Fellow Passengers: This week’s Primary Passage* (Matthew 27:1-14) transports me to a MASH unit in the killing fields, where a couple of foot soldiers carry in a DOA who had hung himself from a nearby tree. Radar blares out a message over the sound of incoming copters as a song plays in the background: Through early morning fog I see visions of the things to be, the pains that are withheld for me, I realize and I can see that suicide is painless, it brings on many changes, and I can take or leave it if I please. The name on the DOA’s dog-tag is Judas. Had he lived 2,000 years later he would likely have been a suicide bomber, for he was also identified as Iscariot, labeling him as one of the guerrilla terrorists who kept hidden daggers under their cloaks for assassinations in their attempt to overthrow the hated Roman occupiers. But he was not a suicide bomber; he was a betrayer of innocent blood who realized his sin and couldn’t live with himself and the burden of his guilt. He threw his silver blood money into the temple and moaned a plaintiff version of an old drunkard’s song, with courser lyrics no doubt: Dang me, dang me, why don’t you take a rope and hang me, hang me from the highest tree, Jesus would you weep for me? When no one would do it for him, Judas found his own rope and a high tree. The locals renamed the place “Blood Field.”
While Judas was making his futile and tragic attempt to atone for his sins, Jesus was preparing to pay the ultimate price for everyone’s sins, including Judas’. I wonder if Jesus had Judas on his mind when the officials were questioning and accusing him. As the innocent one stood there silently, I wonder if he was preoccupied with what his friend might be doing. I wonder if he wished he could catch Judas before he met his doom, maybe sing him another song of grace and forgiveness: I’m not above doing anything to restore your faith if I can. . . I’m willing to hear you cry because I am an innocent man. I know you don’t want to hear what I say, I know you’re gonna keep turning away. But I’ve been there and if I can survive I can keep you alive. I’m not above going through it again. . . if you’re cruel to me I’ll understand. I am an innocent man. Some people run from a possible fight, some people figure they can never win. And although this is a fight I can lose, the accused is an innocent man. I am an innocent man. You know you only hurt yourself out of spite, I guess you’d rather be a martyr tonight. That’s your decision, But I’m not below anybody I know, if there’s a chance of resurrecting a love. I’m not above going back to the start to find out where the heartache began. I am willing to die for you, even though I am an innocent man.
I wonder what would have gone through Judas’ mind had he heard Jesus singing a song like that. Guilt and remorse can be overpowering and heavier than we can bear. Judas isn’t the only one in history to be weighed down by those burdens; as the MASH theme song says, the game of life is hard to play. If only we can realize that Jesus took care of it all, and we can be free of whatever betrayals and blood money and bribes we have lingering in our hearts. If only we can claim the power of that innocent blood, the power of grace and mercy and love and forgiveness. Would you be free from the burden of sin? There’s power in the blood, power in the blood. We need not create more Fields of Blood. One hill is enough.
How about you? Where does this Primary Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.