I am Judas. I have no doubt about that. In some ways, at some point, we all have been. We’ve accepted Christ and been so sure of Him and our place in Him. We placed our faith in Him. We’ve called ourselves sold out to His cause, yet still in the backs of our minds, there lingered some kind of doubts. Maybe in the beginning they were easy to dispel, because out passion at being a “new creation” overwhelmed any opposing thoughts. As time goes on, the incessant drums of those same doubts goes from a whimper, to a blaring accusation. It doesn’t matter what triggered it. We will never truly know what caused Judas to do what he did. I’m probably in the minority here, but I don’t think that Judas was a monster. I don’t think that he was an evil man who set out from the beginning to plot Jesus’ downfall. I think Judas was us and we are him. Satan caught him where the chink in his armor was most pronounced, most visible. From there, it was all downhill. And I identify with Judas, not sympathetically, but more with empathy. I have no doubt that he loved Jesus, and felt like he was doing the best thing. Maybe he felt like Jesus had become delusional talking about being resurrected from the dead. Maybe he felt like he had to save Jesus from himself. Maybe he didn’t know that they would actually kill Jesus, but rather imprison him. Either way, he made the decision to run contrary to the message that Jesus had taught. I am Judas, because I have often made that same decision, thinking that I knew something that Jesus may not know; that in my “wisdom”, I knew the best outcome and how to make it become so. In the end, Judas was so overcome with his guilt and shame, he felt like he could never face his friend again. I can imagine his overwhelming sense of loss and pain. He had reached a point of no return. It was over. The fact is, however, that Jesus would have forgiven him and loved him the same. Thus, it is the same with us. When we sin against our God and choose our own way, regardless of the reason, we must resist the urge to wallow in our doubts and guilt and shame. Jesus is ready and able to receive us back again. So while we may be Judas, He is still Jesus!

I am Pilate. Again, no doubt about that one either. In some ways, at some point, we all have been. Placed in a seemingly hopeless position before your peers. Forced to take a stand, make a decision that would have ripple effects. Making the wrong decision to appease the masses, even when your heart tells you that you just made a huge mistake. Trying to wash your hands of the eventual disastrous outcome, when the blood continues to drip from your outstretched hands. Pilate is truly a sympathetic figure. He couldn’t win either way he chose. The masses might have had him killed if he had released Jesus. The pressures of power and responsibility. This makes me think of our politicians and governments. On a daily basis, I’m 100% sure that those who really claim to be followers of Christ are confronted with legislation that puts them between the proverbial rock and a hard place. When given a platform of influence, the noise gets loud. The crowd chanting becomes overwhelming. All of the voices shouting at one time can drown out the still voice of God. We all have been Pilate, and sometimes still are. Yet even in those times of confusion, God has given us the ability to drown out the noise and focus. There is a caveat here though. In order to hear Him, we have to know Him. Unfortunately, Pilate only knew Jesus through the public view, not through a personal connection.

I am Peter. No doubt. Plain and simple. Seeing and not truly seeing. Speaking often before I think. Following up a moment of divine clarity with a moment of insanely human fallacy. Yet, I love my God. As foolish as I am at times, and as much as my faith fluctuates, I love my God. Yet, in a moment of fear and weakness, I’ve denied my God. Regardless of the reasons and circumstances involved, in that moment, either in thought or deed, I did not reflect appropriately as a follower of Christ. And it’s a horrible feeling. Some of you may know it well. Peter’s life is almost a movie of many of ours. We start out before Christ, simply living our lives according to traditions, either established or otherwise. We meet Jesus and He calls us to drop our nets, our plans, dreams, and desires- to follow Him. We eagerly accept, excited about the newness. We walk with Jesus, talk with Him, commune with Him at every turn. We watch as he changes us and things around us. We grow to love Him. He calls us to more, in Peter’s case, to walk on water. We start strong, lose focus, and falter. He catches us and restores us to good footing. We then encounter the stressful time that Jesus told us was coming, but we didn’t quite take Him at His word. We break under the emotional or physical strain of it all and find ourselves apart from Christ, wondering how we ended up where we are. We run and hide, ashamed and despairing. See, Peter loved Jesus intensely. The argument could be made that he loved Him more than the others. He was certainly out front and up front with his affection. Looking over his life, however, Peter faltered in the big moments. And that same weakness or tendency, took over again when he was questioned to being one of Jesus’ followers. We all have chinks in our armor. What we see in Peter’s life is what can happen when we don’t stop to get our armor repaired. Yet, there is something else to see in Peter’s life that we’ll look at in just a bit.

I am the thief/ robber hanging at Jesus’ side. Both of them. To me they represent one person, one society with two starkly different voices. On one side, the argument rages within that Jesus is not who He says that He is. He’s merely a man. A teacher. A rabbi, but not the Messiah. A prophet perhaps, maybe even a great one, but nothing more. For that reason, this side mocks Him and taunts Him, paying no attention to the fact that they are hanging at his side, enduring the same torment that Jesus is enduring, but when death comes, it is final. They take pleasure in mocking Jesus to blind themselves to their own futile reality, or to somehow numb their own pain and despair. They are hanging. They are dying a slow, painful death. On the other side, there are the eyes have been opened to the truth. They see Jesus in all of His glory, and even in his ragged state, they see a light within Him that makes them forget about my own wretched condition. Furthermore, the knowledge that Jesus has given them entrance to dwell with Him forever far overrides their own present suffering and pain. They now see death as a welcome respite, because all that is within them just wants to be with Jesus. Knowing that my sins have been forgiven lets me smile through it all. I know who Jesus is. I have received that revelation, and by it, my soul has been satisfied. Two thieves, two views. I was once one, but now I am the latter.

Finally, I CAN be Peter. I WANT to be Peter. Jesus died that I might be Peter. Spirit filled. No longer bound by fear. No longer consumed by what others may think of me, but totally consumed by the fire of His Spirit. Obsessed with His message and focused on getting it out to as many as He would expose me to. Not content to merely be a Christian, but intent on establishing His Kingdom with every breath in my body, until He comes again to sit on the throne. Unconcerned with being called Apostle, just honored that Christ would choose me fro his service. See, all of these profiles today lead to the same thing. Jesus died so that Judas would not have to take His own life. He died so that Pilate might be willing to take a stand for Him even in hopeless circumstances. He died for the thief who accepted Him and the one who had a chance to, but didn’t. He died so that Peter would not be chained to worldly concerns, but live with abandon for a far greater cause. I can imagine Jesus watching Peter preach to the masses at Pentecost, and cry tears of joy, knowing that His sacrifice was having its intended effect. The one who had denied him was now claiming Him before thousands, if not millions, and was birthing the church. The one who had been so defeated, a microcosm of human existence, was now standing in victory and proclaiming the truth and relevancy of the Gospel of the Kingdom.

This is the promise of Easter- that no matter where you are in your life, no matter what failings you have endured, no matter if you’re a backsliding Christian, a secret Saint, or a hedonist, there is room in Christ for you. He died for you, for us. All of Us. This is the promise of Easter, and if we are willing to look past ourselves towards the Cross, we will see that every ounce of pain and misery that Jesus endured was purposed. It was for our redemption, restoration, and reconciliation. It was all for love.

I hope my rambling and thoughts haven’t bored any of you to death. I had a thought this morning and just went with it. Enjoy your Easter, and remember why we celebrate.

HE IS RISEN!!!!! So we rise!