J UDAS AND A CROWD come to arrest Jesus. Judas comes forward to kiss Jesus. A kiss of betrayal. Not long after, according to Matthew, Judas was seized with remorse. What had he done? He wanted to undo his part in betraying Jesus, but it was too late.
There are many possible motives behind Judas’ choice. Did his enthusiasm for Jesus cool? Disappointed that Jesus wasn’t the messiah he expected? Did Judas act to force Jesus into a display of power? He could call ten thousand angels to deliver him and all the world would know.
Perhaps Judas was just dishonest. He couldn’t resist an opportunity for personal gain.
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JUDAS WAS THE FIRST, but certainly not the last, to betray Jesus. Throughout Christian history, Christian individuals, Christian groups, and Christian authorities have over and again betrayed Jesus often using his name in justification of their betrayal.
Sometime in the 4th century, not long after Christianity was legalized in the Roman Empire, Christians who had once been persecuted began to persecute others. Temples of other religions were destroyed, their priests were killed and thousands of worshipers were slain, all in the name of Jesus. In our own time, synagogues and mosques are vandalized or burned.
What have we done? Lord, have mercy.
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THE CHURCH EVENTUALLY turned against itself. Christian John Hus knelt down, spread out his hands, and prayed aloud. The Christian executioner undressed him and tied his hands behind his back with ropes, and bound him to a stake around which wood and straw had been piled. The pile was set ablaze. French Huguenots were killed or forced to flee to other lands.
The Spanish Inquisition sought to make sure Christians were in the right/proper belief. The Bible says believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Yet, today, Christians place all kinds of doctrines and dogmas as religious tests to “validate” someone’s faith.
What have we done? Christ, have mercy.
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IN THE EARLY YEARS OF OUR COUNTRY, Christians mistreated the natives. The Rev. Solomon Stoddard, one of New England’s most esteemed religious leaders, proposed to the Massachusetts governor in 1703 that the colonists be given the financial wherewithal to purchase and train large packs of dogs “to hunt Indians as they do bears.”
The Christians’ attitude toward natives was such that one native chief said if heaven is full of Christians, then he’d rather go to hell.
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WE KNOW WELL our heritage of slavery. Most, if not all, Southern preachers (and churches) justified slavery. Reviewing the work of the white churches, Frederick Douglass had this to say:
“I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ; I therefore hate the corrupt, slave-holding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason but the most deceitful one for calling the religion of this land Christianity….”
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IN PULPITS EVERY SUNDAY, preachers continue to preach a false understanding of God’s love and God’s grace and God’s value for all human life. Today, Christians still look at other people as less than human. Not worth living. What have we done? Lord, have mercy.
Daily, Christian individuals, Christian groups, Christian authorities betray Jesus. Maybe for silver. Maybe because of disappointment. Maybe we betray for power. Maybe for other reasons we turn our backs on Jesus.
We are capable, every day, of systematically betraying Christ:
■ Betraying Christ because of obedience to laws that establish iniquity.
■ Betraying Christ because we like our lives and won’t trust God.
■ Betraying Christ because it makes no sense to us to do things any way except what we can see.
■ Betraying Christ because our lives and lifestyles are dear to us.
■ Betraying Christ because we will not take the chance of following our Savior and conquering our fear.
■ Betraying Christ because the world is too strong and we love the things we have.
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WE HURT OTHERS in his name. We shut people out of our lives. Our actions cause others to reject the idea of Jesus and Christianity. What have we done? Lord have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
Each week in worship, we are intentional about taking time to confess our sins. It is time to ask the question once again, “What have I done?” and silently confess our personal sins. Then together we ask, “What have we done?” and confess the sins of the church and society.
Each Sunday, we are reminded of how much we need Jesus to come to us and save us. Individually and as a community of faith. In Christ, we have a mediator who goes before us on our behalf. In a prayer of confession we are reminded of this gracious gift that we are given through Jesus.
We never pray the confession without words of assurance following. This is very important. Even though the assurance of pardon is one of the shortest parts of our worship, it is one of the most important.
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FROM SCRIPTURE WE HEAR that because of Christ’s work for us we are forgiven and declared righteous. This isn’t my opinion or Pastor Jody Beth’s or the liturgist’s. It is a declaration from Scripture. “When we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.”
That Christ has forgiven you and you are declared righteous is the most important thing you hear and believe each and every week.
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WHAT HAVE WE DONE to deserve love like this? Nothing. We cannot earn what he freely gives. We are recipients of his love offering. Jesus sends down a wash of love just because he can, and more importantly, because he wants nothing more than to do so.
The question then changes from “What have we done?” to “What shall we do?” Having confessed and renewed “What shall we do?”, I want to love Jesus so much it hurts every day. I know I can show him this love by loving others the same: spouse, children, friends, strangers, the mean-spirited, the lost, the “others.”
That’s my challenge to you this week. Confess your thoughts, words, actions that don’t reflect Christ. Promise God to never let another say of you, “If heaven’s filled with people like her/him, then I’d rather go to hell.”