147 students slaughtered last Thursday in a Kenyan university.
62 children killed in fighting in Yemen over the past week alone.
Violence. Revolutions. Drones. Airstrikes. Beheadings.
How do we continue to find hope in a world being torn apart by violence?
How do we overcome the impending sense of despair at the state of our world?
There is a curious passage at the beginning of Acts that has been a source of encouragement for me in the face of escalating violence around the world.
In Acts chapter 1, Luke the doctor describes Judas' gory death in terrible detail. Surprisingly, this weird little story gives me hope.
It seems that Judas Iscariot was driven crazy with guilt after his betrayal of Jesus. He took the 30 silver coins - the blood money weighing heavy in his pocket - and bought a field where he hung himself (Mt 27:3-8).
But even in death, he screwed up majorly. Luke describes the unfortunate act like this:
"falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out." (Acts 1:18)
Seems the rope broke or the branch broke, or something went very wrong and poor Judas fell to a painful death - his insides dashed upon the rocks. That field came to be known as the Field of Blood. Pretty gruesome - a bitter epilogue to the Easter story.
So, why does Luke insert this ugly little episode right here, in the middle of the opening scenes of the book of Acts?
The verses before and after give us a clue, and offer hope for those with eyes to see.
Peter, (who also betrayed Jesus but has found forgiveness), is laying out the BIG picture. He speaks with power and hope about the ancient plan of God described in Scripture:
"Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David..."
Then, after the violence of Judas' death is described, Peter continues with his unpacking of God's oversight of history:
"For it is written in the Book of Psalms, 'May his camp become desolate and let there be no one to dwell in it'; and 'Let another take his office.'" Then they go on to choose a replacement for Judas.
I'm a Big Picture guy and I appreciate how Peter describes the sweeping arc of history, showing us that God is an even Bigger Picture God.
The evil and violence of Judas' death was never God's ideal plan - but here Luke sandwiches it between pointing out in verse 16 that “the scripture written centuries before had to be fulfilled” and the fulfillment of that prophesy 10 verses later.
What I take from this passage is that nothing - NOTHING - can stop the forward movement of God's Kingdom of love.
Not war. Not evil.
Not drone strikes.
Not executions. Nothing.
The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice, Martin Luther King Jr. tells us. And I believe it.
I see it right here at the beginning of Acts. And that's why I hold onto hope.