"We may note . . . that [Jesus] was never regarded as a mere moral teacher. He did not produce that effect on any of the people who actually met Him. He produced mainly three effects—Hatred—Terror—Adoration. There was no trace of people expressing mild approval.” — C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock
We don’t get to pick the version of Jesus we will worship. We love him as he is. Anything else is idolatry. Anything else is fantasy. Anything else is less than what Jesus died for us to have. A man once followed Jesus, counted as one of his disciples. He was released to do works only Jesus could empower, and tasked with guarding the resources of their assignment. However, at some point on his three-year journey with the Messiah, he succumbed to the sickness of disenchantment. His life, which ended at Akeldama, or “the field of blood” (Acts 1:19) reveals both the limitations of our human perspective and Jesus’ invitation to complete trust.
But let’s take a step back from the famous fatality of his story, and observe the climate that seemed to surround him. How could life in proximity to the Source of all hope, all beauty, all joy, end with such anguish and despair? Could the poison of comparison have embittered his heart? Was his imagination captivated by a fantasy of a heroic monarch who would topple an oppressive empire? Did he see a disorienting contradiction in Jesus’ gracious response to Mary of Bethany pouring out precious oil to anoint his feet?
Fantasy tethers a person to a false vision. It takes up the space faith and hope should fill. When things don’t go as expected, spirals of disillusionment and disappointment unfurl. Someone is to blame. Although it’s tempting to blame God for not bringing about the good we imagined, if we catch a glimpse of reality in the mirror, it turns out we are the ones yielding to the seductive call of illusion.
When faced with the reality of Jesus, Judas’s allegiance to his own aims ended up blinding him, and he missed the story that he could have lived. Jesus stays away from our pigeon holes and boxes. He continually shatters our expectations. His kingship is established in truth and grace, not in meeting our expectations. He has an intention, a goal, a gravity in his every step and every decision.
Grief, pain, confusion, unmet expectations, and unanswered prayers tend to reveal the depths of our hearts—do we love Jesus for who he truly is, or the fantasy we’ve created?
Jesus was the King who toppled an oppressive empire, but contrary to Judas’s expectations that empire was not Rome, but sin, hatred, and, ultimately death. Jesus is not disappointing. He is the King who blasts our most exciting dreams to pieces and reveals a story rich with possibility, faith, and joy.
In the story of Judas, we grieve the false promise of the flesh and our desire for worldly gain. We also lift our eyes from the fantasy we built for ourselves, toward the One whose life provokes us to desire things that are more profound, more beautiful, more authentic, and more enduring than our minds can conceive.
When our fantasies shatter and we feel exposed, we can turn away in disappointment, or turn vulnerably toward Jesus and let his everlasting nature swallow up the make-believe and be our living, breathing, and resurrected hope.
Eniola Abioye is a California-based missionary, songwriter, and poet, collaborating with groups like Upper Room, Bethel, and Maverick City.
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