What an Easter week! The weather outside my door has swung on a pendulum from driving rain, to blizzard-like snow and wind, to the peaceful blue skies I’m savoring today. The weather has matched my health this week—I’ve been fighting a cold/sinus/allergy attack that has left me exhausted and short-tempered. Thankfully, I’m on the mend (I hope!)
What did you do this week? With children, Easter has a broader scope of celebration than it did when I was single and without kids clamoring for chocolate and bunnies. The boys both had Easter programs–the benefit of a Christian preschool! The highlight was during Sam’s program, when the pastor of the church told the kids the story of Holy Week ending with the good news of Easter Sunday when Jesus rose from the dead. To which Sam replied, loud enough for everyone in the room to hear, “Cuz Jesus is a ‘Wobot!” (Sigh.)
This is an important week of remembering for me. In January, I began reading through the Bible, cover to cover, without a particular plan. I found myself drifting a bit during the latter parts of Exodus and into Leviticus. The rules, the commands, the dimensions of the Tabernacle made me cross-eyed. Not wanting to miss something, I decided to dig into the New Testament and read the book of Matthew alongside Leviticus, chapter by chapter. What a treasure it unlocked! Suddenly I was no longer reading about the bulls and the rams and the goats and the lambs prescribed for sacrifice, I was reading about Jesus: a lamb without blemish, the one sacrifice for all. I wasn’t reading the myriad regulations, I was reading about the lavish grace I’ve been given. I wasn’t reading about an ancient priesthood and their requirements, I was reading about the great High Priest, who pleads with the Father on my behalf.
Entering Holy Week, I began those last chapters of Matthew, Jesus’ betrayal, His sacrifice. His divine love that pours out mercy and grace on undeserving, ungracious, brutal humankind—on me. I was struck by one word as I read Matthew’s account of Gethsemane: Friend. Judas brings armed soldiers to the garden to arrest Jesus and greets him with the traitor’s kiss and “Jesus replied. ‘Friend, do what you came for” (Matthew 26:50).
I don’t know about you, but were I in His sandals, I would have had a lot of words for Judas, none of them kind. Yet Jesus – full of mercy and grace – called Judas “friend.” Judas, the one who gave Jesus over to the authorities for a bag of coins, who spent three years ministering side by side with Jesus, listening to His parables of the Kingdom of Heaven and witnessing countless miracles. Judas, who allowed greed and pride to fester inside and sway him into the greatest of betrayals. A cold slap in the face of the Son of God. Yet Jesus called Judas “Friend.”
I wonder if it was at that point that Judas began to realize the magnitude of what he had done for a handful of silver.
Was Jesus saying betrayal doesn’t matter? That sin doesn’t matter? No. Judas made his decision and it cost him dearly. No, sinners and saints alike need the redemption of the cross more than we need air. We need forgiveness—we are born broken and only Christ’s selfless sacrifice can make us whole. But even in our natural state, so sunk in sin we are blind to truth, Jesus loves us. Jesus LOVES us! He mourns for us when we go our own way. I believe He mourned Judas. Jesus loved Judas, just as He loves you and me. He will not make us turn to Him in our need, nor will He force us to stay, but oh how He longs for us to be united with Him.
Tomorrow is Easter and believers around the world will awaken to the renewed wonder that the pain and suffering of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice gave birth to our redemption when He rose from death, vibrantly alive. We honor our living King who will one day gather His followers in love and tell the Father in Heaven: These beautiful ones, they are my friends.
And OH! “what a day of rejoicing that will be!”