Last Wednesday began like any other day. I woke up, worked out, showered, updated my blog, got dressed, and headed out for another day at work. Upon getting into my truck, however, I noticed I was low on gas. "No big deal," I thought to myself. "There's a gas station on the way to the church. I'll just stop there." But when I arrived at the station, and when I reached into my back pocket for my wallet, I noticed something: there was no wallet! Apparently, I had forgotten it at home.
Now usually, mornings are my favorite part of the day. I am a faithful - some might even say a neurotic - early riser. And because mornings are my favorite part of the day, I almost always wake up in a good mood, anxiously anticipating a new day's prospects. Such was the case with my new day last Wednesday. But with the discovery of an empty back pocket, my mood shifted radically and immediately. My face grimaced. My fists tightened. "I can't believe this!" I grumbled gruffly under my breath. "Now I have to go home, get my wallet, and drive all the way back. I'm losing twenty minutes and getting absolutely nothing accomplished. This is so frustrating!" So much for my usually cheery morning disposition.
In our reading for today from Matthew 27, we encounter one of Scripture's most tragic stories: that of Judas. In the previous chapter, Judas, disillusioned by Jesus' ostensible unwillingness to rebel against the Roman establishment and militarily lead the Jews to sovereign statehood, agrees to betray Jesus into the hands of his enemies in the religious establishment for the paltry price of thirty pieces of silver (cf. Matthew 26:15), the meager fine in the Old Testament exacted from someone whose bull had gored a slave to death (cf. Exodus 21:32). But Judas, who was at first comfortable with the deal he had cut, when he realizes the full horror of Jesus' fate, is "seized with remorse" (verse 3). "I have sinned," Judas laments, "for I have betrayed innocent blood" (verse 4).
The Greek word for "seized with remorse" is metamellomai, literally meaning, "to have a change of mood." In other words, like my morning mood, Judas' mood too shifted quickly. Sadly, a change of mood does not always indicate a change of heart. No, a change of heart is denoted by the Greek word metanoia, most often translated as "repentance." And repentance is not just a feeling, it is a turning - a turning from old ways of sin to new ways of righteousness; a turning from old ways of betrayal to new ways of trust. Tragically, we never hear of Judas metanoia-ing, only of him metamellomai-ing.
When my mood dramatically shifted from satisfied to sour last Wednesday, I must confess, I did not so much metanoia as I did metamellomai. For I did not take any preventative steps against forgetting my wallet in the future. Nor did I seek to clear my mind of its anger and make an intentional move toward peace and joy. No, my anger simply faded. Thus, although my wallet exploit may have changed my mood, it did not change my heart.
So it is with Judas. His betrayal may have changed his mood, but it did not change his heart. And this is the true tragedy of Judas' story.
When it comes to our sin, we are called not to changed moods, but to changed hearts. Indeed, the very heart of Jesus' gospel is, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near" (Matthew 4:17). In other words, we are not just to feel bad because of our sin, but are to recognize that we are bad because of our sin and in need of a righteousness only Jesus can give. And this, finally, is the beauty of repentance: it moves us to despair of our own sin and trust in Jesus' righteousness.
So today, is there anything for which you're feeling bad? Don't just be moody; instead, lay your transgressions at the foot of the cross. For this is repentance. And while feelings may be fickle, repentance results in redemption - no matter what our mood might be.