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Holy Week Devotionals

Wednesday March 27

Matthew 26:14-16; 47-56

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How do you feel about Judas? It can be difficult to relate to him, to understand the motivation and the reasoning behind his actions and betrayal. Was it greed? Jealousy? Boredom? Fear? We probably won’t ever know. All we know is that Judas sold his friend for 30 pieces of silver and betrayed him with a kiss.

How do you think Jesus felt about Judas? If you’ve ever experienced betrayal from a friend or a loved one, you know the pain it causes. Francesca* was betrayed by a friend in one of the worst possible ways – you can read her story below.

Jesus is human and must have felt deep heartbreak at Judas’ betrayal. And yet, in chapter 26 verse 50, right after Judas has betrayed him, Jesus does something almost incomprehensible and calls him ‘friend’. Even as the sting of betrayal buries itself deep in his heart, as he is handed over to torture and death by someone who had journeyed closely with him, Jesus offers friendship.

Even as he was hanging on the cross, betrayed, beaten, tortured, forsaken, Jesus prays: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).

Jesus died for Judas too.

The gospel tells us that Jesus died so that everyone who trusts in him will be forgiven. We know – in our heads, at least – that even the worst sinners, if they truly repent and come before God in humble contrition, are forgiven, able to approach God’s throne of grace with confidence.

The truth of the gospel is that even Judas, even those who have perpetrated the worst crimes imaginable… if they acknowledge their guilt, seek the mercy of Jesus, look to his atoning work on the cross, and turn to him… they are forgiven.

Of course, forgiveness of sin does not remove the consequences of sin – not for the perpetrator and particularly not for the survivor or victim of a crime. Judas feels the full weight of this as his friend is executed. He is filled with remorse and ends his life (Matthew 27:1-5). Forgiveness of sin does not remove the consequence of sin. We must still work for earthly justice. That’s why IJM works with law enforcement and through local courts to see people held to account for their crimes and prevented from harming others in the future.

But that does not negate this fundamental, eternal truth: those who turn to God in repentance – no matter how severe their crime – will find mercy.

2023 marked 250 years since the words of the hymn Amazing Grace were first heard in public. The author of this hymn, John Newton, understood something of the scandal of the cross. Before he became a clergyman and hymn-writer, John Newton worked on a slave ship during the transatlantic slave trade.

During the voyage home after one journey, the ship was caught in a storm and almost sank. Paralysed by fear, Newton prayed, ‘Lord, have mercy on us.’ The cargo in the ship miraculously shifted to fill a hole in the ship’s hull and the vessel drifted to safety. It was at that point that Newton converted to Christianity.

Many years later, he would pen the words to Amazing Grace and publish a pamphlet renouncing the slave trade.

‘Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.’

Jesus died for us. He died for you. He died for John Newton. He died for the perpetrators of the worst crimes imaginable.

Jesus died for Judas, too.


Listen to the song Amazing Grace.


Use the words of Amazing Grace as a prayer for yourself, for those who feel that they are beyond the mercy of God and for those still caught in the clutches of sin and death.

Francesca's story

*Please note that this story contains descriptions of sexual violence.

Francesca* knows the deep pain of being betrayed by a friend – and the courage and sacrifice it takes to forgive.

When Francesca was just 17 years old, her friend María* invited her away to the beach for a few days.

What Francesca thought would be a teenage escapade ended up turning into her worst nightmare. Maria tricked her and Francesca was trafficked into sexual exploitation.
“She disappeared and never spoke to me again. Maria sold me,” Francesca remembers with sadness.

 For hours every night, men paid to sexually assault Francesca. With no money and no way of contacting her family, Francesca was trapped in this unimaginable situation for months. 
But one day, she managed to get access to a phone. She bravely took the risk of calling a family member, who contacted the authorities.

Thanks to the information Francesca provided, the Dominican Police and IJM were able to locate her and bring her to safety, along with nine other minors and one young adult. 
“There was a moment when they told me they were going to take me to see my mum and dad. I finally felt safe again when I got to see them, and I finally felt comfort when they hugged me.”
Despite pressure to drop the case against the trafficker, who was a prominent political figure in the community, Francesca, supported by IJM and the Public Ministry, didn’t give up until he was sentenced to three years in prison.

Today, thanks to the support of IJM and partners, Francesca is brimming with hope, using her voice to advocate for those who still need freedom.

When asked about Maria, Francesca now says, “I forgave her. I do not hold a grudge in my heart. I leave it in the hands of God. He is the one who knows how to do justice.”
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