My hands grip the rough trunk of the olive tree, my mouth tastes of the natural fibers of the rope as I climb. The taste of bile still lingers in my mouth, and my stomach turns as I feel the hot acid rising into my throat again. My head pounds and sweat drips down my back. I’m not sure if the pounding headache is from weeping or rage.
“Follow Me”, He said, and I did. I left everything for Him! For what? For riddles and jokes?
I left my life to follow a man who scoffed at my lack of faith?
Who demanded worship and said He was God?
I gave up everything for Him?
My grunt, as I climb another branch, turns into a deep growl and then into a shout.
I walked hundreds – no – thousands of miles, my feet bloodied, blistered and filthy, for You to have Your feet washed by a prostitute? While I sat and watched, my feet throbbing with each beat of my pounding heart. And then, Your feet were washed again? By another woman? You told me to give up everything, and yet You allowed two women to waste their expensive perfume just to wash your feet. The other disciples watched in awe, just the sight of their faces, gawking over the exhibition, made me sick.
I look down below, the ground is further away, but not far enough. I can’t climb too high, or the branches will be too thin. My breathing is getting faster by the moment and my thoughts escape with a shout every so often. I pause to catch my breath, wipe my sweaty palms on my thighs, and look out over the land. The scenes of the days before flash before my eyes in fragments.
I tried. I really tried. I tried to make sense of the nonsense sermons He kept preaching.
I tried to answer His question correctly and ask questions to make me seem important and intellectual.
I thought if I acted the part well enough, I could eventually become everything He wanted me to be.
I wasn’t an idiot, like Peter, speaking before I thought, or trying to walk on water when it was impossible.
I left everything for Him.
And then I left Him.
And now, I have nothing.
That nothingness is exactly why I continue to climb.
I take the rope from my mouth for a moment and spit out loose hairs, willing moisture for my mouth, but I’m parched, physically and spiritually.
No matter how hard I tried to follow His rules and obey His commands, there was always something missing. Surely, I wasn’t the only one faking it. There’s no way every other disciple felt the joy and light Jesus spoke of. Balderdash. A bunch of blind sheep following a smooth-talker, and I allowed myself to get caught in it.
How did He perform those miracles?
The crazed man who was set free from all those demons?The blind made to see? The lame made to walk?
The woman healed just by touching the hem of His clothes?
We were all there for Lazarus. …Maybe he wasn’t actually dead.
But Jesus certainly is.
I reach for the next limb, but my hand misses because the tree is moving so violently. I can’t tell if the tree shaking, or if my vision is construed. I can feel my body shaking, almost convulsing, uncontrollably. My head swirls as dizziness overtakes me and my vision grows dark.
I hate Him. I hate who He made me to be.
But I cannot deny His innocence.
I know He loves me.
Just a few days ago, He knelt and washed my feet.
My feet hit the warm water in the bowl just as He began dipping His hands in. He first took my right foot in His hands, taking care to have a gentler touch as He scrubbed close to my blisters. He rubbed one hand on the top of my foot, while the other held the bottom.
He then reached for my left foot, washing with the same care.
He looked up at me, and our eyes met.
His held His familiar knowing, like He always knew exactly what I was thinking.
But this time I saw pain, sorrow, and even love.
How can one’s eyes hold so much?
I looked around at the other men in and considered their friendship and our camaraderie. There had been many moments of confusion and frustration over our here-year journey, but there had been laughter, jokes, and even pranks as well. Inside jokes were our favorite; just a certain gesture or word would spark heaves of laughter.
Friendship grew across tables, on land, in boats, and in strangers’ homes.
But I had already lost it all.
There was no undoing what I’d already done.
30 pieces of silver.
The price of a slave.
That’s what I had deemed Him worth.
I finally reach the perfect spot. I sit tall, gazing at the landscape before me.
I work to find even a moment of peace, but there is no peace to be had.
The pain in His eyes when I kissed His cheek. I shouldn’t have looked at His face, but I couldn’t help it.
I imagined his cries as each spike was driven into His skin, ripping out chunks of His flesh.
I’d seen my share of Roman crucifixions. It took little imagination to see Christ’s blood splatter on the ground, pouring from His open wounds.
Inside my head, I could not drown out the mob taunting and jeering, their anger so heavy it was palpable.
I shook my head to rid myself of the scenes that would not leave me.
I had done everything I was supposed to do.
One more image insistently took form before me:
Thirty pieces of silver.
I tried to give it back! I threw it at the priests begging them to take it, begging to hand over my iniquity. But they refused!
I have nothing.
My hands have finished tying the knots and I carefully slip the loop over my neck. I tighten it until I can scarcely breathe. I take one final, labored breath through the constraints of the rope, and let my body fall.
Sisters, Judas thought he was doing everything right. He literally followed Jesus everywhere. He performed miracles and spread Jesus’ Name. Yet, Scripture says Judas did not have a saving faith. He was so caught in the “doing”, he completely missed Jesus’ entire mission: Save.
Judas died by hanging himself after attempting to return the money he’d earned for betraying Jesus. We can only imagine the grief Jesus felt knowing a man Jesus considered one of His best friends, had betrayed Him.
But that wasn’t Judas’ only mistake.
No, his next mistake was believing he wasn’t worth saving. He believed the lie that he was too far gone for even God to save. Jesus didn’t just die for you and me,
He died for Judas, too.
Judas couldn’t believe it. He never believed the truth that God saw him as worth dying for. Oh, beloved sisters, no one is too far gone.
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