Feb 11 2013 - Matthew 26:69-27:14 – Despair
It is difficult for us to know exactly what was going on in the mind of Judas. He had been one of the twelve; an intimate associate of Jesus. He had been sent out with the others in the mission to proclaim the good news among the towns of Galilee and, presumably, with the others had healed the sick and cast out demons. Yet now he betrays Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. In John's Gospel it is hinted that a love of money may have been Judas' downfall; he looked after the money for Jesus and the disciples and would help himself to the contents of the bag (John 12:6). Others have suggested that Judas may have become impatient with the lack of progress in establishing the kingdom and that, in betraying Jesus, he wanted to precipitate a crisis in which Jesus would show his true colours and claim his kingdom.
Whatever may have been Judas' motives, he denied the one who had been his Master and his friend. But when he saw that Jesus was falsely condemned by the Jewish leaders and was likely to be killed, he was filled with remorse. He flung back the money that had been given him and went out and hung himself. He could not live with what he had done and was utterly without hope of forgiveness.
There is an awful sadness about this story. Judas' actions brought about Jesus' arrest which led to his trial and crucifixion. But that very death was to be the spring from which forgiveness would flow to all who would receive it. Judas did not have to despair; forgiveness was available even for him.
One of the lovely pictures of the gospel is that of light coming to those who are in darkness:
The people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned. (Matthew 4:16)
Jesus, this crucified Messiah, brings light to those who sit in darkness, hope to those who are in the depths of despair.
This is what Peter was to discover. He had been one of the inner circle of disciples. When Jesus had told the disciples that they would all desert him, Peter had boasted that he would never turn his back on Jesus; he was even ready to die with him. But there, in the courtyard of the high priest, he denied his Lord three times with oaths and curses. Immediately he was filled with remorse; “He went out and wept bitterly”.
Peter also faced the darkness of failure and despair – the fear that he was nothing but a fraud. But later, the risen Saviour gently restored him and encouraged him with the hope of fresh usefulness. Writing to encourage others Peter says, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead..." (1 Peter 1:3). The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ brings light to those living in darkness and under the shadow of death.
Most of us, at some time or another, feel despair – not as Judas felt it perhaps, but real and dark nevertheless. We need to remember that beyond the cross lies resurrection. Just as our Lord Jesus Christ can never again be subject to death, so also we have in him a hope which nothing – not even our own unfaithfulness – can destroy.
Heavenly Father, when we face moments of darkness and despair, may the light of the presence of the risen Saviour give us hope even as the blood of the crucified Saviour brings us forgiveness and cleansing. Saviour, may your gentle presence bring light today to those who sit in darkness.