Midweek Lenten Worship March 8, 2023
“Judas Speaks” Luke 22:1-6
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
My darn hands got me into so much trouble. They do that, don’t they? You can take your hands and make a fist and hit somebody so hard it will make them cry. You can take your hands and raise them to shoulder length, shrug your shoulders ever so slightly, and you can pretend that you are innocent. Do you remember what Pilate did with his hands? When the mob wanted the crucifixion of Jesus he called for a basin of water to be brought to him and then in a public display he washed his hands and declared that he was innocent of the blood of Jesus.
Darn hands. Mine were so greedy. I heard Jesus warn me, and others, about how greedy hands are dirty hands. He said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24) He also said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
He was right. My treasure, my heart, my God was money. It consumed me. You probably know that there were folks who gave Jesus and us money so that we could live and eat. Did you know that I was the one who insisted on being the treasurer of the group? I didn’t do it so that the money would stretch a little further and I could assist in that important task. No, I stole the money. I lived better than the rest of them because I took what I thought was my due.
Greedy hands are dirty hands. And they are guilty hands. I knew that Jesus had enemies and they were looking for a way to have Him put to death. And I would do anything for a little more money. I went to those who were wicked – the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard – and I told them that I could help them. They wanted Him turned over in a quiet, out-of-the-way place. I told them that I would help them – for a price. Everything I did was for a price. There was no generosity in me. My hands were always reaching out for another coin. And they gave me 30 of them, if I would give them Jesus. With more money I knew I would have more power.
But I now know that my hands were weak. I had no strength in my hands. At the meal, that Passover meal, Jesus told us all that one of our 12, these dear friends that He had chosen, was going to betray Him. That shocked everybody. Everyone was talking at once. But my hands weren’t strong enough to admit what was about to occur through my hands.
So I went to my new found friends, the ones who gave me their money, and I told them that we would make our move that night. There were a bunch of them. With weapons in hands we made our way to the Mount of Olives and I lead them to Him and He asked me, “Judas, are you going to betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48) And get this – after I kissed Him He said, “Friend, do what you came for.” (Matthew 26:50)
Such weak hands!! How could I do that? He called me “Friend”!! He knew I had turned on Him. But my hands, greedy as could be, miserably weak, became empty hands. I was watching the result of my actions. They took Jesus and handed him over to Pilate, the only man in Jerusalem who could inflict the death penalty. I knew at that moment I had gone too far. I told those who I had made the deal with, “I have sinned, I have betrayed innocent blood!” (Matthew 27:4) And what my new found friends said back to me cut me to the soul, “What is that to us? That’s your responsibility.” (Matthew 27:4b) Now I had empty hands. I had blood money on my hands. That stain wouldn’t go away. I took that money and I threw it into the Temple.
I looked at my hands. Those darn hands!! Greedy. Weak. Now empty.
Have you ever looked at your hands? What do you see? Maybe they are hands like mine. Maybe they are greedy. Maybe they are weak. Maybe they got dirty somehow. But maybe they are empty. And when I think back at it, empty hands are not the worst hands. Empty hands are the best way to start something new.
Empty hands are hands that can be filled with something good. Empty hands can be receiving, seeking hands. You have a hymn that says something like that:
Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling.
Naked, come to Thee for dress; helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die.
(Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me, LSB 761, Verse 3)
A writer in your century, Clive Staples Lewis, C.S. Lewis, once said that every human heart has a God-shaped hole. All of our lives are spent trying to fill that hole – with money, with power, with love and relationships and lots of other things. Yet, trying to fill that hollow place with anything but Jesus Christ is like trying to put a square peg into a round hole. The result is unsatisfying at best – or as I can tell you quite clearly – it is downright deadly at worst.
There was one of my friends, Thomas, who got to see some hands up-close and personal. He saw the hands of Jesus – the one who had been handed over by me, put to death by Pontius Pilate, but who came back to life. But my friend, Thomas, couldn’t believe it. And he wanted proof – especially by the use of his hands. He said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” (John 20:25) His hands wanted physical proof. And he got it. Jesus, was all about hands that evening. Jesus told Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hands and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20:27) Because of those nail-marked, inviting hands, Thomas’ faith was restored.
I can’t do it over again, but how I wish I could. How I wish my empty hands could have been filled with what was best, what would have made them strong and filled with hope. The hands of Jesus make our hands, restored, filled with courage, and a brilliant faith. Amen!!