Judas’ Despair

Rembrandt - Judas repentent

But when Judas hanged himself, that was the ultimate fault, becasue it put a limit to the mercy of God, and we cannot do that. But we do. We project our own limitations of mercy onto God and so, unwittingly, we join Judas in betrayal.”- Madeleine L’Engle, Bright Evening Star, 155.

“The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”- Hebrews 7:23-25.

Judas was a man in utter despair, utter agony. It is understandable why Judas could feel this way, and it is understandable the darkness and pain that overcame him. What made his darkness unbearable, though? Why did he despair to the point of suicide? Truly there are many theological answers, and yet none quite get at the heart like L’Engle’s comment. His worst fault was not in betraying the Son of God, for we betray Him daily when we sin and yet find hope to continue, and Peter certainly betrayed Jesus by denying Him three times, and yet he continued on. What, then, separates Judas from others? It was certainly his limit on the mercy and grace of God to forgive the most wretched and heinous of people and his limit on the power of God to overcome any situation. He put a limit on the love and power of God. I do not presume to understand suicide and the thoughts that go through one’s mind in situations like that. I think, though, those thoughts are legitimate. The darkness is real, the pain is sometimes too much, the despair is often overwhelming. But the truth remains, Judas sees no light because He cannot see a God who forgives and who is able to save to the uttermost. What makes Judas unsaveable is not His betrayal of Christ, but his refusal to accept that God can love even him and that God can love those like him. He rejects God’s free offer of mercy and grace. I understand this is a simplistic reading of the text, and that there are many factors that contribute to suicidal thoughts. But the text challenges me. Have i put a limit on the mercy of God in my own heart? Are there sins that i believe He cannot deal with, cannot save me from? Are there situations that i do not believe He can deliver me from? Do i despair in darkness? Surely i have to remember, even though my sin is heinous and evil, that Christ can and will save the Christian to the uttermost. He is faithful. I must also ask, are there sins that i believe God cannot deal with in others? Are there people i cannot forgive, cannot love, cannot accept because i believe their sins are too much, too dark, too wretched. I must challenge myself to picture the worst sin i can imagine, and then i must be honest with myself. If i sit long enough in the labyrinth of my own sin i will find that i am capable of the worst of evils, and that if Christ has committed to me, loved me, and saved me, surely this sin and sinner can be overcome by the overwhelming power of Christ. May we never put limits on the mercy and love of God, for He is able to save. To despair is human in the fallen sense of humanity, but to hope is a Divine gift given to those reborn into true humanity, those reborn in Christ. Christians, let us lift our eyes to the Savior, see in Him the power to do far more exceedingly that we imagine. Let us not withhold His mercy and power from our own sins, and let us not withhold His mercy and power from the sins of others.


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