In the season we are in, we as believers in Jesus Christ are looking forward to Easter. Some are celebrating Lent, some are preparing various programs, as we look forward to one of the greatest religious holidays of the year. However, before we get to Easter, and all it represents, we must come via the cross. There would be no Easter were it not for the cross. My focus is, who is at the cross? Who are the people that are at this grisly scene of pain and death? Why are they there? Herod, a man placed by the Roman government to rule this section of the Empire was a part of the scene. Pilate, who was governor, in charge of keeping peace in Judea was there. It is he who said, “Take Him away and crucify him”. Annas was there, high priest of the Jewish nation. He was supposed to represent the Mosaic Law and be a spiritual leader, but he was there, agitating the crowd. They were all politically motivated for various reasons. 

But there was another group there whom I call the cynics. The cynic has only self-interest, who scoffs at truth. The cynic believes others are deceived and he tends to live in a delusional world. The cynic is arrogant and proud and seldom gives credit to anyone else. If he were to do otherwise, the cynic would lose his credibility. They are extremely difficult people to relate to because truth has lost its meaning. In a sense, Pilate became a cynic as he faced Jesus and asked, “what is truth”? That is the voice of a cynic.

As I look at the cross, I find two cynics who are present. One was more or less forced into the role because of his profession. The other one lost faith at some part of the journey through life. They found themselves in the vicinity of the cross that day for very different reasons. One was there because of his profession; the other one was there as a one-time follower and friend of Jesus.

The first cynic I see is the Roman Centurion. I do not know his name. He was there merely because it was his duty to oversee this grisly scene. This man had become a professional killer. This was not his first rodeo and death did not bother him. Later on, we find him playing a game at the foot of the cross with is fellow soldiers. He paid no attention to the cries of anguish. “ I have got a job to do”. There are some professions that force you into becoming a cynic. The marketplace wants to de-sensitize you. You do not do what is right, but you do what you must do.

That is not the case with the second cynic. He was not there in person, but it was he who had a large part in what is happening. It is tragic to follow the history of this man. Somewhere in life he had made a choice. Somewhere his attitude went off the tracks.  Somehow, everything he believed in, he began to mistrust. His perception of truth changed, and it made a huge impact on the direction of his life. Judas ends up betraying the very man that he had believed in. In my years of pastoring, I have found so many people that have become cynics. I ask “why?” Why did Peter not become a cynic? Thomas said, “Unless I see the nail print and the sword mark, I will not believe”, but he did not become a cynic. What happened to Judas?

I do not believe Judas was born to become a cynic. He was one who Jesus chose to be an Apostle. There was a time when he was a friend of Jesus. He had the confidence of his followers, as they put him in charge of the group’s finances. There must have come a day when he could not look Jesus in the eye. Was he disillusioned with Jesus? Was he hoping for more? Somewhere, seeds were sown in his mind and he began to walk a different path, though he was with the group of the Apostles. Nothing had changed on the outside, but there was a process of deception happening on the inside.

The journey into cynicism is illustrated out of history. Benedict Arnold was a very successful soldier in the colonial war for independence from the British. He distinguished himself under the command of General Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys during the battle and capture of Fort Ticonderoga in May of 1771. But in 1777 congress raised five of his colleagues to Major General and passed over him. They rewarded him by putting him in charge of West Point Academy. Clandestinely, he made arrangements to turn West Point over to the British. It was by accident that a British General was captured, and Arnolds plans were found in the boot of the British General. Arnold escaped and joined the British in New York city and fled to London. He had allowed the disappointment of not being promoted to fester into a wound that led to self-deception. He became a cynic.

Did something like that happen to Judas? Did he feel outside of the group because he was the only non-Galilean? Was he disappointed that Jesus was talking about death, rather than a restoration of David’s Kingdom? Was he a victim of unfulfilled expectations?  He began to steal from the treasury and thoughts of betrayal entered his mind. Rather than trying to fix the problem, he started to hate the very one he loved. That led him to the High Priest, and they struck a deal for 30 pieces of silver. That hatred led him to the garden of Gethsemane with a cohort of soldiers. He had said to them, “Take the man I kiss”. That is where cynicism took him.

Judas was not at the cross that day in person. After he had given Jesus the kiss, after he had gone back to the High Priest and collected his money, something awakened inside him and he realized what he had done. There is some debate how Judas ended his life, but we know guilt overcame him and he took his own life. In the words of Peter, “he went to his own place…”. Guilt makes a terrible bedfellow. Rather than going to the cross to watch the end of this man he betrayed, his guilt drove him into an eternity where all hope is gone.

It is so easy to drift into cynicism. Things happen in life that we cannot understand. Prayers are not answered. A loved one is taken, and we are left to grieve. The church disappoints me, and I associate it all with God. God is at fault. I still want to believe. I want to believe that God loves me, I want to believe what I read in the Bible. However, disappointment sets in, and anger over what I think should have been, now begins to control my life. I become a cynic.

Do not become like Judas and throw your life away. Come back to the cross and find the life that He has planned for you.

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