by Emily Conrad
As I write this, it is Easter weekend, and the magnolia tree in the yard is telling stories. Its white-petaled flowers opened this morning, Saturday, the day before we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior, as if to promise ancient believers that it won’t be long now, that the world wouldn’t keep spinning if its Sustainer were gone for good, if death were the final reality, if One couldn’t rise above all that He’d created to deliver life indestructible.
I went into Easter this year feeling like I couldn’t get into it. Having known the Easter story for years, I didn’t know how to be affected by it anew. Thankfully, God knew.
As I read other bloggers’ posts on Good Friday, this one by Melissa Pereira on Cultivating the Harvest stood out, helping me to think more about Jesus and Judas.
Judas saw everything. He was one of the disciples, he was in the upper room, and he spoke with Jesus. He walked miles and miles with Him, witnessed miracles, and kissed His holy face.
Judas didn’t even have the cloak of secrecy about betraying Jesus; Jesus blew that apart at the last supper, showing Judas He knew full well what would happen. It seems to me like it’d be harder to betray someone who knew it was coming. Or at least it should’ve been.
Yet even as Jesus revealed to Judas what He knew, Jesus dealt with his betrayer in a very gentle way. He didn’t even out Judas to the other disciples; when Judas left to betray Jesus, it seems that the others mostly thought he was simply running some Jesus-approved assignment as treasurer (John 13:29).
Jesus allowed Judas to be a part of the group, experiencing it all, and yet to have a choice: be faithful or not. Accept or reject.
Judas looked God in the loving, all-knowing face and decided to proceed in betrayal anyway.
This picture of unbelief struck me like never before, and with sadness, I realized many, many go the same way.
Romans 1 tells us that masses deny God when they, like Judas, should know better.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse. Romans 1:18-21, NET
Without excuse, they choose loyalties other than God. It’s not about not having enough evidence or enough reason to believe. They have it. It’s all there. They spend their lives living and breathing nothing but proof of a Creator who loves them and promises to be found by those who seek Him. But they don’t seek. They take the gift and ignore the Giver.
I can’t reflect on this without my conscience pricking me, too. Though a believer, I see the times when doubt and worry and selfishness and pride win my allegiances and I do things my way instead of God’s. I see that Judas wasn’t the only one to send Jesus to the cross: we all did.
By sinning, we created a rift between ourselves and God that could only be mended by Jesus’s blood being poured out. How unfair that God would go through that to offer sinners like us restoration and hope. None of us deserve it. And yet, He did it so that “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13, KJV)
And so it seems fitting that this morning, the magnolia tree is telling stories of hope, love, and new life.
The white, rain speckled blooms lift toward the light-perforated clouds.
Judas’s story ends tragically, and we’re not told of him ever accepting the love and life Jesus offered. But thankfully, Judas’s story isn’t the only one we have.
The Bible tells us of Peter, too, who also had every reason to believe but who denied Jesus three times while Jesus was on His way to the cross. But despite recognizing his failures, Peter kept seeking Jesus.
Peter ran to the tomb. He jumped out of the boat and swam to his Lord. He had breakfast with Him, and I imagine them standing on the beach, a little way from the others, when Jesus spoke with Peter in John 21 and restored the relationship. Jesus forgave, accepted, and commissioned the disciple despite his failings.
On the cross, Jesus paid for the sins of all who believe. For whosoever, stumbling Peter included. Me included. Judas could’ve been included, too, if only he’d turned to Jesus.
Regardless of the choices we make, of our blackest sin whether it’s in our past or our future, when we accept Christ’s gift, He clothes us in His own shining white righteousness.
This is the scandal of love that reaches out to sinners, of a God who is patient and reveals Himself to both the Judases and the Peters of the world, of a God who would die and rise again that whosoever calls on him will be saved from a dark eternity.
Flowers of grace are unfolding.
We believers, like Peter, are still human. We are a band of the imperfect, the doubters, the sinners, and yet Jesus covers it all with white purer than these magnolia blooms. With Him as our source, the fragrance of our lives can be pleasing, more pleasing than the soft perfume of any spring blooms.
He is our hope, our life, our resurrection, our peace, and our joy.
I hope you had a happy Easter and that in some way, the wonder of it became new to you again this year. If it did, please use the comments to share with us!