Sunday, July 14, 2019

A Place of My Own

One thing is absolutely certain: we are all going someplace when we die. It may be nowhere more exciting than the digestive systems of worms and soil microbes, thereafter to be distributed throughout the earth’s ecosystem over time, but it is certainly a place. Or places, if you prefer.

Biologically, we do not choose our place. It is imposed on us. Spiritually, however, we do; moreover, we testify to the choices we have made with every daily act we perform. Death makes all choice irrevocable.

This is true even when we are not aware we are making any choice at all.

His Own Place

“Judas turned aside to go to his own place,” says the book of Acts. Professing to be a disciple of Jesus, and chosen to be his apostle, he nevertheless opted for another course. He “turned aside”. He may or may not have been conscious of the moment he turned, but I doubt he was thinking too hard about exactly where that road led.

To the best of our knowledge Judas never heard about the other option. In the upper room, Jesus told his disciples:
“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself.”
But Judas had already left the supper. He missed that bit. The Lord said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly,” and he did. He couldn’t wait to get to it.

Private Property

The Greek word used for “place” by both Luke and John is topos. It refers to any portion or space marked off as distinct from the surrounding space.

We are living in a period of time where certain portions of the electorate cannot stop fussing about this inconvenient concept we call “private property”. Places marked off as “distinct” do not appeal to them. Allowing people to possess private property is unfair, they say, because it means nobody else can possess it. There is only so much world to go around, therefore private property is a zero-sum game. If I possess any individual piece of property, then by definition you do not. My gain is your loss. My “place” is by definition not your place.

Possessed of a similar mindset, and deeply concerned that he would somehow end up shortchanged if he entrusted himself to Jesus, Judas elected to prepare his own place himself. It seemed a whole lot safer. After all, the Son of Man had nowhere to lay his head. What was the likelihood he could provide for his followers in the style to which Judas had hoped to become accustomed? Who was watching out for poor Judas, if not Judas himself?

So Judas prepared his own place, as have many, many others throughout history.

Furnishing an Eternal Abode

That eternal dwelling was all his, no doubt about it. Along the way to taking possession of it, he proved he belonged there by stealing from the disciples’ common purse and carping about an expensive display of genuine love to Christ because he had not personally benefited from it. He sealed the deal when Satan entered into him. He went shopping for the furnishings of his eternal abode when he negotiated the price of betrayal with the chief priests. He opened the front door to “his own place” with the words “Greetings, Rabbi,” and world’s worst-ever kiss.

You could argue that Judas’ place was more truly his than the places now occupied by the other eleven disciples, or the places occupied by those who have followed in their footsteps throughout the passing centuries. After all, he chose it all. It reflected his character to perfection. He hand-selected every last eternal regret and customized each one to his own personal specifications. Why thirty pieces of silver, and not twenty-five? Why a kiss? Could there be anything more ironic? A hand signal would have done just fine. Why get up and go when instructed? Why not cling to the Passover table with both hands and beg to be forgiven?

But that was not who Judas was. He was the “son of destruction”, he behaved in accordance with his own nature, and he went to his own place, where he will surely be at home — if you can really call it that.

No Zero-Sum Game

On the other hand, Jesus Christ has gone to prepare a place for me. It’s mine, but I didn’t choose it, except kind of by accident. I chose him, and I got everything else along with him, including a room in the Father’s house. There is private property (“many rooms”, not “one really big room”), but unlike here on earth where resources are limited, my gain is not your loss. Eternity is no zero-sum game. The fact that I have a place does not mean there’s no room left for you, or that your enjoyment of Christ is in any way reduced by the pleasure I take in him. There are “many rooms”, more than enough, I suspect. Perhaps there are exactly the right number. If you love Jesus Christ there is absolutely “a place for you”, no matter who you are.

You did not design that place. You cannot even imagine it. You did not select the furniture or paint the walls. Why should you have? It is not in your house, it is in his. Nevertheless, it is a place for you. You will never be more at home than in the home God is preparing for you and for me. What does it look like? I don’t know. But I’m very glad I didn’t pick it or furnish it. Frankly, I wouldn’t yet know how. I haven’t a clue what real glory looks like or feels like. I realize there are choices I’m not remotely qualified to make, and rewards I have no right to covet or contemplate, except that they are already as good as mine in Christ.

A Place Prepared

The irony? The Father may hold title to the house where I’m going, but there’s a special place in it prepared for me. Meanwhile, Judas went to his own place, but one day soon he will be moving to a bigger one, with a sign on the door. It reads, “Prepared for the devil and his angels.”

In the lake of fire, Judas doesn’t rate a mention. In the final analysis, even “his own place” wasn’t really his after all.

1 comment :

  1. Excellent! Christ is the penultimate choice! And we don’t have to wait...we can enjoy Him now.