Wednesday in Holy Week

by Matthew B. Harper

Matthew 26:25 – Judas, who betrayed him, said “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

According to Dante, Judas sits alongside Brutus in the 9th circle of hell. As people who betrayed those they were closest to, they are confined to the deepest circle of hell, chewed forever in the mouth of Lucifer. Creepy.

It is a subject I have thought of often over the years. During the legal process of my incarceration I had to endure people that I had loved and trusted, and those I hadn’t, speak up to denounce me and to betray my trusts. One in particular went from hateful before my crimes, to vindictive after them as she wrote letters to the judge as some self-appointed jury.

And yet I believe that there may be a place for Judas in heaven. I believe in a Christ who loved and forgave. On this night all those years ago Christ shared the Passover supper, in what would later be called the first communion, and he handed the cup of life itself to Judas. Christ knew of his betrayal, and he rejected him not. And this is the Christ of my faith, the one who knew intimately the worst that we are capable of, and loved us in spite of it.

I also know this Jesus because I have worked through his betrayal to make peace with mine. I am angry with no one, and I begrudge no one. I understand their pain and confusion, because I too have pain and confusion. If their betrayal came as a result of my own, then my sin is again at the root of my compassion for them.

I do not know if Judas is in hell, but if he is then I believe Jesus weeps for him, and reserves a seat for him in heaven.

O Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave His back to the smiters and hid not His face from shame: Grant us grace to take joyfully the sufferings of the present time, in full assurance of the glory that shall be revealed. Amen. BCP 169

Saturday, Fifth Week in Lent

by Matthew B. Harper

Exodus 11:6 – Then there will be a loud cry throughout the whole land of Egypt, such as has never been or will be ever again.

The story of the Exodus is one of the foundational narratives of the Bible and the Jewish people everywhere. I have had the honor of being invited to share the Passover meal with a devout Jewish family, and it was a powerful ceremony of remembrance and deliverance.

But I have never been comfortable with the manner in which God delivered the Israelites. The Bible mentions repeatedly that it was God who hardened Pharaoh’s heart. God made his heart hard, and then punished him for having a hardened heart! And the final plague, the death of the firstborn of all Egypt, is a horror difficult to imagine.

But it is the punishment for their sinful state, and for the cruelty and oppression they inflicted upon God’s chosen people.

On this Day 2000 years ago Jesus prepared to celebrate the Passover meal. He remembered the sacrificial blood of the Lamb, even as he was about to become our sacrifice. The text of today’s reading reminds us that this great pain will never be again! The blood of their sacrifice saved the people of God in Egypt, and now all of us are kept safe by the blood of the eternal sacrifice – the Lord Jesus the Christ.

O Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world,

Have mercy upon us

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,

Have mercy upon us

O lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,

Grant us thy peace