We were sitting outside having a picnic last Saturday in the front yard – Beth and the girls and me. Now, to that point we hadn’t mowed the yard this Spring. And until about six days ago it didn’t need it. But after a few days of rain and temperatures in the 70s, every weed known to man sprouted in my yard. Every weed, people. The girls loved it however and with the arrival of each pollen-infested bloom, they talked about how beautiful the “flowers” were. Full of allergy medicine, I kept trying to tell them that they were not real flowers. Just weeds that…well…bloomed. They weren’t buying it. They loved their yard full of flowers.
But as we sat outside last Saturday, the lawn care company showed up. That guy (at Dad’s request) took his John Deer professional grade lawnmower off the back of his trailer and plowed right through the center of the girls’ “flower garden.” And that’s when I heard a chorus of screams behind me. The girls wailed as their flowers were destroyed. It was horrible to watch. At first I thought about fleeing the scene of the crime. Then I thought, If I start screaming too, maybe they won’t see me as complicit in the crime. In the end, I fell back on a father’s tried and true method: I attempted to reason with a dependent. I consoled Claire Grace, “Honey, they’re just weeds. Our yard will look better with them cut down.” “No Dad! They’re flowers!” “No sweetie, they’re just weeds.” In that moment, I came to the horrible conclusion that I had just taught my daughter how to discriminate. In a subtle way I had taught her that some “flowers” weren’t as valuable as others. I said that for the same reason I buy into discrimination: someone had taught me the same concept when I was her age. But who gave me the right to decide which flowers my daughters should love?
Let me see if I can tie this to Judas. Judas wasn’t just betraying Jesus’ whereabouts – but something much deeper. Judas was betraying himself. He betrayed his own ability to love others by refusing to manipulate or discriminate against them. That’s why the word betray literally means “to hand one over” – you are discriminating against someone’s ability to choose for themselves and handing over their decision to someone else you think can do a better job. One’s agenda for that of another. Judas essentially did that to Jesus – he felt he knew a better way. That’s not too difficult for anyone to do, particularly when we feel we know what is best in a given situation. But its motivation is always pride. But love does the opposite. Love frees us to allow others to make their own choices. And that’s exactly what the cross does. In the cross, Jesus says, “I have died for you. Now, what is your choice? Here is my life. What do you plan to do with yours?” The cross doesn’t discriminate. It gives everyone the same choice. Their own choice.
Holy Week can bring about different emotions in people. Some people are bored with the same story of the cross and resurrection. I’ve been in that category before. For some, it reveals the character of God for the first time. I’ve been in that category, too. And this is what I’ve settled on: how the cross happened is somewhat of a mystery. I can’t tell you the mechanics of how the cross saves me exactly. There are lots of theories on that. But why the cross happened is as clear as day. The cross gives us an event that we can point to and say, “God, I know you love me because no one ever laid down their life for me like you did. I will never doubt your character because I’ve seen your love for me in action…and it beckons me to know you more.”
I think Jesus would’ve restored Judas just like he did Peter. That is if Judas had felt worthy of restoration. After all, Judas was a weed, right? Worthy of thirty snakes for his thirty sins. But it’s important to see exactly who Jesus invited to the table to share in his final meal. In those disciples, every range of faith and doubt existed at that table – those who loved Jesus and those who would betray him. The weeds and the flowers. The only reason Judas could betray Jesus was because Jesus had invited him there anyway. And that’s the beauty of the cross – all manner of people in various stages of belief find themselves at the “table” of the body and the blood of Christ. The invitation is to everyone. And this year we are invited to the table of his death and resurrection again. Jesus invites intimacy and closeness regardless of your spiritual condition. God doesn’t discriminate. And we can reconnect with that spiritual truth this week: the indiscriminate love of God poured out for us at the cross and the power of resurrection life returned to us.