Father in heaven,
It has been your eternal purpose to rescue a world hell-bent on running far from you. In a Garden long ago, the man and the woman that You had made fell into the doubt that has been long been all of humanity's. Your Word was cast into suspicion by the Enemy of Your purpose. It was He who incriminated Your authority and goodness: Did God really say? It seems that so much of our confusion lies in answering that one simple question, in resolving our skepticism about Who You are and what You intend to do. What is it that You have said? We seem to be constantly forgetting. Or perhaps it is more true to sat that our forgetting is as convenient as it is chronic.
This is a week we remember how Your Son, Jesus, was betrayed. He was given over by Judas, a man loved by Jesus, whom He had chosen as His disciple. Had Judas been a disciple of promise? Is that why he was given the responsibility to keep the moneybag? Had it once been his zealous desire to see the poor provided for? Is he like so many of us who begin well, with zeal and with promise, only to discover how quickly good intentions dissolve into betrayal?
I am like Judas in more ways than I would like to admit. I make loud and long speeches to defend righteousness and purity, but in the cover of secrecy, I betray those speeches and do whatever it is that suits my mood and my own ambitions. I have not loved You enough to sustain loyalty to You, but I am good at my play-acting. How little others might suspect my criminal treason.
Can it be that Your Son, Jesus, died for every act of betrayal we have committed and might ever commit? How have You have loved us despite our greed? How have You chosen us despite our inglorious ambitions? With unimaginable grace, You have spilled Your blood for us, the treasonous. Father, glorify your name. In every way, You have taught us, in the life and death of Your Son, Jesus, that betrayals are not the end and forgiveness is your final purpose. You are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Let us become the kind of people who can, like Jesus, sustain a lifetime of forgiveness. Help us forgive those who have betrayed our reputation. Help us forgive those who have betrayed our friendship. Help us forgive those who have betrayed our confidences. Help us forgive those who have betrayed their promises made to us. Let us remember today that we are Judas, treasonous in thought and word and deed. Let the sober realization of our own sin lead us into a sympathetic understanding of our neighbor.
Let us become the kind of people who die, like Jesus, to all campaigns of the self. Form us in the image of Your Son, Jesus, who though He was troubled to think of the Cross, did not shirk it. "Father, save my from this hour," is the prayer Jesus refused in his hour of trial. We confess it is the very prayer we take up in ours. How afraid we are to suffer, and how indignant we are when we suffer unjustly. Forgive us, and give us the courage and sustaining faith of Jesus, who knew the purposes for which His life was intended and who treasured the glory that came from You rather than the glory that came from the world.
Make your church a radiant light of forgiveness and a holy beacon of surrender.