Today is Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week. The day that we remember Jesus’ grand entry into Jerusalem. The entry is the fun and festive part of the day. It doesn’t stay that way for long. You see, then and now, things can change very quickly. So you are riding high one moment and in the next the world seems to have turned against you.
In my congregation (like many others) we enter the story of Jesus’ last week with a full reading of the “Passion” narrative. This year we read from Matthew’s gospel. I don’t usually preach this day, but today I had a “mini sermon” which centered on forgiveness.
We read/hear in the story that Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, that Peter denied Jesus, and that all the other disciples fled in fear. Nobody performed well on the tragic night of Jesus’ arrest.
Sometimes I hear people talk of Judas with the assumption that he was condemned. That assumption can be made because of Jesus words describing how difficult it would be for the one who would betray him. But I don’t think Jesus was describing condemnation. Rather, he was describing deep remorse, deep regret, deep despair. After Jesus’ arrest, Judas tried to give back the money, to no avail. And then, in his deep remorse, deep regret, and deep despair he took his own life. Tragedy upon tragedy.
I don’t believe that Judas was condemned though. I believe that had Judas not taken his life he would have heard the same message that Peter heard from the resurrected Jesus. I believe that one day, when I am in the presence of Jesus, I will have the honor of meeting Judas, and Peter, and all the others.
How can I be so sure of this? Because our God is a God of grace and mercy who offers us complete forgiveness. I also know this because of the blessed sacrament of Holy Communion. The meal of bread and wine…Jesus’ body given, and blood poured out expressly for the forgiveness of sin. Jesus began this tradition on the very night that he was arrested. He knew that Judas would betray him. He knew that Peter would deny him. He knew that the disciples would abandon him. And yet, he gave them forgiveness. He didn’t turn anyone away from his table.
That forgiveness is for you and for me. May you know this deep into your soul this day, this week, and all the days thereafter.
Today I am personally thankful for: the forgiveness that Jesus so graciously gives; for a nice after church lunch with my husband, daughter, and her best friend; and for a very refreshing nap this afternoon.