Monday, February 11, 2008


Thinking about the whole Passion story today. It's good to have 40-plus days to focus on this portion of Scripture because there's just so much going on.

I played Judas in an after-high-school production of "Godspell," and one of the most emotionally-wrenching parts of that performance for me was figuring out what was going through Judas' mind at that time. At age 18, I had only given cursory study to the reasons behind the betrayal. All I could really figure out that would help me in my performance was that Judas must have had some sort of "don't do it" reflex going on in his head even while he was advancing toward the Master. Yet at the same time, Judas was determined to do what he was going to do. What an odd mix.

The way our performance was staged, I re-entered the auditorium as Judas from the rear doors and had to walk down the house steps, up the stage stairs at stage left, then walk all the way across the stage to where the actor playing Jesus was standing with the rest of the cast. My re-entrance was punctuated by my slamming of the door to the auditorium, which really got the attention of the audience. A spotlight hit me as I began that long walk to the stage through the silent auditorium.

My facial expression was the best I could do to represent this contradictory mix of motivations working in Judas. Tears were in my eyes, and I could feel one slide down my cheek each night. My expression was a combination of fear, determination, love, hatred, emptiness and anger. I don't know if I was biblically correct in my portrayal, but it made for good drama.

But the emotions I ignored in all this preparation were the emotions of Jesus. The actor portraying Jesus and I never lost eye contact during this long obstacle-strewn walk toward the betrayal scene. I'm not sure I could describe the look in his eyes because I was so focused on myself, but what struck me was the portrayal of peace. Jesus knew what was coming, knew it was necessary, and was at peace with His Father about doing it. The Bible tells us He even went out to meet His betrayer.

Of course, the backstory is that Jesus and Judas had spent the last three years together. Jesus trusted him with everything, and in the end Judas betrayed that trust. I wonder what would have happened had the relationship between Jesus and Judas continued after this point. (Yes, I realize that messes up the whole salvation timeline, but bear with me a minute.)

Could Jesus have trusted Judas again? Could that relationship ever have been the same again?

We do get a peek at how Jesus handles these relationship issues in the whole episode with Peter, which runs through the narrative next. "Jesus? Never heard of him." declared Peter, not once, but three times.

"Peter, are you standing with me or against me?"

"Against you. Against you. Against you," came the reply.

Then we see the dynamic between these two after the resurrection. There is restoration. There is forgiveness. Maybe that's the key in figuring out what Jesus felt about Judas. At the same time, maybe that's the key in dealing with those who betray us.

"Lord, when betrayals happen, give me the grace and strength to continue to forgive, to work at restoration, and to learn to trust once more."

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