Faith

40 Days of Decrease: Discontentment

 

After committing for the third time in prayer to drink the cup if no other way existed for it to be emptied, Jesus returned to His disciples and said,

Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes My betrayer! — Matthew 26:45-46

“Rise, let us go!” — they had heard this before. In the Greek, the phrase was Ἐγείρεσθε (Egeiresthe) ἄγωμεν (agōmen). This was a repeat of John 14:31: Get up and get going! Where?

A Coworker’s Betrayal. Judas had not gone with the Eleven to the garden that night, but he was present for the Last Supper. Matthew, an eyewitness, recorded the interaction between Jesus and Judas at the dinner table. After Jesus told the disciples that one among them would betray Him, Judas said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” To which Jesus replied, “You have said so” (Matthew 26:21, Matthew 26:25). Immediately following this exchange, Jesus broke the bread, called it His body, and offered it to the Twelve. And Judas ate it. Then Jesus blessed the cup, called it the “blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28), and passed it to the Twelve. And Judas drank from it.

John, another eyewitness, adds,

As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. — John 13:27

Judas had made his deal with the chief priests before the Last Supper: it was his own choice. But as Judas led the crowds with their clubs and the soldiers with their swords into the garden, internally he was no longer acting alone: this betrayal was a manifestation of satanic opposition.

We expect satanic opposition from the world. But when it comes from around the table, it takes our breath away.

For three years, Judas and Jesus walked, talked, and served together. For three years, the Eleven trusted Judas with the moneybag. Judas saw the same miracles and received the same authority. Judas ate the same bread and drank from the same cup. And now, Judas kissed the King with blood money in his hands.

In considering this moment, we must resist any tendencies to make Jesus a stoic. Yes, Jesus saw it coming, but knowledge does not numb the soul to pain. Picture Jesus spending hours alone in gut-wrenching prayer, taking breaks only to discover His support team spiritually missing-in-action.

Then, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man: arrest Him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.” — Matthew 26:47-50

Betrayal of this degree is a toxic mixture of rejection, disregard, and narcissism. A betrayer sacrifices someone else for their own gain. As a result, many who have been betrayed experience anger, a sense of worthlessness, self-doubt, and soul-deep pain.

Though Scripture does not disclose Jesus’ emotions as He looked into Judas’s eyes, we do know with confidence that Jesus understands betrayal.

Jesus and Judas’s final interaction ended with some name-calling. The last name Judas called Jesus was Rabbi. The last thing Jesus called Judas was friend. The Greek ἑταῖρος (hetairos) was used culturally to refer to a colleague, comrade, fellow worker, or friend. It appears only three times in the New Testament, exclusively in the gospel of Matthew.1 In biblical context, “the implication [is] of a distinct relationship in which there is generosity on the one part and abuse of it on the other.”2 To the point: a co-worker’s betrayal.

Reflection

Judas’s story is a sad one. Some have suggested that he lacked the option of writing a different ending: that he was born a betrayer. Respectfully, I disagree and remain in that messy place theologically where God’s sovereignty and human free will co-exist.

Think of those who once ate at the church’s table and then somehow formed an alliance with darkness. What factors may have contributed to their departure? Pray for them, that unlike Judas, they will find their way back home.

Today’s Fast: Discontentment

Judas held the moneybag, the power, and the honored position of being counted among the Twelve. Jesus in no way excluded him from ministry or shared authority. Yet somehow it was not enough. Judas obviously wanted more or something else or both. His sense of not having enough led him to steal from the moneybag (John 12:6) and fill his personal wallet with thirty silver coins. Even then, he still was not satisfied and tried to rewind his actions to no avail. It is as though Judas was plagued with a nagging sense of not-enough-ness.

One of the fiercest allies of not-enough-ness is our imaginations. Today, fast daydreaming of “more.” Refuse to allow discontentment brain space. Each time you are tempted to picture your life with something else or something new or something different, stop. (Yes, I just said STOP.) And redirect your mental energy to thank God for anything in your current reality for which you can be grateful.

On Lent

Almsgiving. Considered part of a “triad” along with prayer and fasting,4 almsgiving and fasting are from ancient times inextricable:

The second-century Shepherd of Hermas insists that the money saved through fasting is to be given to the widow, the orphan and the poor (Similitudes, V, iii, 7). But almsgiving means more than this. It is to give not only our money but our time, not only what we have but what we are; it is to give a part of ourselves.5

In my research, I had the opportunity to interview a local Catholic priest esteemed as a historian. Fr. Lewis defined Lent as,

A time of identifying more closely with the poor. That is where the almsgiving comes in. Almsgiving is not tithing… it doesn’t hurt any of us to give something up. Whether it’s giving up our cigarettes — I don’t smoke so that wouldn’t be a hardship — I don’t drink beer except very, very occasionally so that wouldn’t be a hardship. But I love ice cream. Okay, so if I give up ice cream, I don’t keep that money but I kind of calculate: “How much do I normally spend a week on ice cream?” I give that as an alms to the poor.6

Personally, I found this marriage of almsgiving and abstinence inspiring because it connects personal decrease with community by designating generosity as the intended outcome of fasting.

If every annoyance can be made to remind me to turn and grip Your hand and ask You, ‘What are you saying through this vexation?’ then I can turn life’s rough spots into Your vocabulary If I can do that perfectly, nothing can defeat my soul ” —FRANK LAUBACH (1884–1970)

  1. See also Matthew 20:13 and 22:12.
  2. Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 265.
  3. Frank C. Laubach, Learning the Vocabulary of God: A Spiritual Diary (Mansfield Centre, CT: Martino Publishing, 2012), 17.
  4. Maria and Kallistos, Lenten Tradition, 23. See also Robin M. Jensen, “Ashes, Shadows, and Crosses: Visualizing Lent,” Interpretation 64, no. 1 (January 1, 2020): 18.
  5. , 19.
  6. Father Lewis Hejna of Imaculate Conception, interview by author, Springfield, Missouri, July 23, 2013.

Excerpted with permission from 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole, copyright Alicia Britt Chole.

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Your Turn

Judas’ story is not only sad, but it’s also a cautionary tale. Let’s not allow ourselves to become discontent! We must remain faithful to Jesus, thankful for Him, worshipful. Jesus’ experience of Judas’ betrayal causes Him to empathize with us when we experience the same. Isn’t that a beautiful thing? ~ Devotionals Daily

 

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