As the Church Office Administrator I have many unique parts of my job. There of course is the typical responsibilities of any office administrator; from making coffee to paperwork to communication. However, since this job is done at a church there are the not so typical, but enjoyable, activities like praying for those who come in needing help and playing with some fun toddlers while their moms are in a prayer meeting.
Today was one of those unusual requests that fall into the “only for a church secretary” categories. I had to go over to our parsonage and help prepare it to be moved into. As I went from room to room taking pictures of it’s current condition I was overcome by the many memories this home holds for me
Since I moved back to the community that I grew up in, I now attend and work at the same church I grew up in. So I happen to have spent many a day in that house though out my life. From Pastoral transition to transition the families always seemed to have children around the same age as me.
As I entered the upstairs bedroom I was flooded with the memory of playing Barbies with the closest friend I had at the time. I was often invited over after church to have dinner and spend the afternoon developing my imagination by the stories we told through those dolls.
As time past we both entered middle school together; the time in life when hormones and peers start affect everything we do. As we both were becoming aware of these new changes decisions were made on who we wanted to be.
My friend’s very strict upbringing started churning up something in her that my personality and family experience did not; rebellion. Soon she was hanging out with the girls that walked on paths I was never invited on. Behaviors that my parents had warned me against started to flow out of her and roadblocks to our relationship started showing up. Though I really wanted to continue to be her friend there were fewer and fewer dinners together.
It was clear one day that she was strongly urged by her new friends to end her association with me. The way she chose do this became the stuff of counseling sessions years later. From implications made to names called I had experienced the first of many experiences with betrayal.
Today, as I walked out of that empty bedroom the familiar empty feeling of betrayal started flooding into my soul again. I sat behind my desk and started to pray over this sadness trying to work it’s way back in when I suddenly felt the Holy Spirit remind me of today’s date.
On the calendar on my wall, today is called Maundy Thursday. The Thursday before Easter observed in the Christian Church in memory of the Last Supper Jesus had with His disciples. This story is found in all four of the Gospel accounts. As the meal began Jesus pointed out a very hard truth to all that were there.
And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
At that point, I believe, both Jesus and Judas knew who he was talking about. Yet, one by one each disciple sadly denied it could be them. Jesus then made it even more clear who it was going to be along with a very strong warning; we hear Judas reveal the deception in his heart by saying:
Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.”Matthew 26:25
John’s gospel indicates that Judas left right after this to make arrangements to hand over Jesus to the Chief Priests. That being said, Jesus had, knowing what was to happen, invited him along with everyone else. Jesus even washed the feet of Judas in an act of incredible humility and service with full knowledge of the heart of this man. It does not appear that Jesus ever gave up on the possible redemption of this friend. Jesus’ broken heart revealed that in his last words to Judas.
Jesus said, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.” Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him.Matthew 26:50
Did you notice it? The friendship Jesus had for Judas never ended. Only Judas had broken trust, Jesus never did. The volume of those words made me want to cover my ears. My Jesus does not turn His back even in the midst of deep hurt and pain caused by someone so close.
In my life I have been betrayed by close friends and even a spouse. On top of that I have felt the sting of betrayal by family although it may not have been their intention. I wish I could say I behaved more like Jesus in those moments, but I did not. I certainly would not have willingly invited any of them to dinner. It wasn’t until years later and many opportunities missed that I was finally lead to a place of forgiveness and renewed sense of honor for those who had wronged me.
The volume of Jesus calling Judas His “friend” should keep ringing in my ears. I want it to affect me the next time a situation brings a strong sense of betrayal. Will I, in turn, reject and hurt or will I call them friend and pray for a possible reconciliation? Maybe even invite them to dinner?
I guess all I can say today is that I have been given a new standard to set as my goal. Thankfully, I also have been given a keen awareness of the Holy Spirit’s voice to reverberate the words of Jesus. Only then I may be able to say on that day,
“My Friend, I can’t stop you from betraying me but you can’t stop me from loving you.
The story of my middle school friend thankfully ended well. Just a few short years ago, when her father passed away, she called the church to let us know. I happened to be working on that day (which was unusual for that period of time) when the call came in. In that wonderful moment, Jesus arranged the time and she took the opportunity to apologize for all those year’s ago choices and I was able to offer the forgiveness I had decided on years before.
I believe that Jesus always longs for this kind of reconciliation and I firmly believe that had Judas not taken his life, due to his deep regret, it would have been offered to him by his still friend, Jesus. Because that is who Jesus is; for me and for you.