I don’t know what drives people to commit suicide. I’ve never been particularly tempted to take my own life. However, I imagine that the major cause of suicide is despair. Someone feels so hopeless; he feels that the situation is so beyond his ability to cope that there is no way out. Death is preferable to any other option he can see. So he chooses death as a way of escape.
This is probably why Judas hanged himself. Scripture tells us that when he realized the consequences of what he had done in betraying Jesus he was seized with remorse (Matthew 27:3). He went to the chief priests and elders and tried to undo what he’d done. When they refused to listen to him, Judas took his own life. I assume that he figured there was no way out. Death was better than facing the consequences of his actions.
The tragedy is that it didn’t have to be that way. What Judas failed to understand, even though Jesus had already told His disciples it would happen, is that Jesus was going to rise again on the third day. He didn’t realize that the very reason Christ died was so that our sins can be forgiven.
Peter also denied Jesus. The difference between Peter and Judas is that Peter allowed Jesus to forgive him. Judas never gave Jesus the chance. He took his own life before Jesus could forgive him.
As mistaken as Judas was, in another sense he was right. Dying really is the best option. Death is the only way to pay for our sin. The Apostle Paul explains it this way, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” (Romans 6:3-8 NIV)
If we’ve died with Christ, we have a new life. As horrible as our circumstances may be, we don’t have to give way to despair. We don’t have to let our remorse over what we’ve done drive us to suicide. Christ died so we might live. Christ died so that we can be forgiven. At the last meal Jesus ate with His disciples before He died, “...he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”” (Matthew 26:27-28 NIV)
When life gets tough, we need to remember that. That’s one reason why it’s so important that we take the Communion each week. It reminds us that there is no need to despair. It reminds us of the hope we have. Yes, Christ died but He rose again. We have new life in Him.
As we eat the bread which reminds us of Jesus’ body that was crucified for us; as we drink the juice which reminds us of Jesus’ blood which He gave for our forgiveness, let’s not be like Judas who gave in to his own despair. Instead, let’s give Jesus the opportunity to forgive us as He wants to do.