Tommy Nelson’s animated The Jesus Movie is one of Grace’s favorites. We’ve had it for a year and she will watch it almost every day. She gets excited when her favorite scenes come up and quotes the characters. I love it when she asks; “Mama, can I watch Jesus?” It’s the one bit of TV I’m liable to say” yes” to because you can never get too much Jesus!
But there is one scene in the movie that Grace refuses to watch. Without fail when it comes on she will cry: “No! Mama! I don’t wanna watch Judas kiss… Please, CHANGE it!” If I am not right there to fast- forward to the next scene, she will leave the room until the betrayal is over, then return to view the rest of the film- including Peter’s denials, Jesus trial, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension… but she absolutely WILL NOT watch Judas betray Jesus with a kiss. Fascinating.
I got to thinking about this. None of us can stomach Judas’ kiss. For some reason we can accept Peter’s denial a lot easier than Judas’ kiss. Yet, they were equal betrayals. Perhaps we take Peter’s denial better because we know how things turned out for both men. One continued into the darkness, the other accepted the covering of Christ and was transformed—but both were guilty.
And I suppose that brings us to a truth we all have a hard time swallowing. Sin is sin. God doesn’t grade our transgressions in levels from “a little bad” to “egregiously bad.” He is Holy, and every sin we commit is a betrayal, even the ones we’d like to label “minor.”
Sin is sin. And while our sin may be against others in the world, in truth it is really against one- Him. This is why David says in Psalm 51: “Against you and you alone have I sinned.” Ouch….
Maybe that’s why we have such a hard time watching Judas’ kiss. Because deep down we all know that it is against Him and Him alone we have sinned. Deep down we know that we are as guilty as Judas’ Kiss.
There is a song I am in love with right now. You Loved Me Anyway by the Sidewalk Prophets. The chorus says:
I am the thorn in your crown… but you loved me anyway
I am the sweat from you brow… but you loved me anyway
I am the nail in your wrist… but you loved me anyway
I am Judas Iscariot… but you loved me anyway (1)
That chorus so illustrates this truth that I choke up when I hear it. It is so hard to look at our sin, the truth of who we are, and what our hearts are really capable of. Some things we have done, thought, or left undone are so painful we can’t even go there. They are like open wounds we don’t want to touch… we don’t want anyone to touch… we don’t even want Jesus to touch… we would rather not look at them, and pretend they can’t be seen.
But while we are as guilty as Judas, we also may be as transformed as Peter. We don’t have to carry the pain of the sins of our past, present or future. Because of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice— because he loved us anyway— when we put our trust in Him, we are made new.
When I am struggling with my own sin I embrace this truth. It is this truth that gives me the strength to face the sin before me in a way that doesn’t destroy me. Because I know in God’s sight I am justified and forgiven, I can be honest with where I have fallen short, and I can turn to Jesus for healing, transformation and sanctification.
This is ultimately the difference between Judas and Peter. Judas could not face his betrayal and spiraled into the darkness. Peter held on to Jesus’ love and when he faced his Lord again, Jesus moved in to heal the wound. Three times Jesus asked: “Do you love me?”(2) and while Peter was hurt that Jesus asked three times, he realized this was also the power of His Lord moving in to touch that wound, heal it, humble Peter, and put him on the path of the mission God set before him. Matthew Henry’s Commentary of the Bible says:
Peter solemnly appealed to Christ, as knowing all things, even the secrets of his heart. It is well when our falls and mistakes make us more humble and watchful. The sincerity of our love to God must be brought to the test; and it behoves us to inquire with earnest, preserving prayer to the heart-searching God, to examine and prove us…. No one can be qualified to feed the sheep and lambs of Christ, who does not love the good Shepherd more than any earthly advantage or object. (3)
Jesus’ gentle compassion allowed Peter to face his sin. It hurt. But like any surgery causes pain, the healing benefit flows forward. Jesus’ questioning of Peter three times unravels Peter’s three denials. Peter’s life and mission flowed forward— He loved the Lord, He died to the Lord and to His word, and fulfilled the mission to feed His sheep.
The question for us is this: As we deal with our own sin do we follow Judas path? Even though we may be saved, are we stuck on our transgressions? Unable to face the depths of our sin, do we spiral down into suicide for our spiritual growth, never allowing Jesus to move in and heal us, transform and sanctify us?
Or do we take the path of Peter? Hold on to Jesus’ love. Run to the Lord. Let Him move in to heal us. Let Him ask us— “Do you love me?” and declare “Yes, Lord! Search my heart!” When we do this we allow him to say: “Then _________.” We must be obedient to whatever he places in that blank space, pushing us away from sin down the path of righteousness to the mission He has especially designed.
What gives us the power to do any of this?
That He loved us anyway.
I prayed the salvation prayer when I was 8 years old at summer camp. That year I entered the week long Bible verse contest. One verse stuck with me from that week for the rest of my life. It was a long road from my salvation prayer to a real strong relationship with Christ. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I came into relationship with Him in an authentic, fruit-bearing way. But I believed what my camp counselor told me when I prayed the salvation prayer: “Once you ask Jesus into your heart, He will never leave.” I think that truth was deposited in me with this verse.
In all the years that I had no relationship with Christ, in all the years I wandered aimless, unguided and “un-churched,” this verse never left my memory. There were times it would pop into my head out of nowhere like a soft echo reminding me of the seed of truth planted in my heart….
1 John 4:10
Herein is love.
Not that we loved God, but that he loved us
and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Side note: Ok, I didn’t know what “propitiation” meant either! For twenty years this verse ran around in my head, and I had no idea! Who does? Theologians I guess! Well, thankfully more modern translations of the Bible (like The Message— which my good friend and mentor Mike refers to as the “Yo’ God! Bible”) explained it for me. In case you are in the dark like I was, it means: “atoning sacrifice.”
I guess the bigger point is, the verse stuck— and it’s where I go to get “unstuck.” When I struggle with the reality of my sins I run to this verse. I remember I am forgiven and loved. Loved beyond my wildest expectations by a God who gave everything to snatch me out of darkness and ransom me from the depths of hell to the heights of Heaven.
In Him I can find strength to face my short-comings. In Him comes the healing touch that covers over my guilt, covers over my wounds, and makes me new and whole again. Through Him comes the transformation that destroys the pattern of sin in my life and allows me to wholeheartedly pursue the mission He has set before me…
In these words: Not that we loved God, but that He loved us…
Herein is love, not that I loved God, but that He loved me….
He loved me anyway.
You Loved me Anyway, Sidwalk Prophets, These Simple Truths, 2009
Film Clips, The Passion of Christ, 20th Century Fox, 2004
1 Sidewalk Prohets, You Loved Me Anyway
2 John Chapter 21 v 14-19
3 Matthew Henry’s Commentary ont he Bible, John Chapter 21 v 14-19