Meditations on Luke: A Judas Living Inside Each of Us

Luke 22:1-6

“Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve.” (v. 3)

In his memoir Telling Secrets, writer and preacher Frederick Buechner tells about his childhood after his father committed suicide. In addition to the trauma of losing his dad was the grief of being forbidden to speak of what happened. His mother found a way for their family to move on with their lives, but that way included a culture of silence about this terrible thing that had happened to them. It was as though they were expected to pretend the darkness did not exist, that everything was fine, even though every day was filled with constant reminders that it wasn’t.

It is not hard to understand the mother’s motivation. After all, we want to put our best foot forward. We want to present ourselves to the world in the most favorable way possible. What use is there in holding up our brokenness for the world to see? A seminary professor of mine said that if you read the history of most local churches, you will find that all references to past conflicts and struggles have lovingly been removed. No sense telling the world that we are anything other than a healthy, happy bunch who have it all together.

Strangely, the writers and compilers of the Bible did not follow that logic. Scripture is brutally honest that the first big challenge the church faced was not opposition from the outside but rather betrayal and deceit from the inside. In unapologetic language, today’s reading holds out the Judas affair for everyone to see. And before the chapter is finished, we will also be reminded of Peter’s denial of Christ. Here is the church, not as a gathering of high-achieving, courageous, loyal, and intelligent people ready to overtake the world with their virtue. Rather, here is the church as a bunch of withering cowards and at least one murderous traitor. Not exactly the most flattering story line for an institution tasked with taking the message of salvation to the world.

If you want people to believe this story and commit their lives to it, then why not use a little creative editing to present a more favorable image? Why not at least push the Judas mess to the edges of the story instead of using it as the introduction to the Last Supper? I think it is because Scripture is concerned not with telling the most persuasive story but with telling the most truthful story. And the truth is that the church is nothing more than a bunch of cowards and traitors who have nevertheless found themselves to be the recipients of unmerited grace. We find our way into the church not because we wake up one day and realize we are so good we can’t help ourselves; we find our way into church because the same One who welcomed Judas to the table also welcomes us.

No matter how hotly the culture wars rage around us, the church will never face any struggle or opposition that is greater than the darkness that lives inside each of us. Christian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn once wrote, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart.” In other words, there is a Judas living inside each of us. Our only hope is for Christ to live there also.

Holy God, I do not understand why you allowed Judas to be a part of your fellowship. All I know is that the same grace has been extended to me. Save me from forgetting that I am nothing more than a redeemed sinner, and that is all I will ever be. And because of you, that is enough. Through Christ, Amen.

This post originally appeared in Meditations on Luke: Daily Devotions from the Gentile Physician by Chris Cadenhead.

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