In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew chapter 10, Jesus chooses the 12 apostles.
[Peter and Andrew and James and John were brothers.]
James, son of Alphaeus
Simon the zealot
And … the one named last by Matthew …
I think the day Jesus chose Judas he went and told his mother the news. I would have.
“Son, are you sure about this?” came the voice of Judas’ mother, full of doubt. “People are worried about this new rabbi, Judas. He touches people with leprosy. Son, he touches their sores. It’s awful. He apparently talks to strange spirits living inside people. What kind of craziness is that, Judas? I don’t like what I am hearing. It scares me. And besides, son, you have my problem. You make decisions too quickly, not giving them enough thought. Son, would you please slow down, give it more thought, say your prayers, reconsider?”
“Mom, listen to me. This man has the answers to life. I am not being rash – like you! He speaks truth, and he has invited me to follow him. I already have told him ‘Yes.’ I cannot imagine doing anything else at this point, mom. I have made my decision. It’s done.”
“Well, okay son. It is your decision. Be careful. I’m not happy about it. Come and see me.”
“Mom, have I ever strayed far? I will come and see you. Promise.”
Of course, we know the story, don’t we?
That fateful evening came just before Jesus was arrested. Gathering with his 12 apostles, he shared with them a final meal and then sadly announced that one of the apostles would betray him.
The devil already had prompted Judas to betray Jesus, according to John’s gospel. That didn’t stop the other apostles from wondering aloud who the betrayer might be.
But Jesus knew it was Judas. And Judas knew it was him.
Then came those awful, poignant words: “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man. It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
Have more sobering words ever been spoken?
Sometime after Judas ended his life, I think those very words made their way all the way to Judas’ mother.
It’s not hard to imagine. So piercing were those words, the apostles surely told their own mothers. And surely those mothers then told their women friends who had come to the town well to gather water. And surely one of those women lived next to Judas Iscariot’s mother. And surely she told her those words the rabbi had spoken on that fateful night.
Powerful, prophetic, awful words like those spread quickly. This morning I imagined them landing inside the bosom of the very woman who gave birth to Judas Iscariot.
Imagine hearing those words? Let them sink inside for a moment. “It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
Are there mothers who would respond to those words by saying, “Yes, you are right. It would have been so much better if my boy had never been born. I wish I never had given birth to him.”
Perhaps, but none come to mind.
Hearing those words, surely the countenance of Judas’ mother dropped, her head turned side to side, and her hand covered her mouth as she said, “It would have been better if my son had never been born? It would have better if Judas had never been born? The one I gave birth to? The baby boy I nursed? The boy who played with the neighbor kids? It would have been better if that boy, that sweet boy, had never been born?”
I can only imagine that the poor woman carried those questions, and a host of others, to her grave.
“Oh, the depths of the riches and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out?” – Romans 11:33