Hey Jude

It’s an encouraging message for a troubled audience. It’s also one of the most well known tunes in all of music history. Paul McCartney, however, originally used the name Jules instead of Jude. He wrote the song for Julian, John Lennon’s son, to comfort him during his parent’s divorce. The name Jude was later substituted for melodic reasons.

The small biblical book by the same title is far less popular than the rock ballad, though it does have a couple similarities. Its words were intended to embolden discouraged hearts. But unlike the song it is, of course, of divine origin, and its title refers to the author and not the recipient.

Jude is perhaps the most neglected book in all of the New Testament. It’s a one chapter wonder that usually gets stuck on the back of third John when you’re thumbing your way towards the book of Revelation. It really is a pity that we fail to give it the time and attention it is due. Dr. Tom Schreiner says it contains “some of the most beautiful statements about God’s sustaining grace.” But it tends to get overlooked like a small package buried beneath a pile of tinsel and discarded wrappings under the Christmas tree.

C.J. Mahaney calls this pithy collection of twenty-five verses, penned by a half-brother of Jesus, a “postcard from the past.” You probably could really fit the whole thing onto a postcard if you tried. Despite its size: it packs a punch. It’s a potent dose of biblical warnings mixed with gospel hope concluding in eloquent doxology.

The epistle begins in humility—with Jude making no effort to claim an exalted position as the earthly brother of Jesus—but merely asserting that he is a bond-servant of Christ. He then describes the Christian’s status with three passive verbs: called, loved, and kept, a reminder that no believer has room to boast at the foot of the cross. It’s like the old leadership story, that if you see a turtle on a fence post you can know one thing for certain: he didn’t get there by himself. And so it is with our great salvation.

And then, unexpectedly, Jude’s short letter comes to a screeching halt with powerful praise.

This neglected New Testament letter reminds me of my favorite childhood roller coaster ride “The Screaming Eagle.” My older brother Chris and I would wait in line for what seemed like hours, zig zagging back and forth through the long roped off path beneath the sweltering summer sun. We would usually head straight for the front car. And when the coaster pulled back into the station, we could barely wait for the couple in front of us to get out before we jumped in.

Seat belts fastened? Check.

The ride would make an ominous clanking noise as it climbed the first hill. And when it reached the top, time would stand still for just a few seconds, and all you could hear was the breeze howling all about you, and your stomach beginning to turn. Then, seemingly without warning, the coaster would plummet down the valley and around the tight turns, banking from side to side, and up and down, and before you caught your breath you were back where you began wanting to do it all over again.

Maybe that’s a bit of stretch, but this is kind of how I feel when I read the book of Jude. It’s rich with encouragement for the ups and downs of life. It moves at a ferocious pace and ends with the hallelujah chorus.

It’s a reminder of the beauty of our calling, the need for defending the truth, and the reality that we are not the ones who keep the faith: the faith is what keeps us.

These truths can make any sad song better. Better. Better. Better.

Nah nah nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah, hey Jude.