Hearing that name

John 12:1-11
There are several traditions associated with the retelling of Esther’s story on Purim. One is for those listening to use graggers. These are noisemakers used every time Haman’s name appears. Remember, he is the story’s villain. He intends evil for the people of God. Using the noisemakers, the idea is to blot his name from history.

Now, most Christians have never read any parts of the Bible that way. It’d be great if we did.

In some ways, Judas is the Haman of the New Testament. Even though he was a disciple of Jesus, Judas betrayed our Lord. He didn’t say unkind words about Jesus behind his back. He didn’t turn in his discipleship papers and follow another rabbi. Judas made the arrangements for the arrest of Jesus.

We’ve wondered how Judas could be willing to do something so treacherous. Many have written and reflected on his role in God’s story. Did he really have a choice? If he didn’t betray Jesus, what would have happened? Or not happened? Luke and John tell us Satan “entered” Judas.

What does that mean?

Again, Christians don’t use noise makers when reading scripture. Many times, though, when I’ve heard people read from John 12, they do inflect when they get to Judas. When John mentions Judas Iscariot, he adds a bit of commentary. This is when our voice becomes the noise maker. John says, parenthetically, he is “the one who was about to betray him” (John 12:4). Judas then questions why Mary didn’t sell the perfume she used to anoint Jesus. John tells us, again in parentheses, Judas didn’t care about using the money for good. He was a thief who would steal from the money bag.

Was that a way John wanted to take attention from Judas?

Now, I assume most of us don’t relate to Haman. Our assumption is we can’t relate to Judas all that much either. It’s great you’re sure you would never seek to destroy an entire race of people like Haman. Let’s be careful, though, with our quick assumptions about Judas.

In our reading from John 12, there are two images of following Jesus. One is of Mary. She has experienced the power of Jesus. As a result, she can’t help but offer all she had in worship. The other image is of Judas. He walked with Jesus, but it did not change who he was. Judas probably showed up to every disciple meeting. He knew what Jesus thought about certain things. Plus, we know he served on the Finance Committee.

And what a powerful reminder. You can be close to Jesus but not transformed by Jesus.

I need to hear the name of Judas. I need to see it to remember, if I’m not watchful, I, too, can betray our Lord. I don’t want to let my proximity to Jesus things fool me into thinking I could never be like Judas.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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