Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Hebrews 10, verses 2-4.
Today is Maundy Thursday 2017. Today is the reason why animal sacrifices became unnecessary. Today we commemorate God giving Himself up so that they would no longer be necessary. That sacrifice we commemorate tomorrow, on Good Friday. But for now, today is a sad day of celebratory mourning, a time when we remember Jesus instituting the miracle of communion and forgiveness while facing the spiritual torment of Gethsemene, then Golgotha tomorrow.
As part of my own remembrance, yesterday I watched “The Passion of the Christ.” I try to do this every year during Holy Week because it keeps my faith edgy. The movie is so graphic and rightfully so since it portrays the most graphic murder ever perpetrated on a man. I kept it on the TV in my office while I worked, and glanced over at it throughout the afternoon. The more I watch the movie, though, the more I reach the same conclusion.
I feel sorry for Judas.
I’ve written this before but I feel sorry for Judas Iscariot. He brought his woes on himself. Nobody forced Him to betray the Son of Man but Judas did it willingly, even enthusiastically. I know: he was a greedy, selfish, sinful, detestable bastard. Conniving, evil, deceitful; sounds like many of my friends and fellow sinners, actually. No, I’m not equivocating because I’ve never sold out the Son of God for 30 pieces of silver. My sins are my own and they have denied Jesus as surely as did Judas, Peter, or any of His other best friends who abandoned Him in His most desperate hours.
Yet I feel sorry for Judas because he is pathetic.
When Judas absorbed the guilt of his sins, he forgot all about Jesus. Maybe it was that he couldn’t bring himself to even think about Jesus or what he had done to his friend and savior. Perhaps the guilt was too crushing and he simply gave in to the worst temptation. It’s possible that Judas didn’t understand the new covenant that Jesus had just explained to him in that Passover supper that first Maundy Thursday evening. Or how it would supersede those sacrifices that dated back to the days of Noah or before.
Whatever happened, Judas snapped and killed himself. He was cold and dead before Jesus was even nailed to the cross that Good Friday. I feel sorry for him, have pity on him, and I honestly hope something in him turned back before the life snuffed out of his body. It isn’t up to me, but I hope there’s a place in heaven for Judas. If there isn’t a place for people who do things as supremely reprehensible as what Judas did, then there isn’t a place for any of us. The key is belief. Judas lost his belief, his faith, in Jesus if he ever really had it in the first place.
He lived in a time when people still fully believed that animal sacrifices atoned for human sins. The whole purpose of the Jewish temple was to worship Yahweh, the almighty I AM. Integral to that worship was the Mosaic sacrificial system where doves, lambs, and bulls were slaughtered and brought to the altar. There was even an annual Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur, which is still commemorated by Jews today) in which the high priest took that animal blood and sprinkled it on the articles in the Most Holy Place. By the time of Jesus and Judas, the Ark of the Covenant (God’s mercy seat) was long gone from the temple, having disappeared hundreds of years before. Yet the Temple still contained a Most Holy Place – a Holy of Holies – where worshippers thought God was still present. Once a year, the priest went into the Most Holy Place and sprinkled animal blood.
And it did nothing. Yes, I said that. It did nothing. Even from the start of sacrifices it was only faith in God that would bring atonement. Only God could fully atone for man’s sins because imperfect man could not. The sacrifices were an expression of that faith, not the actual atonement. Thus, when Jesus died, He and only He fully atoned as a true sacrifice for the terrible sins of His most cherished creation, man.
This was the world in which Judas lived and from which he committed suicide. Even as a disciple closely walking with the incarnate God for years, he never made the connection between Jesus and sacrifice. I feel sorry for him. “The Passion of the Christ” shows him to be mentally anguished up to the end, tortured by demons, tortured by his sins. The Bible doesn’t insist that people who commit suicide are damned, though it does paint suicide as a sin. If Judas felt such terrible anguish that he couldn’t go on, I sincerely hope that, in his final seconds here, he found comfort in repentance and a place in paradise beyond. That isn’t up to us: it’s up to God. Someday, hopefully many years from now, we’ll learn what happened.
For further reading: Hebrews 9:9.
Lord, I praise You in mourning and celebration for the sacrifice You gave of Yourself. Have mercy on Judas and others, and .