Summary: A look at Judas in the final week of Christ's life
Judas and Benedict
Matthew 26:14-16, 47-50
March 29, 2015
Saratoga, New York is famous for a couple of things. Firstly, Saratoga is home to a major Horse racing track, and secondly, Saratoga is famous because the last major battle of the Revolutionary War was fought in Saratoga and the surrounding area.
All that remains to remind us of this great and decisive battle is a huge stone statue which is 155 feet high. It stands against the backdrop of the Adirondack Mountains. Cut into the base of each of the four sides is a large niche bearing the name of one of the American military heroes who led us to victory. Above each name there is a great bronze likeness of the hero.
In the first niche stands General Horatio Gates; in the second, General Philip Schuyler; and in the third, Colonel Daniel Morgan. It is really impressive.
But as you walk around the corner to the fourth niche, there’s something missing and it’s striking. The name of the general is there; but the statue is strangely . . . conspicuously absent. This general once commanded West Point, He distinguished himself in battle at Lake Champlain, Quebec, and at Saratoga. You try to remember your US history lessons to understand the story.
It’s a story about a man who sold his soul to the enemy, eventually dying in poverty and disgrace. One person wrote, "The empty niche in that monument shall ever stand for fallen manhood, power prostituted, genius soiled, for faithlessness to a sacred trust."
Who was that man? Benedict Arnold!
What makes a titan like Arnold turn traitor to his country? For that matter, what makes a person turn from his or her first love of any kind? After all, we call cheating on someone we once promised to be faithful to as "extramarital exploration." We call stealing from a company or country as "creative accounting." We call lying to someone who trusts our word as "telling a half-truth." When we abuse a friend who trusted us, we say, “Oh, I didn’t know I hurt you.” Or we call our movement away from God as . . . "backsliding." In the end, it all comes down to the same word, doesn't it?
It's an uncomfortable word, isn't it? It kind of makes us squirm in our seats. Partly because we’ve been there. We’ve been betrayed . . . and when you’re betrayed, it hurts. It’s painful. AND we know what it’s like to be on the other side - to betray!
So, maybe it’s a good thing that we don’t throw too many stones at the Benedict Arnold’s of the world. It's not because they aren't distorted characters; they are . . . but it's never good luck or good sense to break mirrors.
Let’s take a look at the story of Judas Iscariot, the most notorious traitor / betrayer of all time. I think we'll see how easy it is for any of us to stumble, and so the steps we can take to ensure that when our name is on the wall of history, it won't be beneath an empty niche.
What is so shocking about what Judas did in the Garden of Gethsemane, is how loyal he must have seemed as he rode across the battlefield on Palm Sunday. We can't know for sure what was going through Judas' mind as he came through the gates of Jerusalem that day. We don't know for certain why Judas followed Jesus in the first place. But it doesn't seem far-fetched to think that Judas might have been moved by the same interests that move us to make some of the commitments we make.