Have you ever read a story about someone who does something spectacular? Now, it might be the wrong kind of spectacular that results in some crazy ending or it could be a great kind of spectacular that showcases the kindness or resilience of people. When I read these types of stories, I often find myself wondering how that person got to that point.
The same is true when I read today’s passage. How did Judas get to the point where he was willing to betray Jesus? When you think about it, it seems unfathomable that he could do that. He was part of Jesus’ inner circle. He spent more time with Jesus than almost anyone else. He witnessed Jesus’ miraculous moments: walking on water, healing people, driving out demons, and more. He was there when Jesus taught in astonishing ways and when He answered (and confounded) the Jewish religious leaders. He also heard Jesus explain His parables. As I look at Judas, I wonder how he could ever betray Jesus.
But consider the stress and pressure surrounding Judas. He was walking with a man who was challenging the religious norms of the day. And if we’re honest, we realize those who challenge the norms aren’t always the most accepted. Judas was being challenged to let go of what he knew in exchange for the unknown (the familiar is always more comfortable). He was being challenged by those with power and authority—that’s not easy or desirable. And at some point, Judas came to the question everyone has to answer: “Is following Jesus worth it?” We know Judas’ decision, and we label him a villain.
But if I’m honest, I’m more like Judas than I care to admit. I am weak and selfish. I am sinful and hateful. I look for comfort and convenience. I avoid confrontation. And, I too am faced with the question: “Is following Jesus worth it?”
Unlike Judas, however, I have the benefit of looking back at the cross. I can discover who Jesus is, what He accomplished through His death and resurrection, and the freedom found in Him that delivers me from my sinful and self-destructive decisions and behaviors. I find hope and forgiveness in Jesus, even if following Him leads me to uncomfortable places and situations. So, maybe the question we should ask when we read this passage isn’t: “How did Judas get to this point?” Maybe we should ask, “Is following Jesus worth it?”
Lord, I shudder to realize that I have the capacity to betray You like Judas or deny You like Peter. Please guard my heart and help me realize that you are worth following even at the expense of my own comfort or popularity.
Items Needed: pen & paper
Give each child a pen and paper. Ask them to write at the top of their page one thing they hope to do or be when they get older (i.e. be a professional athlete/dancer, run a marathon, develop a superpower, etc.) Brainstorm with them all the things they will have to do in order to do or become what they wrote at the top of their page (i.e. practice all the different moves for that sport, use a weight room, develop endurance, or get bitten by a radioactive spider.) After you all have brainstormed, ask them if they think all the work is worth it to become that person or do that activity. Have a conversation about their answer.
Flip the page over and write, “Follow Jesus.” With your children, brainstorm all the things they think it takes to follow Jesus. Based on what they say, be sure to use this as opportunity to speak about what it means to follow Jesus. After you finish brainstorming, ask them if they think it is worth all those things to follow Jesus. Use this as an opportunity to share why you follow Jesus and answer any questions they might have.
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