In Dust and Ashes....
In complete contrast to Mary (the main character in week one of the Lent series), stands Judas. While Mary is known for her extravagant worship, Judas is famous for his treacherous betrayal. Mary couldn’t count the cost of worship, so she spent her money on expensive perfume and poured out her heart- along with the perfume-on her Savior. Judas, on the other hand, focused on counting his thirty pieces of silver, and withdrew his heart from the love and light that could ransom him. One was sold out for Jesus; the other was a sell-out.
Where do you hold your heart today? In open hands to be tenderly received by your Savior, or has your sweet heart been pushed into a corner by despair, brokenness, unforgiveness, disappointment and shame- locked up tight, where love and light are sparse?
The posture and position of our heart matters, and the good news is that our God specializes in the conditions of the heart.
The beginning of Judas’s fall is detailed in Matthew 26:14-16 where it says,
“Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?” And they gave him thirty pieces of silver. From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.”
The days leading up to Jesus’s crucifixion were ripe and full of activity. From streets filled with joyful shouts of Hosannah, to the garden- thick with sorrow, brokenness and betrayal, Judas walked along side of Jesus the whole time. I believe the pivotal point in Judas’s week wasn’t in the end, as he witnessed his only chance of redemption lifted up to die on a cross, but in the private moments of the Last Supper as he reclined and shared a meal with Jesus.
“When evening came he took his place at the table and dined with the Twelve. While they were eating, Jesus spoke up and said, “One of you is about to betray me.” Feeling deeply hurt by these words, one after another asked him, “You don’t mean me, do you?” He answered, “It is one who has shared meals with me as an intimate friend. All that was prophesied of me will take place, but how miserable it will be for the one who betrays the Son of Man. It would be far better for him if he had never been born!” ~ Matthew 26:20-24
Judas had every opportunity to repent that week. In fact, Jesus called out his sin without sugarcoating anything. But Judas remained hard-hearted and unrepentant. While the others, took Jesus’ words to heart, Judas sidestepped conviction and responded with, “Surely, you don’t mean me Rabbi?”
Judas refused to acknowledge his sin. He refused to allow conviction to penetrate through the layers of prideful self-preservation and break him.
This is intense and deeply powerful…..if we let it be.
We may not willingly betray God, but we certainly persist in some sinful patterns. It’s easy for us to rationalize rather than repent. The flesh does not like to be denied, we don’t like to be wrong, and we fear being broken. But the truth is, we all have a critical need to repent and allow our sins to break our hearts wide open for God’s restorative touch.
What is our response to the sin that’s within us? Is there something that God is convicting you about? Are there areas in your life that you are making excuses about and not allowing the gentle voice of conviction to move you to action?
Job 42:5-6 says, My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I take back everything and repent in dust and ashes.”
Ashes and dust….the symbol of our grief. As we walk the path of Lent, we mourn that we have sinned and separated ourselves from God and we are deeply saddened over the suffering Jesus endured when He died in our place.
But to God, “Dust doesn’t signify the end, dust is what must be present for the brand new to begin.” ~Lysa Terkeurst
The dust of our sin does not signal the end of our relationship with God- it’s symbolizes a new beginning.
God knows well the stuff we are made of. “He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13) and He delights to meet us in the ashes of our repentance. The problem is that too often, the Christian response is to pick up the broken pieces of our lives and, in our own strength, do our best to glue things back together. We don’t let the impact of our sins to go far enough.
We’re afraid to let them shatter us into dust, because we might not be able to put things back together- after all….you can’t glue dust.
But when God sees dust….. He sees a prospect for life and blessing.
Jesus Himself pronounced a blessing upon those who recognize their poverty of spirit and mourn the effects of sin on their life and in the world in Matthew 5:3-4. It’s clear that our brokenness doesn’t separate us from God. Instead, it causes Him to rush in and create a solution on our behalf.
He is just THAT good, and He is just THAT powerful.
Can we step away from inch-deep healing and faith-fall like pulverized dust into the arms of Jesus- the One who willingly endured the weight of the entire world’s sins on his body?
When God sees dust, He sees something He can create with and love.
In Genesis, the Bible says God picked up dust and breathed life into it, making us into His own image.
In Isaiah and Jeremiah we see how God the Potter, mixes dust with living water to form clay; and when clay is in God’s hands, anything can be made.
Throughout the whole New Testament we read about Jesus walking on dusty roads healing, restoring and recovering the lost- even spitting in the dust to form a miraculous paste to set the blind man free.
There is hope and life in the dust of our days…. May we be courageous enough to “take everything back, repent in our dust and ashes, and trust God to make something brand new out of it.