It has taken me several days this time to navigate my way through the last few chapters of the Gospel of Matthew. Part of it is due to time, other aspects of it relate to the content.
When I came to 27:3 about Judas I paused again and wondered why it is that most people will not consider Judas’ “repentance” as genuine. Some scholars use verbal gymnastics meticulously defining the use of “metamelomai” versus “metanoeo” but that dog won’t hunt. Others say it is because his repentance was not toward God, but inward grief, as a result he hung himself. Translated as anyone who commits suicide surely cannot be truly repentant.
Don’t most of us, in some sense, even after repenting and turning to God, have some lasting personal agony over the things we may have done that lead to that repentance? Part of it may be a result of our own unbelief regarding our behavior – “how could I have done such a thing?” – Or part of it may be overwhelming guilt that leads to depression. A condition many people refuse to acknowledge or attempt to understand.
I tend to side with Judas’ genuine repentance. But more than that my desire is to understand his response and this “demon” called depression. Here is a short article I’ve written on that subject.
Dressed and in his right mind. That was the condition of the Gerasene demoniac as Jesus left him. (Luke 8:26ff)
Demon possession is not something that people are comfortable talking about these days. Nor is it a common occurrence in this culture. Nevertheless, people who are not in their right mind is more common than one might expect.
Severe depression can put a person in such a state of mind that there is nothing “right” about it. Conducting a life under the burden of that affliction can often be masked, but never controlled. It is as though the body is outside itself looking on as the activities of daily living are carried out.
Unlike the Gerasene man possessed by demons, the person suffering from acute depression is not chained to a wall naked and erratic; In their mind perhaps, but seldom in reality. The only suffering that goes on goes on within the confines of their own distorted reality. Their lifeless form simply mimics living since they know what it was like and can repeat it as though by rote.
It is easier for people to understand demons than to understand the depressed. You can describe demons and put a form to something imaginary. With depression, the imaginary has no form. The mind cannot wrap itself around anything coherent. People find it difficult to accept because there is no rash, no oozing sores, nor fever to control. It is simply there. It is not as though the severely depressed are crazy. They are not. They are merely tormented by their own lack of meaning or purpose.
At worse those of us who suffer from this condition hope that the right combination of medicine and, if needed, counseling will help to bring it under control. At best an encounter with the healing power of Christ could help us find ourselves dressed and in our right mind. The combination of the two is most likely where the truth lies.
Should you encounter one of us, fear not. We seldom harm anyone but ourselves. However, love and understanding go a long way in our finding “normal” again.
Maybe Judas’ reaction does not fit our mold of the truly repentant. But then what gives us the right to make a mold in the first place. So don’t be surprised if you see him when you get to Glory.