I cannot imagine what it is like to have a member of my family linked to a serious crime. For my name and my family’s name to be linked to a deed that forever will remain marked down in history for its infamy.
It seems to me that there are a great many programmes on the television delving back into recent history and reviewing crimes that have shocked the nation. One recently was about the infamous Jack the Ripper; an unsolved series of crimes that cost the lives of 5 women. Or more recently a review of ‘The Yorkshire Ripper (13 women killed, and seven attempted murders). There is no shortage of appetite when it comes to looking at crimes of the past. Occasionally family members are interviewed and all are shocked by the deeds done by their family member. On occasions legal anonymity hides the perpetrator of an evil deed; at others someone is named and shamed but little proof to convict creates anonymity.
I was recently taken by an expression within a few words of Jesus that resonated in my being. It is a pointer to an act that has echoed throughout time and its importance reverberates even to this day.
It is recorded for us in Luke’s gospel.
“But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on this table.”(New English Bible)
What a chilling message to hear from the future victim!
The perpetrator is named and shamed; Judas Iscariot. But to remind everyone of the importance of this declaration his father is also named, Judas Iscariot, son of Simon! Judas Iscariot is always fully named both for his act and to distinguish him from others who may be called Judas.
To be called a ‘Judas’, never carries any significant feeling of good news.
To sit at table with Jesus; to celebrate an important historical event, to be part of a larger intimate group, a chosen man, speaks of closeness of relationship, of personalised feelings, a communal act, it is really personal and it’s within touching distance. The others around the table began to question who the betrayer might be – ‘not me guv’! They remained ignorant until after the crime.
Did Judas Iscariot blush, look alarmed, who knows? But I do wonder how Judas Iscariots dad, Simon, felt when he got the news. What do you say, what can you say, and whom do you say it to?
I do know what the victim said before he died; “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34 NIV)
It’s staggering to think that the victim, Jesus, could and did ask for forgiveness for those who were killing him, and who killed him. This included forgiveness for the man who put his hand on the table and shared Jesus’ bread. It may have been too late for Judas Iscariot, son of Simon?
This message of forgiveness continues to resonate throughout history; Jesus never stops loving the betrayer. Forgiveness is Jesus great gift.