Matthew 27: 3-5

3When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4“I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”5So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

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In his book 24 Hours That Changed The World: 40 Days Of Reflection, Adam Hamilton draws our attention to Judas’ repentance and subsequent suicide.  He imagines a powerful question: “What if Judas had waited three days?”  This question, in turn, raises other questions like “How would the risen Jesus have responded to Judas? What kind of witness and impact on the world could Judas have had?”  Hmmm…

Growing up in the church I always pictured Judas as a dark, shadowy, evil figure.  I don’t remember ever seeing him in my mind’s eye as a normal person with a mix of good and bad, with a desire to do right but the inability to execute sometimes.  Today, however, Matthew shows us that even Judas saw the error of his ways clearly enough to want to turn back to Jesus more than anything.  Even Judas recognized a deep desire to undo what he had done.  He repented, tried giving back the money he traded Jesus in for, and then, in his despair, went and hanged himself.  Even Judas had the desire to do what was right, he just felt it too late.  What if he had waited three days?  Forgiveness could have come.  New life could have come.  Redemption could have come from Jesus himself.

Sometimes when we do the wrong things we compound the consequences by holding onto the belief that we can’t be forgiven, that a second chance isn’t available, that we can’t recover from what we’ve done.  What if we wait a few days, asking for God’s forgiveness?  What if, instead of chaining ourselves to our failures, we let Jesus set us free?  What if we don’t follow through on our feelings of worthlessness and, instead, turn to Jesus to re-establish our worth in his eyes by his grace?  Repentance is not defined by the depth of our self-punishment, it simply means to turn around, to turn away from the path of destruction back toward the life-giving path of Jesus which is paved by grace and love.

Is there anything we continually punish ourselves for that holds us back?  May Judas remind us to repent, turn to Jesus, and accept his life-giving grace instead.