May 29-June 4
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Let’s set the scene.
Jesus is at the last dinner with His disciples before His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. He announces to the men before Him that He will be betrayed by one of them. According to the account in John, Peter asks who will betray Christ.
26 Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.
27 And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.
None of the apostles caught on to the exchange, and they didn’t realize Judas was leaving the Passover to go and betray Christ. But Christ knew. Christ could see into the heart of Judas, and He knew that Judas had allowed Satan to enter there. Christ knew.
This is significant because the sop itself is significant.
A sop is simply a piece of bread that people used to scrape up the last of their food from their bowl. According to the institute manual for the New Testament, a host could give a sop to one of their guests as a gesture of respect and kindness. Christ knew that Judas was about to betray Him, but He offered one last extension of friendship before Judas chose.
Judas obviously rejected the extension and went on to betray Christ.
The heart of Judas
What happened here? How did Judas watch the same exact events as the other apostles but saw it in a completely different light? Why does that happen today? Why do some people look at the church and see distinct evidence of the Lord’s hand while others see a corrupt institution? Why do some people experience heartache and see a lesson where others just find bitterness?
What do we learn from the heart of Judas, and how do we utilize that knowledge to change our own lives?
I think it’s significant to note the fact that the apostles were completely unaware of Judas’ treachery. The scriptures very distinctly note this. Jesus tells Judas to make his choice quickly, and this is what occurs.
28 Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him.
29 For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.
This is important to highlight because it shows that Judas hadn’t started betraying Christ in little ways. He hadn’t actively started opposing Christ; his change of heart had happened so quietly that no one but Christ had known it occurred. There is much to be learned from this.
We all tell ourselves a story
King Benjamin warns us in Mosiah to watch ourselves and our thoughts. Our feelings and thoughts are powerful tools that can be used for us or against us. Being able to stay on the straight and narrow is going to require watching your thoughts and being aware of them.
In therapy, you are often taught that your thoughts do not control you. You are taught that if a negative thought comes into your mind, you can look at it calmly and non-judgmentally and let it simply pass by. You learn that your thoughts are not necessarily who you are. You can control your thoughts to align with your values and what you believe. You’re in charge of what stays in your mind.
I find it fascinating that King Benjamin taught this. Watch your thoughts. Observe them. What are your thoughts telling you and do you believe it? Is there a reason you believe that specific thought? Is there evidence to support that thought?
Let’s look at the example of Judas. When did his thoughts start to turn on Christ? I can’t imagine that if Judas had believed in who Christ was, and if Judas had allowed himself to partake in Christ’s love, that he would have betrayed him. Love changes a person. No. Judas had told himself a story about Jesus. We don’t know exactly when this started.
Judas held the purse. Perhaps he didn’t understand some of the financial choices that Christ made and began to tell himself that Christ was selfish. We know that Judas didn’t like the fact that Mary used her expensive ointment for the Savior. Maybe Judas had chosen to believe that Christ was self-aggrandizing because He let Mary honor Him. There could have been a million small decisions that Judas made within his mind about who he believed Christ was.
When Mary used the expensive ointment on Christ, what if Judas had watched his own thoughts? What if, instead of criticizing, he took a step back and saw the love and devotion between Mary and Christ? What if he had opened his eyes and thought, “Wait a second…if this really is the Christ, then I should probably be falling down to worship Him as well.”
Let’s also look at the sop exchange.
What did Judas think when Christ offered the sop to him? We can’t know for sure, but we know it wasn’t pretty. Maybe it was something like this: “What a joke. You’re going to sit there and announce that someone is going to betray you, and then you’re going to pretend to be my friend? Why do you pretend like you care about me?”
What if Judas had chosen to examine the situation a little further? What if he hadn’t been so secretive and ashamed? What if he had decided to look Christ in the eye? Would Judas have been able to believe that Christ didn’t love him? Would Judas have continued to tell himself the same story about Jesus?
Look a little closer
When we find ourselves with negative judgments about any given situation, we don’t have to immediately dispel them. That would probably actually be unwise. Rather, we need to recognize those thoughts and judgments for what they are: the fallible thoughts of a fallible person. And if the situation calls for it, we can look closer. We can choose to examine it closer.
Some people may take that and decide to take an aspect of church history and hyperfocus on it. Perhaps they will look at a presumed flaw or doctrinal question, and they will magnify it. That’s not exactly what I’m suggesting. Maybe Judas could have looked back on everything that happened with Christ and still have chosen the same perspective. No. What I’m actually suggesting is that you should look to Christ and see if you can find love there. No matter what story you’ve told yourself or what doubts you’ve nurtured, I sincerely believe that if you set those aside (you don’t even have to set them aside completely, you’re allowed to have questions and uncertainties) and look for Christ’s love, you’ll find it. And when you do, you won’t feel the same pain associated with your doubts. You’ll feel peace, and you’ll feel that Christ will take care of every individual.
So what does that look like? How do we look for love in the Savior?
Let’s say your issue is with polygamy. I use polygamy because I know this is a common and painful issue for a lot of us.
What is the true issue with polygamy? When we look at polygamy, what story do we tell ourselves? Do we tell ourselves that polygamy is proof that women are second class citizens in heaven? That Heavenly Father must not really love or value women? Do we feel like we’re only appreciated for our ability to bear children? Do we see systems of abuse? Once again, we don’t have to turn a blind eye to these scary thoughts. We don’t have to push those doubts to the back of our mind. Rather, observe your thoughts. Surely polygamy has been used for abuse all throughout history; there are grounds for those fears and so we don’t need to be ashamed for questioning. Instead, recognize yourself as a fallible person with fallible thoughts and then turn to the Lord.
You don’t have to pretend that this (or any) issue isn’t difficult in order to look more closely at the Savior. Judas would not have had to abandon all of his doubts in order to look into the eyes of the Savior as he was offered that sop. Rather, pour out your heart to the Savior. Tell Him exactly how you feel. Tell Him why you struggle with it so much. Ask Him to help you see what the reality is. And then please open your scriptures or turn on a General Conference talk or listen to uplifting music. I have often heard stories about people praying and feeling peace immediately. I can assure you that this is not often the case. It is the exception, not the rule. Speak to your Heavenly Father and then open an avenue for Him to respond to you, and be willing to be patient for a little bit. Sometimes Heavenly Father likes to have a little time so He can prepare us to receive His answer.
Ask Him if you matter. Ask Him if every pain can eventually be healed. Ask Him if there is a true happy ending for everyone who follows Him. The response you will receive may not answer your questions completely, but if you choose to hold onto the love He wants to give you, you will trust Him enough to be patient until everything else is revealed.
I know He answers prayers and loves us. I know that He is Someone you can trust and wait on. I know that everything will make sense someday.