Monday, April 14, 2014

Could Judas be the thief on the cross next to Jesus?

This idea came to me recently after hearing a sermon that was taught through an interpretation of the story behind the robbers on the cross, in the gospel of Luke chapter 23. I know that asking if Judas is the robber seems out of left field, but I have some passages and ideas that can support this theory.

Let's get your mind going. How many people do you meet that has the name Judas? People all around know about the story of how Judas betrayed Jesus, even non-believers. We like to point the finger to others and say, "At least I'm not as bad as that guy." How many of us look at Judas this way? The theory of Judas as the robber on the cross may change the way you look at Judas.

So to start off, I know those of you who know the scriptures are already thinking about how the Bible says Judas hung himself. How could he possibly be the rebel/robber on the cross if it says he hung himself? Let's take a look at those passages. In Matthew 27:3-10, it says that Judas was filled with remorse and returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. They don't accept his money back, so he throws it in the temple. "Then he went away and hanged himself." (v5) After that, the priests and elders decided that since this money is "blood money" they can't use it for the temple. So they go buy a field to make a burial place for foreigners.

Now, lets look at the second passage about the death of Judas. It's not mentioned in the other gospels, although in chapter 1 in the book of Acts it mentions as kind of a side note about Judas's death in verses 18-19. It says that Judas bought the field with the 30 pieces of silver where he fell headlong, and all his intestines spilled out. Question: If you are hanging by your neck and fall, what hits the ground first, your head or your feet? It says he fell headlong/ headfirst, not feet first. So to me this does not imply that he hung himself.

Woah! Wait a minute. Did the Bible just dispute itself? This question could easily start a huge controversy, because it puts into question those 66 books in which some of us put our faith in, and derive all of our beliefs from. So is the Bible 100% fact? Maybe not. Although I believe there is complete truth in the Bible. I believe the Bible is a compilation of books written over thousands of years about the love of God for man, how man turns from God, and how God still redeems man through His son Jesus. That's how I live with the truth of the Bible.

Moving on, here you have two different accounts on how Judas dies. For whatever reason, one of them has to be false. Here's where my theory comes into play.

John 12:6 says that Judas was the keeper of the money bag and that he would help himself to what was put into it. This makes Judas a thief, because he would steal from the bag of money that was meant for all the disciples. That being said, if you will allow me the liberty to interpret Judas's story it will all come together.

What if, before Judas met Jesus, he was a greedy robber. He would find various ways to rob people because he was greedy with his money. Knowing this, Jesus makes him the treasurer over the disciples to give him a chance to understand that money isn't everything. Having nothing to lose, Judas becomes a follower of Jesus. Judas would hear Jesus teach, watch Him become popular, and begins to believe that Jesus will become the great political King of the Jews. Judas begins to think if Jesus becomes king, and he is the treasurer, that would make him very rich for when that time comes. As time goes on, Judas begins to think that Jesus is going too slow with starting His kingdom so he decides to push Him to speed things up by giving Him over to the authorities. Judas might be thinking that his betrayal could be the jumpstart to Jesus's reign, because it would force Jesus to take action. In contrast Jesus doesn't resist or fight back. Judas is confused. Jesus gets put on trial in the temple, is mocked, and beaten. Seeing this, Judas becomes filled with remorse. Things didn't go as planned. He realizes that maybe Jesus was talking about a different kind of kingdom the whole time. What had he done? Did he just turn in the one true King to be sentenced to death? He can't handle it anymore and turns himself in to the priests. He admits his sin to them (Matt 27:4) and leaves. He then gets seized by the officials outside the temple, since he pledged guilty to his crime. He was then taken to cross to be hung. Therefore, going away and hanging himself (Matt 27:5), since it was him that pleaded guilty. Judas would already be hanging when Jesus is put on the cross next to him. The people begin to mock Jesus, along with the other criminal hanging next to them. Again Judas can't take it anymore. He has to show Jesus he finally believes. He then turns to the other criminal, "Don't you fear God since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this Man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom and Your kingly power." Judas, the one who used to call Jesus teacher, now understands His real purpose and calls Him King. Jesus says to him, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."

I would say that the gospels wouldn't mention this theory even if it was Judas that was on the cross next to Jesus. I'd imagine that all of the disciples still had bitterness towards Judas when they wrote the gospels, and wanted to end his story with, "he got what he deserved". It says at least 12 times throughout the gospels that Judas was either a traitor, or the one who betrayed Jesus. Almost every mention of Judas is either negative, or is about his betrayal of Jesus. So I'd say it's safe to say they were still bitter about what he did.

Aside from this theory, I doubt anyone believes Judas will be in heaven unless Judas was that robber on the cross. It would be so typical of Jesus to forgive him if it were. That's where, "The first will be last, and the last will be first" comes into play so well (Matt 19:30; 20:8; 20:16; Mark 9:35; 10:31; Luke 13:30). As far as we know, that robber was the first to enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus was so loving that He would have had the ability to show love to the very one who betrayed Him, while He was in agony, dying on the cross. That is the power of the gospel.

All this is just a theory, and I am leaving it up to you. This may or may not have happened, and most likely not. Either way, I believe if Judas was on the cross next to Jesus, that Jesus would have had the power to forgive even him. So may we go with that same power of love in mind to be able to love those who betray us, even when we are at our lowest point!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Another Lesson While Running

Lesson 2 while running. It feels so good to run into the wind. In the heat of the afternoon, it feels better to have a breeze on your face to cool you off rather than the air to be still. Although this makes things like running more difficult, because the wind is pushing against the rest of your body, making it harder to press forward. I went running this afternoon and God revealed to me this lesson, even though it is almost the exact opposite from the last analogy in the previous post. God keeps things interesting like that for me.

As we live life as Christians we often go against the flow of the things of this world. It is more difficult and is harder work for us, but it feels so refreshing. Different issues and emotions that we normally feel, like anger against our enemies, are so easy to fall into. It is difficult to forgive our enemies, and to love them. It is hard work and sometimes takes years to accomplish. But it feels so refreshing once we are able to forgive and love others. God had mercy on us so we must show mercy, though it's not easy.

So like running into the wind, living a Christ-like lifestyle may not be easy, but it is so refreshing. There is a quote that which I don't know from whom it originated, but it goes well to end this post. "The fish that flow with the current are dead ones."  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Spiritual Health and Wellness

Today I went running for the second time since this winter. As for you runners, you can imagine how it feels. I am really out of shape. I've added over a minute to my pace since last season. My legs were burning the entire time, whereas before I could run with ease. But today, God taught me a lesson through my run. I typically like to pray while I run, and talk to my Father. Sometimes I can hear Him talk back and speak to me. This was one of those cherished and much needed moments. 

Today the wind was strong. Throughout my run I would be running straight into wind gusts of about 20-24mph. For those of you that exercise outdoors, you know how difficult this can be. Add these wind gusts on top of me already being out of shape, I can say, I was in agony. But as a runner I have the drive to not stop until the end. I must keep running until the time is up, and I reach the finish line. 

This analogy has been used many times, but this time I understand it even deeper now: Our physical wellness is just as important as our Spiritual wellness. We have off seasons with our faith sometimes, just like our workout routines. We get too busy with other things and neglect our Spiritual health. We get too busy to pray, too busy to read the Bible, too busy to love others. Today He taught me that even while we are trying to stay in shape, there are things that can hinder us and keep us from staying at the right pace. During our Spiritual workout, things can slow us down and keep us from getting to where we need to be.

 While running today, I would be running against the wind at times. This would be an example of us not listening to the Holy Spirit, and falling into sin. Sin may feel good at the time, like a cool breeze on your face; but during the race it slows us down, makes us work harder, and hurts us rather than helping us. We need to stay away from sin in order to reach our personal best. We must go with the wind and let it push us and drive us to the end. Allow the Wind to help us, make it easier, and keep us on track. Submitting to the Holy Spirit is like running with the wind, it can still be difficult because we don't feel the cool breeze on our face, but He drives us to where we need to be, and pushes us in the right direction. It may not seem easy at the moment, but in the long run He will help us!

I thank you Father for teaching me this. Help us all to follow Your Spirit, so that we can run with You strongly until the end!

(Disclaimer: While running, we sometimes still have to run against the wind to stay on course, in which case this specific analogy doesn't apply. The analogy of running against the wind and having to stay on course is different lesson for another time.)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Looking for a Sign

"A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah."- Matthew 16:4

Jesus replied with this to the Pharisees and Sadducees when they asked Him to give them a sign from heaven. I ask God for signs many times for guidance or direction in a situation. Jesus gave many signs throughout His ministry on Earth, so I believe we can certainly expect more through the Holy Spirit. But the Pharisees and Sadducees were testing Jesus, and pushed Him to try and prove Himself. They were blind to all the signs and teachings that had already happened. Jesus said they will be given the signs of Jonah.

"For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. " -Matthew 12:40-41

It seems Jesus was saying that the only chance of them seeing a sign was for them to witness His death and resurrection. Only then would their hearts soften to repent and believe in who He is. 

Jesus died, rose from the dead, and gave us an advocate to be with us and help us share the love of Christ. That advocate is the Holy Spirit. We are given gifts through the Spirit to enable us to show signs of great love to our neighbors and enemies, that we could not show on our own.

So what does this all mean now? Well, to me it means that we should be the sign for our generation. People should be able to see the finished work of Jesus Christ through us in how we react to others, and through our lifestyles. So I encourage you to submit to the Holy Spirit to be a sign to this generation, and make people wonder how you can love others so radically!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

My Deepest Apologies

I would like to take a moment to apologize on behalf of myself and fellow believers. I am apologizing to whoever is reading this. I am asking for forgiveness for the way we as Christians have treated everyone. Yes, we are hypocrites. We go to church, and as soon as we leave we start sinning like we did before we went in. We don’t treat others with love. We pick others apart and point out the flaws in another’s lifestyle. We talk bad about others behind their back. We break the law with no guilt on our conscience, like speeding for example. We drive by the person walking on the side of the road on a cold night not even thinking twice about offering them a ride. We say we will pray for someone and go about our day possibly even forgetting to pray, even though that person was just in front of us and we had the opportunity to do so then. We rant and rave about injustice and unfairness that occurred against us, and how we desire revenge on the ones who mistreated us. Most all of us have an addiction of some sort that we feel we cannot break, even if that addiction is caffeine. We also like to take Scripture out of context and use it to justify our worldly pleasures.

Yes, I apologize for all of these things, but I will not apologize for Who we believe in. We all claim to follow Jesus, whether or not we act like Jesus is another thing. That is the reason for this apology. We claim to follow Jesus and believe in His teachings, but we don’t show it through our actions. Don’t get Jesus confused with those who say they follow Him. I encourage you to actually read the entire Bible for yourself. Only then will you actually see Jesus for who really He is. Although, there are a few moments that we as Christians get it right, and will do something Christ-like. You will be able to tell when that happens because you will see an act of love that is so radical that it will go against the normal flow of the world. It will be a moment when you wonder how someone could show such compassion for a stranger or enemy, or someone of a lower social class. You will be in aw of the mercy shown for someone who doesn’t deserve it by the worldly standards. You may even see someone or yourself be healed in the name of Jesus!

So, I ask for forgiveness for all those moments that aren’t Christ-like and hope that you can put all that aside so that you may see the mercy, truth, and love that can only come from Jesus.