on power from the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2 the disciples and others are gathered in the upper room on Pentecost and are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. That power gave them boldness to preach the message and the ability to preach in other tongues and so many other amazing gifts that empowered them to preach the Gospel to others. Something in me thinks Judas would have done really mighty things for the kingdom of God with the power that comes from the Holy Spirit and the peace that comes from forgiveness and trusting God's plan, just like the other disciples did. But he missed it.
Don't miss it. Don't get so distracted by your sin or your busyness or your own ideas and expectations that you miss all that Resurrection Sunday is really about. Don't miss out on a relationship with Jesus, and the grace and the peace and the power that God wants for us to not only receive, but live in daily.