Judas Trees and Jesus

As I was driving across town this morning to the United Methodist Center I counted 19 Judas Trees. They look like thin trees or shrubs with close-cropped purple buds on the limbs. They are beautiful! Some people call them redbuds although I haven’t seen a color close to red yet. Much like the dogwood with its association to Lent and Easter via Jesus’ cross, the Judas Tree is said to have been the type of tree upon which Judas hanged himself after he betrayed the Lord.

No matter whether it’s an Eastern Redbud (Cercis Canadensis) or a Judas Tree (Cercis siliquastrum) the bright purple Lenten-like color is a great precursor to Passion Week and Easter. Before there are any blooms on any other trees or shrubs these artful wonders stand out in yards and woodlands with their bright foliage. My mother always pointed them out when I was a child and said, “Look there’s a Judas Tree blooming. Easter’s coming, we better get ready!”

That is always good advice, hence our reason to have 40 days not counting Sundays to prepare for the Lord’s resurrection. In this in-between time of spring being sprung and the last vestiges of winter, I need a visual reminder that Passion Week and a culminating Easter are upon us. Judas Trees blooming while no dogwoods are in sight is a metaphor for the spiritual work that I yet need to do. What do I need to do to get ready for Passion Week and Easter?

I’m going to take my cue from Judas Trees, more specifically the relationship between Judas and Jesus. Judas Iscariot is such an enigmatic character. He’s the only disciple who was a city-boy, from Kerioth, which is why he’s called Judas Iscariot. We know he’s a thief who helped himself to the Disciples’ common cache of money. He struck a deal to turn Jesus in to the authorities for thirty pieces of silver.  He identified the Lord with a kiss. We also know Judas felt remorse over his actions, perhaps too little, too late.

But, hold on, we also know something else! Jesus called Judas his friend when he betrayed him with a kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:50). Jesus said, “Friend, Do what you came for.” We absolutely need to note that Jesus didn’t call many people “friend.” As a matter of fact, except for several uses of the word “friend(s)” in a few parables, the only other times Jesus uses the word directly about a person was when he healed the paralytic let down through the roof (Luke 5:20), and when he was talking about Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha. In John 11:11 Jesus said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going to wake him up.” Jesus only called three people, “friend!” Wow!

And one of them was Judas, and Jesus already knew that he was going to betray Him (John 13). To top off this audacity of grace, Jesus called Judas “Friend” just after He washed all of the Disciples’ feet, including Judas’, in the Upper Room. How many of us would wash Judas’ feet? How many of us would call our betrayer “Friend?”  We have all had someone treat us poorly. Rather than ostracize or at least avoid them, Jesus goes out of his way to show extraordinary grace and compassion, and He calls us to do the same knowing that there is nothing He does that He won’t empower us to do.

Therefore, I want every Judas Tree that I see make me want to have a Jesus-heart, a heart that can express friendship to all regardless of their meanness. Rather than stoop to the level of our adversaries, let us rise to the example of Christ. Jesus calls us all His friends and we’ve all let Him down like Judas. Look around you in the coming days and let the Judas Trees inspire you to turn your enemies into friends!

Judas Tree

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4 thoughts on “Judas Trees and Jesus

  1. It has occurred to me that perhaps we should view Judas Iscariot with a little bit of sympathy. In modern terms, he served as “business manager” of Jesus’ troop of 12, or 70, or who knows how many followers who served as his Disciples. Yep, he “kept the moneybag.” He also had to mooch food and shelter for all of those folks, 365 days per year. He was following Jesus, who spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven coming soon, but after having to hustle money and support for all of those folks, it began to seem like Jesus was taking an inordinate amount of time to bring about this hoped-for transformation.

    If we had been in the same position, we would likely be frustrated, too. We, too, might be tempted to engage in some action to force Jesus to get off his dias and bring about the Kingdom. Then, the things that would be needed for all of the Disciples to survive would be provided. Judas wouldn’t have to hustle offerings and hope there would be enough for the group to keep going.

    With tight budgets, not a lot of new people coming to our churches, it can be frustrating to us in our own existential realities. So much so that we can be tempted to take some actions that will change our fiscal and membership realities. We can sell out our ideas of proper worship, of solid theology, and of Biblical faithfulness, to attract more people. We can use emotional manipulation to get parishioners to give more money. We can succumb to the temptation that we deserve more pay for trying to build our local churches. Yes, we can and do succumb to the same temptations that Judas had. We’re no different, really.

    In so doing, to we crucify our Lord all over again?

    1. Tom, Great analysis and message for modern-day Judas’ whether they be clergy or churches. The world is looking for authenticity not manipulation and sell-outs. Appreciate the perspective,

      tim

      *From:* A Potter’s View [mailto:comment-reply@wordpress.com] *Sent:* Tuesday, April 01, 2014 2:31 AM *To:* wtmcclendon@gmail.com *Subject:* [A Potter’s View] Comment: “Judas Trees and Jesus”

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