|April 10-21, 2012: a Pound of Flesh Theatre production at The Cultch, design credit unknown.|
This morning I had the extreme delight of sitting in on the first read-through of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, written by Stephen Adly Guirgis and being produced by Pound of Flesh Theatre in association with Pacific Theatre, Neworld Theatre and presented by The Cultch and Rumble Productions.
Mostly I laughed. But I also began a lot of thinking; thoughts like "That's totally Jesus!" and questions like "Ummm, does Satan get to talk like that?" Yes that's right, this show has Jesus and Satan in it. And a flattery-prone councillor (reminiscent of an Arabic Mr. Bean), Sigmund Freud and of course, Judas Iscariot.
I have never before given much thought to Judas and his story. And the supposed unforgivableness of his actions, first the betrayal and then the suicide, hit me square in the chest. These are things that I, like many others, know too well but do not understand.
And then, all the air rushed out of my lungs, Satan just claimed that Jesus loves him. My brain bellowed with confusion and anger, "Lies!" But the parallel of Satan and Judas (potentially the two most hated and "doomed" biblical figures ever) began to emerge, gaining footing in my heart even while my brain lined up to take another swing at it. Satan, like Judas, knew God personally and then of his own free will (God's one creation flaw as Lu sees it) chooses self over God. Satan was cast out (or chose to leave) heaven, Judas chooses to leave Jesus and then, earth. And there sits Jesus, across the room from me and only a table away from Judas, pleading with him "I love you, I love you, don't close your heart to me, I LOVE YOU!" And Judas again rejects this redemptive hand-up, sitting in the pit of hell, he turns inward, believing self and tuning out Jesus.
And now I am left to wonder, does Jesus still love Judas? Judas who, repentance aside, betrayed him and then, overcome with despair, took his own life. And if Jesus loves Judas still, as he is and where he remains, could Jesus love Satan?
A frightening question to hear myself ask, but how else are we to exist, but to question, wonder, learn, believe. I don't think for a minute that God has any love for arrogance, deceit or selfish ambition. He has no room in his perfection for these things that repulse him. But does Jesus, who knows every temptation and human frailty, understand and if he understands, could he then still love the man that betrayed him? Does he wish Judas would just take his hands off of his ears long enough to hear his words "I love you, my brother, my heart, I love you"?
And then I wonder, if there is redemption for such a man, could there have been redemption for Satan? Is the fatal mistake that we all have the capacity and freedom to make really as simple as repeatedly rejecting God's sovereignty and lordship of the universe, of our lives? And if so, how different am I from Judas or even from Satan? I acknowledged Jesus once...but daily I retake the throne, determining how I will live, doing what seems right in my own eyes.
If grace is extended to me, even now as I am, who else does God extend his grace to? Who else would break his heart if they turned away, choosing eternal separation from him? Everyone? Every single one that turns away, choosing self over God? Heart breaks. And it should be mine.