Thursday, April 21, 2011

Holy Thursday and the Forgiveness of Sins

In recent years I have had a shift in my theology.  It is a shift which has to do with the forgiveness of sins, and it centers on the so-called Last Supper.  Further, the shift is a result of Jesus' revealing who would betray him.  You see, at the Passover meal, Jesus broke bread for all the disciples, and likewise shared the cup with all of the disciples.  As he passed the cup, he said that it was his blood poured out for the New Covenant and for the forgiveness of sins.  Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Jesus, was present at that meal.  As I understand it, then, Judas, who had already been paid to betray Jesus, received forgiveness of his sin!  If Judas could be forgiven, how much more can we receive forgiveness of our sins?

Now, some have told me in response to this idea that Judas was forgiven of his sins prior to actually turning Jesus over to be crucified, and I see that is a valid interpretation of the Scripture.  Those who disagree will point out that Jesus said of Judas that it would have been better for him to have never been born.  I respect this interpretation, as I said, but offer a few thoughts in response.  First, in the Passion of Christ we see the humanity of Jesus for the first time.  For example, in the garden he prays, "If it is possible, Lord, take this cup away from me."  He asks his Father if he can take the earthly way out.  It is significant for us to see this humanity.  It is critical that we see Jesus, though wanting to escape the pain and humiliation of the arrest, trial and execution, turns to the divine, fulfilling the plan of the Great I Am.  We receive the grace of God through Jesus Christ through his ability to let the Divine overcome the human.  But the human aspect still struggles within him.  I argue that when Jesus told Judas it would have been better for him to never have been born, that this was the humanity of Jesus speaking out.

However, the greater reason I believe in the forgiveness of Judas' sin has to do with an argument I once heard.  A very anti-Semitic Christian was arguing with a Jewish-Christian in a Bible Study.  The Anti-Semite referred to the Jewish-Christian woman as a Christ Killer, to which she retorted that it was the Romans who crucified Jesus.  Back and forth they went, trying to decide who really killed Jesus.  As they argued more and more passionately, I found myself intrigued.  Finally, I burst out a response to the 2 of them which I would like to say was my own profound utterance.  However, the response actually came from God!  My response was that they were both right, but that they also both were guilty of crucifying Jesus Christ.  You see, in order to participate in the Forgiveness of Sins, we need to first realize that we all sin.  Anytime we have turned our backs of Jesus Christ, we have, in essence, participated in driving the nails into his hands.  When we turn the backs on those whom Jesus calls the least of his brothers and sisters, we turn our backs on Jesus, himself.  And When we turn our backs on Jesus, it is our own betrayal of our Lord!  Unless we realize our sins, we cannot participate in the forgiveness of those sins!

So today, as we remember the Last Supper and the betrayal of Jesus, let us also remember our own role in that betrayal.  Let us reflect on the times we have turned our back on the Least of Jesus' brothers and sisters.Let us repent of that sin, and recognize that it is our action our failure to act that makes us like Judas.  Let us receive that life-giving cup of forgiveness, that we may truly understand what forgiveness of sins means.

In grace and peace,