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March 2016

March 21st 2016: Luke 22:1-23

You can follow today’s reading by clicking on this sentence.

As we enter Holy Week once again, the challenge for the reader is not to understand and explain what and why things happened, but working out which elements of the story we should particularly focus on this particular year’s journey to the cross. The scale and scope of the narrative and its consequences are too great for us to comprehend its entire breadth at all times, or at least they are for me. Reading the story of Judas deciding to betray Jesus this morning, the eye is drawn to the question at the passage’s end. These people had lived with and followed Jesus for three years. How could any of them betray him?

All of us have experience of committing to a person, group or institution and ending up disappointed. As those who welcomed Jesus in to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday felt let down by the lack of a strong and mighty saviour and disavowed him on Good Friday under pressure from the Jewish authorities, so it can be easy for us to decide that, as we haven’t got what we wanted from those we put our trust in, what we were promised, even, then we’re well within our rights, our entitlement, to go and find what we deserve elsewhere.

I often wonder about the emotional life of Jesus, about his feelings. We’re given small glimpses into it in the Gospels, but not on this particular occasion. Here’s one who has come to bring about a new covenant between God and his people, betrayed by those he loved, who he has taught, related to, lived his life with and for.

And yet for all our deal making and seeking to better ourselves without reference to him, or even perhaps whilst attempting to use him as a bargaining chip, Jesus went to the cross anyway. He chose to die, to lay down his life for his friends. That’s the call of the Christian life, to accept the gifts God gives us, and then to live in such a generous way that those gifts are shared as widely as possible. We are to lay down our lives, not seeking to protect ourselves or feather our own nests.

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January 2016

January 28th 2016: Matthew 26:47-56

You can follow today’s reading by clicking on this sentence.

How many times have any of us kissed, drawn close to, or sought intimacy with Jesus, only to turn tail and betray him immediately? I don’t ask this question from any place of judgement apart from, perhaps, against myself. I find it all too easy to become mechanistic in my faith. ‘If I do this, in this way, God will do that in that way. He must, that’s what happened in Scripture/in the past/to someone I know’. ‘I need this from God, so I’ll say all the things I know he wants me to say, I’ll sing the right songs, and then I’ll get what I need or want.’ For Judas, it was money that he wanted, but for any of us it could be anything else, even things which, in and of themselves are worthy things, such as wellbeing for ourselves or a family member, the end to a conflict, or reconciliation. The challenge which comes to me as I read this passage this morning however is that my faith, my relationship with Jesus, is not something that I ought to enter in to on the basis that it will get me what I need or want. Those things might be by-products, but actually, when I play a transactional game with God with how I relate to him, am I not betraying him too? When I worship with piety on a Sunday and then turn round on a Monday and there is no evidence of transformation in my life, am I not betraying God, and making a liar of myself?

And yet, through it all, God loves me still. That is the heart of the gospel, for me, and it is stupefying.