I have had Judas on my heart for the last couple of days. There are lots of people who demonize him for his betrayal of Jesus. Others who demonize him for committing the "egregious" sin of suicide. (This is their term...not mine).
But these last two days have given me a heart and a sense of compassion for Judas. I posted the other day that holy week has been not-so-holy this year and that I believe it was not-so-holy the year Jesus died. And when things are not holy, there is often a palpable presence of evil.
I don't know if you've ever felt the power of evil...the presence of evil...not simply in some emotional-temptation way, but in a physical way....cold, weighty, dark. It's debilitating. It's suffocating.
Some of you know I struggle with depression, off an on from time to time. I'd generally call it situational depression...it may be more akin to grief (because it typically happens with a major move, which involves lots of grief or a really bad situation, which would also involve grief) but I'd say it's more than grief for it's staying power and for the ways it drains me of any and all desire to do anything. And, for the very few occasions that it has so possessed me that I have been ready to die. I would have called myself suicidal.
Being in a place that dark and having those thoughts is a desperately scary place to be. It's lonely. It's isolating. And, as one might assume, it can be deadly. There is no reason there. Logic won't work. I remember counseling a friend one summer in college. She was suicidal. I knew from previous conversations that she had been there before and so somehow I wasn't alarmed when she told me that summer. We talked and I reminded her about her family and how much they loved her and the life ahead of her and....and...and...it didn't matter. There was no reasoning with her. The place of darkness and despair where she was did not welcome logic.
I do not remember how our conversation ended. But I do know that she is still alive and well today. It wasn't until later that year that I finally had a glimpse of that reason-less place where she had been. I hit rock bottom emotionally and it felt like there was no coming up for air. I was ready to die. Really ready to die. I had a plan. I had the means. The only thing I hadn't determined was the time and place. I don't know what stopped me then, but I am grateful I did not go ahead with my plan.
It had occurred over a school break and when I returned I went to a staff meeting for the dorms and there we learned that one of the supervisors for the dorms had been murdered in Mexico. I did not know him well. I had only met him once or twice, but I was devastated by his death. And I was struck by the fact that someone's death can reach so far, even to those who have only seen a person from afar or met in a brief encounter and I was ashamed that I had even considered taking my own life. But again, there had been no logic in that place.
Yesterday I felt the overwhelming presence of evil. I couldn't even track it to one particular moment or thing, but it was there--dark and heavy. Deadening, sucking the life out of me. And I thought of Judas. I thought of how powerful the presence of evil must have been that week. How consuming it had to have been to convince the masses that Jesus, the Son of God needed to die. I'm sure it was palpable. I doubt there was much reason available there--we see that in the trials of Christ. Not reason, just accusation and judgment. And then Judas' betrayal in the garden. But more striking still, his suicide. I'm sure that by collaborating to kill your friend, your mentor, you teacher, a great healer, and the Son of God, that the presence of evil became suffocating. My guess is the only way Judas thought he would ever breathe again was to die. And I hurt for him. I hurt that he didn't know that death on the cross would not be the end of the story. My heart broke that he would never hear or see that part of the gospel--the part where Jesus raises from the dead after he has conquered sin and death.
Judas didn't know the story. So he didn't have the hope. He couldn't have the hope for it had not yet happened. And there was no possibility of finding the light in the midst of the darkness. And I hurt for him.
And then it occurred to me that there are others in Judas' place...no they haven't facilitated the death of Jesus--not in that direct way...but they are like Judas in that they don't know the story. So they don't have the hope. And without the story, without the hope, there is no possibility of finding the light in the midst of the darkness.
And that's where our responsibility lies. For those of us that know the story, we must spread the gospel--the hope. We must make known the rest of the story--the part where death and sin and shame do not have the final word, and we must shine God's light for people so that they might know there is the possibility of escaping the darkness--of finding life (again).