Walking Away…

walk away

A re-telling of an old story:

There was this young, hot-shot politician who was on the fast track. A sharp young man, he was shrewd enough that he wanted to cover all his religious bases. He had heard about a new preacher in town and wanted to be sure and get him on his side.

The young politician couldn’t help but be impressed with the crowd that surrounded the preacher at his regular preaching time. He was more amazed that unlike other preachers, this one did Q and A with the crowd. From personal experience, the young politician knew this took courage.

The young politician worked his way to the front of the crowd, nodding, grinning, and shaking hands as he went. His mind was flying about the best way to get the preacher on his side while impressing the crowd at the same time. Being a clever man, he hit upon just the right question. When the preacher paused for a breath, the young politician spoke up, loud enough so everyone could hear him: “Preacher, you are so wise! So what do I need to do to have the best life possible?”

The preacher looked at him with a dry smile and said, “Why are you calling me wise? Only God is wise. I’ll bet you already know the answer. Keep your life between the ditches. Don’t kill, sleep with someone else’s wife, take what doesn’t belong to you, tell a lie, or cheat anyone; and do right by your Momma and Daddy.”

With the perfect touch of humility and pride, the young politician said, “Preacher, I’ve done all that ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper.”

The crowd murmured approval, because this young politician had the reputation of being an upright guy. They looked at the preacher, certain he was about to heap praise on the young man.

But the preacher looked at him with a look that conveyed affection and truth. He said, “You’re missing one thing. Go back to your office and put everything up for sale. Liquidate it all. Empty your bank accounts. Take it all the money down to the wrong side of the tracks and give away. When you empty your bank account, your account balance in heaven will go way up! Once you’ve done that, find a spiritual adventure to go on.”

You could hear the air sucked in by the crowd. The young politician looked stunned. He’d come thinking he would get a high five from the preacher. Instead, he was blindsided by a reality about his life: He’d rather be rich than be right. He’d been born into money; it meant status and security. He didn’t want a spiritual adventure; he wanted an endorsement of his life as it was. The preacher didn’t cooperate with his agenda. With a heave of his shoulders, he turned from the preacher and headed back to the office.

Years went by. He heard how the preacher was lynched for his teachings down at the capital. Then there was the crazy news that after a few days, people saw him alive again. The crazy nuts that had sold everything and followed him were telling everyone the best life you could ever have would be to follow him. The now old politician still didn’t believe it, though every now and then an ache in his soul seemed to say: “Is counting my money all there is?”

The old politician had dismissed that thought so many times, it rarely came up anymore. But whenever it did, he went back to the day of his encounter with the preacher. He made the right decision, he reminded himself. After all, what would he have gained if gave up all his money and saved his soul?

(see the original version of this story in Mark 10: 17-22).

The Last Will and Testament of Judas Iscariot…

“I, Judas Iscariot, a troubled soul, do hereby declare this to be my last will and testament.  In a few moments I will end my life, because I have committed the most despicable deed and I can no longer live with myself.

Just eight hours ago I betrayed my Master, the one I believed would deliver my people from the Roman oppressors.  Now he hangs on a cross, beaten, sure to die before the sun goes down.  I will die before him, though only God knows what waits for me on the other side of death.

I began to follow Jesus three years ago.  I had heard of him, of course.  His teaching was like no other: plain, understandable.  A power radiated from him.  When he beckoned me to follow him, I cast aside my labor, left my father and mother, and went with him.  Something in him kindled hope in my own heart.

The miracles amazed me; such power!  Could such power be used against the Romans?  Could Jesus drive them out and restore the Kingdom of Israel, the Kingdom of God?  That was my hope, my dream, my passion.

I knew Jesus was closest to Peter, John, and James, of course.  But I knew I was special to him.  Soon after our journey together began, he approached me with the sack of money given to him by some well meaning women.  ‘Look after it,’ he said.  He trusted me.

Why then did I betray this man?  I thought he was losing touch with reality.  During the past three months, he talked about his death and then coming back to life.  The words were clear enough, but we did not understand what he meant.  For all his talk about the Kingdom of God, it was plain he was not going to raise an army to fight the Romans.  The hopes I had for our people began to dim.

During this last week, it obvious Jesus was on a collision course with our leaders.  It was on Tuesday, when he was teaching in Temple, that something in me broke.  He spoke of being a judge, of coming back at an unexpected time.  I saw him turn his back on financial security for his ministry and watched perfume worth a great sum flow onto the floor, wasted with the dust.

The thought entered my mind: ‘What if I told the Religious leaders where to find him?’ They would reward me.  Jesus would have the chance to show his power and be the Messiah I expected him to be.  Or I would realize my dreams had been placed in the wrong man.  Either way, I could force him to reveal who he truly was.

I made my deal with the religious leaders; I sought my chance; I led the soldiers to the place I knew he would be.  Then I called him “Master” for the last time and kissed him.

The soldiers pushed me aside; I stood on the fringes of his trials.  A sinking feeling began to overtake my heart.  Why was he not displaying his power?  As I watched him stand before Pilate, a wave of nausea hit me.  He was going to let himself be killed.  I knew nothing he had done was deserving of death.  A rush of memories flooded my soul: the time he calmed the storm, the way he smiled at me, the compassion in his voice when he told me last night “Do it quickly.”

As they led him off to Skull Place, I charged the smirking priests.  ‘He’s innocent,’ I cried.  ‘Stop this!  Take back your money.’

With cynical smiles they smirked, ‘It’s out of our hands now, and yours.’

I threw the money at them, ran from the plaza.  I passed a rope dealer and a plan leapt into my mind.  I purchased a length of rope, enough to do the job.

Now, I sit under the shade of this tree, penning these words, in hopes that whoever finds them will learn from me:  I should have stayed with Jesus, even when I did not understand.

I leave my cloak, my sandals, and my all my possessions to my brother Justus.  May my shame not touch him or my parents.

A hangman’s noose awaits.  God have mercy on my soul.”

Will you stay with Jesus even when you do not understand?