Ponderances by Richard Bleil
Let’s start with Merry Christmas, and as I wish to be as inclusive as possible, I wish everybody the happiest of holidays regardless of the specific holidays observed, even if, indeed, any at all.
As today is, specifically, Christmas, it brings to mind something I have often pondered.
Now, before we begin, a bit of a background is probably necessary. This post presupposes that the Bible is literal. I acknowledge that many people believe this, while others, like myself, assume it is apocryphal. I find a lot of meaning in the stories, as this post will illustrate, but I tend to think of it as more a series of fables.
But, for this post, let’s assume that the Bible is, in fact, literal truth. This being the case, then we take Jesus to be of divine origin, the true son of God. This also implies that Jesus knew the outcome of his life, the betrayal, the crucifixion, and, frankly, the role that Judas would play in it as he suggested in the passages of the last supper.
Knowing that he would be tortured and crucified because of the betrayal of Judas, then why would Jesus choose to keep Judas as one of his apostles at all? Herein lies my ponderance.
Maybe Jesus knew that for every good there must be an evil. There would be no light without dark. Did Jesus really need a counterpoint to his life? Frankly, I don’t know of much that Judas did, save the betrayal. But, one of the great powers of Jesus was to serve as an example for the rest of us.
It’s all too easy to ignore those people that bring friction in our path. When people are cruel to us, it feels instinctual to return the cruelty. And yet, Jesus kept Judas by his side, sharing meals and time with the man who would betray him.
This is an important lesson that I wish more politicians would learn. I’m so tired of the anger in Washington because people are in the “wrong party”. Another great leader who took the lesson of respect to heart is Abraham Lincoln. While he may not have been Jesus, he did keep his most ardent foes in his cabinet, hoping and wanting to hear their perspective of the events and topics of the day. After the Civil War, while popular sentiment was to punish the South for what was viewed as their betrayal, it was Lincoln that insisted that regardless of ideology, we are all Americans and advocated to welcome them back into the union. If these aren’t acts emulating Christ, then I don’t know what would be.
Perhaps it is because Jesus knew the role Judas would play in the story. It’s difficult for some people to understand, but there would be no Jesus without Judas. Yes, Jesus would have been born, and would have existed, but chances are high that nobody would have remembered him.
The most important part of Jesus’ life is arguably the crucifixion. This is where Jesus selflessly sacrificed of himself for the sake of everybody else. It was Judas’ act that allowed the Romans to find Christ so they could try and carry out their judgment. Had Judas not betrayed Christ, well, who knows how things would have ended.
Then again, it might have been as a lesson in inclusivity. Sometimes, we can be exclusive without even realizing it. We read about judgmental people frequently; homophobic people, people who are overtly critical of service workers and people without a college education; the poor and sick. How often are we dismissive of the elderly?
And here is a man who many would say is the nemesis of Christ, and Jesus is including him, not just as a guest for a meal or two but as an actual apostle. The funny thing is that Christ never advocated (to the best of my knowledge) for Christianity. One story that comes to mind is of the guard who, on nailing Christ to the cross, apologized saying that he doesn’t want to, but he has a family to take care of. Christ looked at him and said, “I’ll see you in the Kingdom of Heaven”. Not “convert to Christianity and we’ll talk”, not “give away your salary and we’ll see”. Christ included everybody, and never, much to the dismay of too many people, spoke out against lifestyles, race, or any other difference.
Whether or not one believes in the literal truth of the Bible, there are many great meanings in the story of Judas.
On this Christmas, maybe it’s a good idea to remember the Judas’ in our lives as well.