The Judas Tree

From my spot on the couch, you can see our neighbor’s Judas tree poking up over the fence this time of year. The pink blooms dance in the wind and announce the arrival of the Easter season.

You’ve probably seen plenty of them recently too. A Judas tree is nothing more than a redbud. Eastern redbuds are native to North Carolina. You can spot them all over the place in early spring.

Like many others, I associate redbuds with the Passion of Jesus. I suppose that’s because I heard the legend of the Judas tree when I was young.

Not everyone is familiar with the legend, but most of you probably know the backstory well. It’s the story of Judas Iscariot.

Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss for thirty pieces of silver. He then attempted to return the money to the chief priests upon learning Jesus was to be crucified.

What does that have to do with redbuds? According to the legend, everything.

In ancient times the redbud species grew tall and strong like an oak. Its flowers were pure white and fragrant. The blooms delighted people who shaded beneath the branches and used them in celebrations. This continued until the crucifixion of Jesus – when Judas hung himself from a redbud limb.

People’s contempt for the traitor caused them to abandon their reverence for the beautiful tree. They derisively called it the “Judas tree” and stopped gathering in its shadow for festivities.

The tree, saddened and disgraced by the touch of Judas, grew weak and spindly. Embarrassed by the betrayal of Jesus, it blushed – turning its snow-white flowers pink with shame.

It’s a sad legend, yet the sight of a blooming Judas tree fills me with hope. The betrayal of Christ led to the crucifixion, but more importantly, it led to the resurrection. To me, the pink blooms of the redbud are a beautiful reminder of our salvation.

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