Go and sin no more. His words are gentle, understanding. He walks with these people. He eats with these people. These people sin. And he loves them.
He’s here to save them.
The righteous don’t need my help. Just these poor, sweet sinners.
His friends: Prostitutes. Tax collectors. Adulterers. Wife beaters. Thieves. Even murderers who hang next to him.
There is a commonness, an earthiness to the sins these people commit. Sins of the flesh. Sins of greed. Sins of need and want.
But there’s a line in the work of salvation of Jesus. Or perhaps there is more than one line, or the line just has varying depths and widths.
Here are the common folk.
And here are the hypocrites. The fools. The vipers. The ones who, in the eyes of Jesus, should be feeling the licks from the flames of hell on the soles of their feet right about now.
I often wonder when I hear the phrase, I am here to save the sinners, just what is the deal with the Pharisees? Did Jesus come to save them?
Because if he did, he seems to be having a mighty hard time coming around to this mission of his on their behalf.
Because if being liked by Jesus is a necessary element of salvation, then there is slim to no chance of salvation for the “professional” classes of his day.
And what are these such great sins that turn the mild, mostly sweet-tempered Jesus into a growling spitter of insults?
There’s being judgmental of sinners.
It’s OK to sin, according to Jesus. But it’s not OK to judge these sinners.
Is judging sinners that much worse than drinking too much and picking your neighbor’s pocket because it was right there. I mean, just sitting there. Poking out. Just begging me to take it.
Because we know Jesus didn’t just go around forgiving the everyday streetwalker of his day. He partied with her. He laughed and ate and shared his stories of the road with her.
Where is this fraternization with the priests of his day? Wouldn’t you think that those would be the men Jesus would want to hang out with, go over subtle matters of theology with?
There’s this whole clean hands thing. I’d eat with you, Jesus, but you’re gross. You going to pick up that chicken leg with the same hand that you just picked your nose with?
Most mothers today would have to agree with that level of fussiness.
But Jesus doesn’t just gently apologize, get up, and wash his hands. He doesn’t even calmly explain that he, being God and all, is beyond the concept of filth. That he’s clean through-and-through.
We all are, he says, in the eyes of God.
No. He sweeps them away with his hand and with his words. Under the rug you go, you scum!
His reactions to these men, to their fussiness, their obsessions about what God would or would not want at any given moment, are always just this side of extreme.
For me, it’s not such a mystery.
In my book, in the eyes of God, there are two major damning sins: presumption and immodesty. With both having definitions that are far-ranging and challenging.
But an easy way to apply the accusation of the sin of presumption to these fine men is that, invariably, when they speak out against Jesus, they speak out in the name of God. They represent God as the true opponent of Jesus.
They decide who deserves the love of God. They decide how meals are to be taken. How rituals are to be expressed. How society will function.
Well, someone has to, doesn’t someone?
But they always do it in the name of God. And they are always right.
Right about God.
They’re talking to Jesus, telling him he’s wrong. And they, who truly know God, are right.
To think you know the mind of God is presumption.
I’ve watched arguments on the internet between one group that says we should not vote for any law that would help the poor because God never tells us that our government should do the work of charity. And another who assert that God wants everyone to get what they want from the government.
It’s all just a bunch of presumption.
And as far as I can see, when judgment comes down, it’s people who have spent their whole lives telling other people just what God does and does not want that are going to be really, really surprised by the outcome.
But what about those guys over there? The ones with the blood on their hands?
Answer: you weren’t listening.
You just weren’t listening.
Of course, the thickest, blackest line between the ordinary sinner-man and the threat of no salvation comes after the Pharisees and right before Judas. And Caiaphas. And Herod. And Pilate.
The men who brought about the ultimate expression of Jesus’s divinity.
It is an odd twisting of fate, or surrender, or evil.
Judas truly thought he was doing something good. Jesus was going to ruin everything. He thought that this was a battle, and that he and Jesus were now on opposite sides of the line and that, as a warrior in this battle, it was his duty to take down his enemy.
But it was more than that.
And it only took a few coins and a bit of time for Judas to get just how much more of that that it truly was.
Where is the salvation of Judas?
What happens when one takes such a flight of presumption – that he knew what he was doing was right in the eyes of God – that one ends up turning his soul inside out, with no hope of return?
Judas is caught in this amber of irony: in one small act he both serves God in his ultimate plan for his son, and he goes against God in the most profound way possible – betrayal.
If Jesus is our means of salvation, who forgives Judas? Who looks at him, pats him on the back, and advises him to go and sin no more?
Where is the hand to pull him up out of the darkness he is lost in and the love to restore his soul?
I think it’s too easy for us to sit and pick out sinners we secretly (or not so) want to check off the list for God, just to make it easier on him when the time comes. But, in truth, what is difficult is spending no time presuming that we know how God looks at sin, how God orders his methods of salvation.
All we really have is the prism that holds the soul of Judas tightly within it to watch as it spins ever so slowly in the light of God, letting us get a glimpse of the colors of God, if we even have the ability to see its light.