Archive for the 'Maundy Thursday' Category

Judas-A Place at the Table

This year I played Judas in our church’s Maundy Thursday service. It was my first time playing the villain. The pastor always has to play Jesus, as Pastor Don did that night. The service was built around a tableau of Da Vinci’s iconic “Last Supper” painting. Each disciple offered a brief monologue about his character. About midway through I, Judas, spoke. The script offered a frequently-heard popular interpretation. My high hopes for Jesus were fading fast, I said. Why won’t he start the final holy war with Rome and call down God’s heavenly armies? He needs a push. I, Judas, would give him that push. I’d “finger” Jesus so the Jewish authorities could arrest him. This would create a crisis that force him to act. As I finished my speech “Jesus” said, “Go do what you have to do.” I did— dramatically flinging my moneybag to the floor on my way down the aisle. (Perhaps better drama than biblical scholarship!)

What would “Judas” do for the rest of the service? After the monologues, the Last Supper would be re-enacted. “Jesus” would serve the disciples and they would serve the congregation. I thought I’d be out of the picture. After all, we’re told that in his remorse “[Judas]…went and hanged himself.” (Matt. 27:5) But Pastor Don insisted that “Judas” slip back into his place at the table so that Jesus could serve him along with the other disciples. It felt strange to me. But afterwards I realized it had to be just that way. Of course Judas has a place at the Lord’s Table. If God’s redeeming love in Jesus can reach Judas, it can reach anyone anywhere anytime. If Love can reach and restore Jesus Enemy Number One, it can certainly transform all of us petty-misdemeanor sinners. That “after” scene time-shifted us from first-century Palestine to twenty-first century here-and-now. The table complete with Judas proclaims the power of God’s love to transform the most motley collection of sinners into one Body in Christ. It shows us at once both saving truth and God’s wildly impossible promised New Creation.

The next morning my wife and I headed for Las Vegas to spend Easter with two of our three children and their families. (Truthfully, with our four amazing grandchildren and their parents!) Our 17-month-old grandson had the flu. He’d Velcroed himself to Mom the way sick little ones often do. Neither of them was leaving the house that night. So I was drafted to read Karin’s part in her church’s Good Friday service. [The service was built around Ruth Elaine Schram’s stunning cantata “Tapestry of Darkness”. Check it out!]

It fell to me to read Jesus’ words that have tripped readers for decades: “Eloi, eloi, lema sabachthani.” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46)As I did I realized–those could have been Judas’ words as he ended his life. Jesus’ cry sounds like a mirror image of Judas exclaiming, “My God, my God, why have I forsaken you?”  Judas feels isolated and alone, beyond the reach of God’s love. But right beside him is Jesus, Emmanuel, “God-with-us”, living through the same all-too-human experience of total and complete abandonment. Incarnation isn’t just a Christmas word. It’s the Good News from the first page of the New Testament to the very last!

On Easter morning I found myself singing “Lord, I’m amazed at how you love me…” through  my Judas hangover. Granted, we don’t see or hear of Judas after his tragic suicide. But I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe that someplace on the other side of death Judas encountered Love that invited him back to the table.  That’s where he belongs. That’s home for every follower of Jesus–especially when we’ve followed less-than-faithfully.

That church’s Easter Sunday bulletin described the post-Easter worship theme– “Home”. “Home,” I remembered, is “the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in.” Who needs some place to go on Easter morning more than Judas? And it’s our nature as people of God, because it is God’s nature, to “have to let in” all the strays, the lost, the helpless hopeless homeless who have nowhere else to go. It’s our nature as forgiven sinners to make a place at the table for those who have no place. Even the unforgivable. Even Judas.

What does Judas look like where you live? Have you made Judas a place at the table where you meet Jesus and share the holy meal that unites all his followers? What are you doing to invite Judas (him/her/them) to join you, join us, join the whole family of God? Has either your action or your indifference posted a forbidding “Keep Out” sign? If Judas has no place at the Lord’s Table, none of us do. If Judas has a place and we sit in fellowship together, that wonderfully  impossible and surely promised New Creation has come true in our presence.