Last Wednesday we talked a little about Judas' betrayal of Jesus and pointed out that it was a wakeup call for all serious Christians to be on guard because the “higher you are, the harder you fall”. Today we'll look at what to do when we do fall.
Many people wonder if Judas had free will going into the fall; if he could have stopped himself. After all, the entire plan of salvation hinged on his betrayal of Jesus. This is a question for another day (Catholics maintain that he did betray on his own free will) but I don't know of anyone who argues that Judas' next action, returning the money and then hanging himself, had to happen for the divine plan.
Would Jesus have forgiven Judas as he forgave Peter's denials? The only answer from what we have seen of Christ is an emphatic YES! Jesus forgave everyone who asked for it and prayed for those who didn't (forgive them, they don't know what they're doing). If Judas had asked forgiveness for his betrayal we must believe he would have received it.
But Judas didn't ask. He assumed his sin was unforgivable.
This is despair; the most deadly of all sins.
I say despair is a sin because it is a rejection of the commands of Jesus to have faith and hope. Despair rejects faith in the promises of Christ that he will forgive anyone who truly repents and a rejection of hope in our salvation. It is the most deadly because a person in the midst of despair cannot choose God, cannot be reconciled to him. As long as we believe we cannot be reunited with God, we cannot be reunited with God. It disables our capacity to seek reconciliation.
The temptation to despair comes when we realize the gravity of our sins. It's a last-ditch effort by the devil; if he can't keep us happily complacent in our sinfulness he would like to see us miserably accepting of our condemnation.
Consider how close Judas came to reconciliation with God. Judas was deeply moved by his sin. He wasn't complacent, he realized exactly what he had done and felt enormous guilt from it. He wanted to repent of it, which is shown in his return of the thirty pieces of silver he was given. In that moment, when he realized just how horrible his betrayal was he had the choice between hope and despair.
He chose despair.
What will we choose next time we confront our own failings?