Holy Everything: I couldn’t stop the rolling boulder
For this year’s Lenten series, “Holy Everything” is featuring meditations written from the perspectives of people with whom Jesus interacted in the Gospels. We encounter Judas today.
There’s a big hill just outside Kerioth, the town where I was raised. I remember once as a child standing with my friends as we watched a giant boulder cascading down the hillside. It moved incredibly fast. With it went parts of trees and rocks and wildlife. We stood speechless — in awe of the force of something so big moving so quickly.
The story I’m going to tell you feels a lot like watching that boulder. I got caught up in something that moved faster than I anticipated, and I was too far in by the time I realized the force of what was happening. I would do anything to take it back … to put the boulder back on the top of the hill. But I can’t. To be honest, I don’t know if I ever had the power to change the trajectory of the last few years of our lives. Maybe it all would’ve ended right here. Maybe it had to.
I was raised in a very traditional, religious family. I’m an oldest child with many siblings and a rule-follower, through and through. Why Jesus chose me as a disciple, I’ll never know. But he did. He called out to me one day and said, “Judas, I want to show you another way to live. I want you to know what it feels like to be free. Follow me.”
So I did. I left my dad, Simon, and the rest of our family. I stepped away from my job as a banker. The idea of saying no to Jesus never crossed my mind. The yes, as soon as I uttered it, felt inevitable.
Over the years we spent together, Jesus was my friend. That’s the truth. I followed him from town to town. I traveled with my fellow disciples, and we all got along most of the time. There were healings and miracles. We watched as Jesus stood up to authorities and interpreted Scripture in ways we’d never heard before.
As meaningful as it was to live on the road with Jesus, there were a lot of times I missed my old life. I missed my routines. I missed knowing my place and role in society. I longed to reclaim the rules and the structures that helped me make sense of the world.
Yes, as you’ve heard from so many people, Jesus said inspiring things and performed amazing deeds of power. But he also said troubling things … he talked a lot about personal sacrifice and standing in solidarity with those on the fringes of society. Jesus expressed that we had to be willing to wash feet and love everyone. Maybe that all sounds nice to you. But it’s not all so syrupy sweet. It’s hard work and it’s thankless. I did it for years, and I got tired.
I know what you’re wondering. Why did I do it? Why did I hand Jesus over to the authorities? How could I betray someone so profoundly special?
Because I wanted my life back. I wanted my routines. If I’m honest, I wanted my status back. I gave it all up to follow Jesus. And I wanted it back.
The authorities threatened me. They told me that if I kept following Jesus, there was a chance I would be arrested. They told me I wasn’t being fair to my family to keep following such a radical, disruptive heretic. And then they said they could make it all go away and I could go back to my old life … if I just handed Jesus over.
So that’s what I did. The garden where we’d all prayed together many times became a nightmare. I felt the weight of my mistake within seconds of Jesus’ arrest. It was more than regret. It was remorse.
I’d pushed the boulder off the edge of the cliff, and there was no turning back.
You can understand, right? Have you ever been the one to push the boulder? To set in motion, consciously or unconsciously, something hurtful and destructive? Do you know what it’s like to vehemently want to turn back the hands of time?
I’m not asking for your forgiveness. Only God can grant me that.
But learn from me. Learn with me. And know I’d do it all differently if I could.