Iscariot – The Last Bison (2011, Quill)

Click on image to listen to song for free.

Today, we kick off an extended season of celebrating and examining songs about the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Much like December was dedicated to Christmas songs, I will attempt to do same thing in anticipation of Easter Sunday.

I begin this endeavor with a double feature about an unlikely song subject, Judas Iscariot.  We are used to hearing songs portray heroes and greatness, but perhaps we are not so comfortable with tunes about the despised betrayer of Christ’s saga.  As evil as Judas’ actions were, his role was important, ordained and useful to us today.  And we have two songs that declare these truths for us in splendid sound and instruction.

First up, The Last Bison.  This seven-member band of Virginians hone a very mountaintop-esque version of folk.  They are a young group on the rise with new stuff ready to be released in early March, I believe.

Their take on Judas Iscariot is one of embalming his final acts, their consequences for him, and how Jesus implemented good out of what was intended to accomplish evil.  Listen:

Woe unto you
Double crossing the Son of Man
For in the dish you have dipped your hand

Lo you come here
To deliver the deliverer
From simple kiss into tainted hands

Iscariot, Iscariot
The devil has you now
You’re set up for betrayal
Iscariot, Iscariot
The devil has you now
Your kiss tastes like a crown of thorns

I have used, I have used
Your unbelief, to set them free
So die now, die now my Judas

A sobering, naked portrait of the reality of a “Benedict” to God’s Son.  Yet, the closing phrase, “I have used your unbelief to set them free…” shows the redemptive quality of what took place between the Teacher and His once-close disicple.  Jesus and His Father’s plan for salvation was so much bigger than Judas’ betrayal or any other schemes unhatched by the devil in that day.  If He can master and sovereignly will His love to the cross for our sake, then surely anything we imagine as doubts or fears or inhibitions are less than what Christ can handle.

Furthermore, we can examine Judas’ heart in his horrible actions and ask honest questions about ourselves today, such as, “Am I reflecting a Christ-like image or a Judas-like image in my life?”

That is what Poor Old Lu seeks to do in this throwback grunge/rock tune from their glory days.  “Rail” (click on image below to listen) is admittedly not just a song about Judas, but rather a personal admission to God about the struggles of living out a Christian life.  These lyrics demonstrate that sometimes even close followers of Jesus have low moments:

Jesus tie these hands
I used to think
that every thing I touched
turned gold
but it don’t
it turns cold

and reason guides this man
like spring, and fall
and wind to sand
I sway, I sway,
I cannot stand

what do I do,
when it seems I relate to Judas
more than You
and I can’t ever
I can’t ever
see the end…

Jesus help me see
it’s not about consequence
it’s peace
and I won’t seek
on my own knees

and grace is over me
It’s true I feel, I know it’s real
but will I live
what I believe

Again, such a transparent take on living with the reality of our sin, except this time coming from the other side of the cross.  What a difference between Judas – who was condemned for lack of trust – and believers, who betray Jesus almost as much as anyone else, yet know grace through trusting in Christ!

This is the power of Easter.  Let these songs and the story of Judas Iscariot remind us all that our greatest treasure and hope lies within the passion and resurrection of God’s Son for all sinners.  But it is only realized in the ones who place full faith in Jesus’ work.  Even though we, Christians, rail and falter at times, our fate is entirely opposite of Iscariot – only because of the cross!

click on image to listen to song for free.