I am still finding myself caught up in a moment from a couple of weeks ago, when we were asked by Revd Sam Corley to turn to John 22.
He waited for us to return our gaze, after finding the inevitable,
“There are missing chapters in these scriptures because people close doors.” He said.
At the end of John, Jesus is reconciled with Thomas – ‘Doubting’ Thomas who is perhaps the first theologian, who knows that a Risen Messiah will only mean anything if still marked with the wounds of his Passion – and Peter – Peter who has denied Jesus three times, who has doubted so many times before but finds confidence to return.
No such reconciliation comes for Judas. Judas who thinks he is moving things along and hangs himself from a tree. Judas, no more of a sinner than Thomas or Peter. Judas, whose story of reconciliation is never recorded, remains a missing chapter.
I’ve left this two weeks now, unsure what to say.
But I think perhaps that is the point. Scripture doesn’t shrink from its missing chapters.
Jesus ministers to Thomas with his wounds.
Here is a God who knows the heartache and pain of reconciliation. Who asks us to step into the same line of work, that others might end up with their own chapters in the Book of Life.
“There are missing chapters in these scriptures because people close doors.” — which people? Was he saying that Judas closed a door by killing himself, and thereby making it impossible for Jesus to bring him back?
He was saying there should have been an earthly reconciliation between Jesus and Judas, in that same time period as between Jesus and Thomas, Jesus and Peter.
We are always welcomed, always wanted, but we don’t always make the choice to accept that welcome.
This is not to say the people through the ages who have shut doors won’t be reconciled in the end.
There’s a beautiful part of Rowan Williams’ ‘Holy Living’ which I think expresses the same thought the other way round. Williams says ‘Christ is killed every day by the injuries we refuse, by what we will not let ourselves feel and know, by the risks we refuse, by the involvement we refuse’. He lists examples, including Judas but also the dutiful son who returns to his father, the secret disciple who emerges to bury Jesus etc.
In one sense there is no shame in this, because these are people who have counted the cost and found it too high – and they know the pain of doing so, and of recognising and confronting their own limitations. This is more than many of us ever truly do.
We are left with a challenge in both directions – can we have confidence in Christ’s death and offer of reconciliation? And can we do this while fully accepting the price this will lead us to pay in our own lives?
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