New Church Life March/April 2017 - Page 48

new church life: march/april 2017 On the cross, surrounded by criminals, hecklers and cruel soldiers, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34) How far did that forgiveness extend? Was Jesus asking forgiveness for the criminals who were crucified alongside Him? Was Jesus asking forgiveness for those soldiers who divided His clothes between them and mocked Him as He hung dying before them? Was Jesus asking forgiveness for Pontius Pilate who buckled under pressure and ordered the crucifixion? Was Jesus asking forgiveness for the crowd who turned on Him? Was Jesus asking forgiveness for the priests and leaders who put a price on His head in the first place? Was Jesus asking forgiveness for Judas Iscariot who betrayed Him into the hands of those who sought to kill Him? Jesus said, “Forgive them, for they do not know what they do,” but did anyone involved in this really know what they were doing? If anyone had been aware that Jesus was the Word made flesh, would they have put Him to death? If anyone had truly grasped the magnitude of the events that had been unfolding over Jesus’ three-year ministry, could anyone have stood against it? Would Judas have done his vile deed if he had known that he sealed the fate of God on earth? Judas was not the only disciple to go against Jesus in those last days. Simon Peter denied Jesus three times (Matthew 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:55- 63; John 18:16, 25-27) and Thomas was of little faith that Jesus had returned. (John 20:24-25) Both of these disciples received personal attention by Jesus following His return. (John 21:15-19, 20:26-29) He did not reject them, but received them lovingly and gave them what they needed to be comforted. While Judas’ actions led to a worse outcome for Jesus than those of either Simon Peter or Thomas, I cannot help but wonder how Jesus’ reunion with Judas would have taken place following His resurrection if Judas had not taken his own life. Judas Put to Rest In The Acts of the Apostles (commonly called the Book of Acts) – a book of the Bible which tells the history of the disciples after Jesus ascension – we get a glimpse of how the remaining disciples processed Judas’ betrayal of their friend and teacher. Immediately following Jesus’ parting words to the disciples (called apostles in Acts), He ascended back to heaven, and the 11 who remained reconvened in Jerusalem along with about a hundred other unnamed followers of Jesus. It was there that Simon Peter rose and spoke: Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus; for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry. 114