I’d swim across Lake Michigan
I’d sell my shoes
I’d give my body to be back again
In the rest of the room
To be alone with you….
Regret (n) – A feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over something that has happened or been done
Have you ever done something you’ve regretted? Something where you’ve wished wholeheartedly, achingly that could you turn back the clock and change it, take it back, say something different, run toward instead of away – or vice versa. We’ve all witnessed events where we’ve wished we could have intervened and changed its course. But it’s so much worse when you’re the cause of something, especially when you started something that took on a life of its own and the outcome was never your intent.
I don’t know what Sufjan Stevens had in mind when he wrote this song, but the longer I sit with it, the more I envision it as the voice of Judas.
Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching,and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present. – Luke 22:1-6
I wonder what Judas was really thinking when he went to the Pharisees. Did he know that they were trying to kill Jesus? Really? After all the time he spent with Jesus, all those years? Yes, a little earlier, Jesus rebukes Judas after Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with oil. The Gospel of John identifies Judas as the one who suggests that it was a waste of money. John also indicates that Judas was a thief, regularly stealing from the apostle’s coffers. When Jesus says “Leave her alone, it was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You’ll always have the poor but you won’t always have me,” did Judas feel more than the sting of rebuke? Did he think that Jesus realized he had been stealing all along?
Maybe. But is that enough to wish your friend dead? I wonder if Judas just wanted to the Pharisees to teach Jesus a lesson, take him down a notch, put him in his place (which is exactly what they did, ironically, and much to their own chagrin.)
You gave your body to the lonely
They took your clothes
You gave up a wife and a family
You gave your ghost
To be alone with me… to be alone with me you went up on the Tree…
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” Matthew 27:3
The Pharisees didn’t care much for Judas’ regret. “Not our problem,” they said. And when Judas realized their true intent, he went out and hanged himself. We always think of Judas as The Betrayer – which he was. I think we should call him Judas The Ruer. It’s a desperately sad chapter of the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
Sufjan’s song ends with this line: I’ll never know the man who loved me…
All of Jesus’ disciples could have sung that line. None of them actually expected Jesus to be crucified – even after he told them that’s exactly what would happen. How could they have lived with him so intimately for so long and still get the ending so wrong? And yet I cannot be too hard on them because I don’t know that I’d have been any different. I’m living on this side of the resurrection, so I already know how the story ends. For me personally, this song asks me to consider something entirely different: In my too busy, hectic, information-bombarded, task-oriented life, what do I give to be alone with Jesus? Do I know the man who loves me?