Practicality Obscures the Divine

During Lent I decided to reread a book that I first read 7 or 8 years ago called The Day Christ Died by Jim Bishop. I remember thinking it was a great book the first time I read it and wanted to see if I could discover anything new given the greater understanding I have of the Bible now. This book is an hour by hour account of the last supper through Christ’s crucifixion. It is based primarily on the Gospel accounts, but the author also draws on other historical information that is available to us. In addition to each chapter that covers an hour of time, there are three background chapters on “The Jewish World,” “Jesus,” and “The Roman World.” These background chapters are full of information that help bring the Gospel story to life for those of us so far removed from what life was like at that time. The author admits that he has taken some liberties with the narrative of the story, but has never written anything that contradicts the essential facts of the Gospels.

I was planning to read the whole book and then do a review, but I should know by now that never works for me. As I’m reading through a book, some part of it will get me thinking and inspire a blog post. That’s what happened with this book. I’m only a third of the way through and I already came across something I want to share my thoughts on.

The chapter that got me thinking was the one involving Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Jesus. I’ve often thought about Judas and wondered how he could spend so much time with Jesus and then betray Him. I know his betrayal of Jesus was necessary to fulfill prophecy, but I am still fascinated by how someone can witness all that Jesus did and hear all that He said, living with Him day and night for almost 3 years, and clearly not understand who He truly was.

Bishop sheds some light on the state of mind of Judas:

A man devoid of faith, like Judas, needs something to sustain him, to nourish his emotional life, and most men in his position boast of their practical side. Judas was practical. As one of the original twelve, he had subscribed to Jesus as the Messiah as long as there was a good living in it. And for the money-keeper of this fervent enterprise it was a good living indeed, because hundreds and then thousands came to believe that this man Jesus was indeed he whom it had been predicted Yahweh would send to Israel. This being the case, the rich recruits to the cause not only knelt before him and wept or begged for forgiveness or kissed the hem of his dusty garment, but they would not be satisfied until they had contributed their wealth to the furtherance of the Messiah.

At times, in the presence of miracles such as the recent one of raising Lazarus up after he had been in the tomb four days, Judas must have half believed in Jesus. But then his practical side told him that such things were in the nature of Egyptian magic, as everyone knew, and Judas believed that there was collusion between Jesus and Lazarus and Jesus and the other beneficiaries of miracles. It was a good scheme to be allied with, as long as it flourished. And Judas remained with it exactly that long. The Day Christ Died, pg. 65.

I think there are people like Judas in the Christian church even today. They don’t fully believe in the divinity of Christ. They may not end up being traitors like Judas, but they are really only in it for the practical benefit it provides. When the going gets tough, when they have to sacrifice something in order to hold onto their faith, they will find they have no faith in anything but themselves. When it is no longer practical to remain a Christian, they are going to walk away.

In the parable of the sower that Jesus told as recorded in Matthew 13:1-23, people like Judas are those who are like seeds that fall among the thorns. “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.” Matthew 13:22 (NIV).

Judas missed out on the joy that the other disciples felt at the resurrection because his practical nature wouldn’t allow him to accept the divine nature of Christ. He simply couldn’t trust that Jesus was who He said He was and that the plan that was to unfold concerning His death was the best possible course for the sake of humanity.

Are you missing out on the joy of knowing Christ’s love because you can’t accept His divinity? Is practicality preventing you from trusting that He was who He said He was and that His sacrifice for your sins is the best thing that ever happened? The end of the story with Judas was that he felt the weight of the guilt of his betrayal without ever knowing the forgiveness that Christ freely offered, and he hanged himself to be lost forever. Don’t let practicality cause your story end without knowing Christ’s love and forgiveness.

I am a Jesus Freak, and I don't care who knows it. I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, daughter, and friend. My blood family is only part of the larger family of Christ that I belong to. I love to write, especially about my dear Savior.


8 Responses

  1. Hi Linda,

    After reading this blog last night, my devotions this morning included a passage from Colossians which seemed to fit your comments beautifully – especially from 2: 23 to 3:15. I’ll quote just a few – (23: “these rules may seem good … but … they only make him proud. ( 3:2-3), Let heaven fill your thoughts; don’t spend your time worrying about things down here. You should have as little desire for this world as a dead person does. Your real life is in heaven with Christ and God.” And so on through verse 15. The whole passage is a good contrast between practicality and spirituality.

    Btw, your bio says you’re a “recovering” lawyer. We’re curious what your legal specialty was.

    Best wishes.

    • Pete, That passage from Colossians does fit nicely with this post. Thank you for adding that. Jesus said we are to store up treasures in heaven, and not get entangled with earthly treasures that keep us from God.

      As for my legal specialty, I’m not sure I really ever had one. I did some construction law and debtor-creditor stuff in my first associate position, and after that did a lot of work on a contract basis for various other attorneys – anything from appellate briefs to family law motions to appearing in bankruptcy court. But I’ve actually been in legal publishing for more than half of my legal career, and that’s what I do now.

      What I really want to do is be a writer and inspirational Christian speaker. I can see where God is laying the groundwork for that, and has been doing so all throughout my life. I don’t know when it will happen, but I trust God is in control. Peace, Linda

  2. Thank you for always revealing more of Jesus and encouraging us in our devotion to Him here. This gave me more insight into Judas too. Wondering when he saw what he thought was the end of his prosperity, that that caused him to turn Jesus in, and at least make some money from that. Now thinking about how often I let practicality kill what the Holy Spirit would desire in me?
    God bless you and draw you ever closer!

    • Deb, I don’t want to let practicality stop me from seeing Jesus for who He really is or to miss what the Holy Spirit desires in me, either. I still feel sad for Judas, but he made his choice and put money first. I don’t ever want to do that. Peace, Linda

  3. Thank you, Linda

    This speaks volumes … Judas didn’t know the ‘end’ was only the beginning but we are fortunate that we know the whole story.

    Praying we will see through His eyes and that experience the wondrous offer born of the Father’s love for us.


    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I’m glad I could give you something to reflect on. When you think about it, what Jesus did for us wasn’t practical at all – it was quite impractical and outrageous. That is what Divine Love is, something impractical and yet so wonderful at the same time. Peace, Linda

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