Summary: Like Judas, despite all we have, we feel dissatisfied. Dissatisfaction comes from too small a vision of where our lives must go or depending on others to give us meaning. A relationship with Jesus gives us redemption and release.
Willy Loman is the central character in Arthur Miller’s play, “Death of a Salesman”. Willy had known only one thing all his life, and that was selling. Selling, pitching, cajoling, persuading, making the sale. That was it. His wife played second fiddle to selling. His children tried to please, but they were never quite as much fun as selling. Willy Loman was nothing if he was not out there selling something. But the day came when he lost his job. No more selling, no more days on the road, no more the thrill of the conquest. It was gone.
Willy began to brood. He began to see just how little respect he really had. His wife, his family, his friends, they were all attentive, sort of. But, in his twisted mind, Willy Loman -- and, by the way, his last name is no accident (low man) Willy Loman began to think that he would be worth more dead than alive. Worth more not only on the balance sheet, once his insurance settlement came in, but worth more, too, in prestige, worth more in esteem, if he were dead. Willy imagined his own funeral; oh, that would be a grand occasion. People would come from miles around and would say great things about Willy. Death would be wonderful! Then he could get respect! Willy Loman wrote, in fact, something of an epitaph for himself; Arthur Miller has this character say, “I still feel kind of temporary about myself.” Never quite able to get what he wanted out of life; never quite able to describe exactly what it was he did want, Willy cannot quite put his finger on it, but he does not feel fulfilled. He feels dissatisfied. He feels unhappy. In fact, chronically unhappy. He feels temporary about himself.
Growing numbers of people do feel gnawing dissatisfaction. Just why they should, in a land of tremendous affluence and a time of exceptional prosperity, we will have to think about. When you can afford to buy books you will never have time to read, just to decorate your den, why should you feel dissatisfied? When you can purchase a car with power to move you at speeds of 150 miles an hour, even though there are no roads where that’s legal and you don’t have any place to go anyway, why should there be dissatisfaction? When you can invest in an Internet stock and see its value double and triple almost overnight, why should anyone feel dissatisfaction? I saw a cartoon the other day; one fellow said, “I feel a little guilty this morning.” The other guy asked why. “Well, said the first one, “I just changed my company’s name. I put two extra words on the end of its name, and the value on the stock market doubled just last night!” “Wow,” said his friend. “How in the world did you do that? What were the two words?” The answer: “I just added ‘Dot com’”. What a market, what an economy, what opportunities there are! Opportunities out there for everyone! And yet we too feel kind of temporary about ourselves. We too feel dissatisfied.
The man from Kerioth was dissatisfied, too. There wasn’t any particular reason to be. He had a special place in the inner circle of the twelve. At every turning point in these last three years, he had been there. He had had every opportunity.
More than that, he had been given a special place of trust. He had been made the treasurer of the group. He held all its resources. The teacher trusted him. The others had to come to him for whatever they wanted. He had a place of responsibility. But somehow it wasn’t enough. The man from Kerioth was dissatisfied.
And so Judas struck. Judas lashed out. Blindly, with nothing to sustain him but his own anxiety, Judas struck at the very person who had given him a chance to be different. Judas, disappointed and desperate beyond measure, got release from his disappointment. He vented his feelings and, no doubt, for a little while, got release from those negative feelings. But what Judas missed was redemption. What Judas didn’t wait for was a redemption that would have brought him fulfillment.
It’s easy enough to get release. You can strike out at somebody you think is in your way. That may release you from all those horrible feelings about yourself. But it does not redeem you. It does not take your raw material and direct you toward fulfillment. You can get release easily enough; but only Jesus Christ can give you both redemption and release.
Think with me for a few moments about the sources of dissatisfaction. Why was Judas so unhappy? What made him so profoundly dissatisfied that he felt he had to betray his teacher? I want to suggest to you that the very things that made Judas Iscariot so dissatisfied are the things that work on us too. Do not be too harsh on Judas until we look within and see some of the same forces at work in us.