Lots of times we forget that at the time of Jesus’ birth, Judas the Galilean began his revolt against Rome. This began with cleansing the Temple, refusing to pay taxes, the crucifixion of Judas, and the continuation of his movement. In fact, this was the fourth large sect of Jewish people in the 1st century (after Sadducees, Pharisees, and Essenes), the Zealots.
This was a violent reaction to the Roman Empire. Judas’ followers did not disappear, but retreated into the wilderness until the time was right. They came back with a vengeance, started a revolution in 66, and were eventually trapped in the desert compound of Masada, and committed mass suicide rather than surrender to the Romans. Their revolt led directly to the destruction of the Temple.
We, as Christians, have to be careful we do not adopt the methods or goals Judas had, especially at this time of year. With the (real or imagined) war on Christmas, the societal shift on homosexuality, or any other number of issues, we can get angry–sometimes to the point of using militant language–and demand our rights. This is what Judas did.
Jesus was different. He held people to a higher standard. It did not matter what was legal or permissible or even acceptable in the sight of the culture around him. If it conflicted with the holy life to which Jesus called his followers, they simply did not engage in it.
The message of Jesus is Good News for the entire world. We need to make sure we proclaim it as such, not with angry rhetoric, but with peace on earth and good will towards all. This time of year people look at the Church who usually do not give it a second thought. Let us make sure we are following not Judas the Galilean, but Jesus of Nazareth.
Judas leads to death and destruction. Jesus leads to life and salvation.
Judas saw government as the enemy. Jesus saw sin as the enemy.
Judas fought violence with violence. Jesus fought violence with love.
Judas tried to redeem a nation. Jesus did redeem the entire universe.
Judas’ movement led to the destruction of the Temple. Jesus’ movement led to the creation of a Temple that spans the globe.
Judas’ movement died. Jesus’ movement still lives and grows.