When Leonardo da Vinci was painting his masterpiece, The Last Supper, he selected as the person to sit for the character of the Christ a young man who had the features that da Vinci associated with the Savior; full of joy, wisdom, love. Years passed before the great picture was completed, and when one character only — that of Judas Iscariot — remained to be painted, Leonardo noticed a man in the streets of Rome whom he selected as his model. With shoulders far bent toward the ground, having an expression of cold, hardened, evil, saturnine, the man seemed to afford the opportunities of a model terribly true to the artist’s conception of Judas. When in the studio, the profligate began to look around, as if recalling incidents of years gone by. Finally, he turned and with a look half-sad, yet one which told how hard it was to realize the change which had taken place, he said, “Maestro, I was in this studio years ago. I, then, sat for Christ.”
I don’t know if da Vinci’s story is true or not. But it doesn’t matter; what matters is what that story means.
Judas Iscariot is among the most bashed-on persons in Scripture -and with good reason. He was one of the twelve apostles; he listened and was taught by Christ our Savior; he walked with the Son of Man; he was friends with Love Incarnate. And still -after all that- he turned away from Love and handed Him over to be crucified.
We talk trash about Judas all the time; “how could he,” or “I pity him for letting the devil take control” or “why, I would never.” We look down and belittle him, trampling him over, using his name to portray that of a betrayer: “so, you were the Judas of the group.”
And it’s true; Judas let the devil take control. He was the betrayer among the apostles. But take care, brothers and sisters, of how you speak of Judas Iscariot.
For do we not turn against Love Incarnate? Do we not betray Him every day, without fail? In the words of Christ Himself: “…let the one among you who is guiltless be the first to throw a stone…”
Judas turned away from Jesus. We turn away from Him, also. Who are we to speak ill of Judas?
But that’s not to say that there isn’t an importance to Judas’ story. What’s important about Judas’ story, even more important than the fact that he handed Jesus over, even more important than the fact that he did it for money, even more important than the fact that he let the devil in, is this: Jesus Christ forgave him.
Jesus Christ forgave the man who handed him over to death.
If that doesn’t give you hope, I don’t know what does.
The story of da Vinci’s painting serves to illustrate how the world can twist you if you’re not deeply grounded in Christ. We can fall into despair; succumb to the devil. We can go well on our way to becoming Judas. But there will be a way to come back from that. We can sit in that chair, facing reality; that where we once sat for Christ, now we sit for something worth less than life. We can go to God; He is waiting for you to let Him show you that He has already forgiven you.
I don’t know if da Vinci’s story is true or not. But it doesn’t matter; what matters is what the story means.
Most of us get to a point in life where we’ve turned away from God, unable to forgive ourselves; where we’re becoming Judas. Let’s get to the point in life where we turn back to God, letting Him forgive us; where we’re striving to become like Jesus.
May our Maker bless you always,