Why did he do it? Judas I mean. He had walked with Jesus for many months, seen him perform miracles, heard his teaching, enjoyed his company, been called friend. What was he thinking?
We can never know his motive though many an essay has been written on all possible whys and wherefores. All we know is that he sold out a friend for a handful of silver. Not even a large amount! A few weeks wages at best. Symbolically the price of a slave. At least we know what the Jewish authorities thought about Jesus.
But Judas, Judas was a disciple, a friend, is there any worse betrayal than that of a loved one? And so we hold Judas in contempt; as the Christian Church as done so for 2000 years. Interestingly it seems Judas held himself in contempt. As the events of the evening and following day rolled out and Judas saw the full consequences of his actions, he threw back the money and hanged himself in a fit of remorse and self-loathing. We feel justified in our feelings of anger and place Judas in the list of ‘very bad people’. Certainly John in his Gospel, written many decades after the event, has not softened his feelings towards one he would have once called friend or even brother.
I am one of those who gives Judas the benefit of the doubt, I don’t think he believed that Jesus would allow himself to be arrested and executed, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions and Judas managed to pave a whole new motorway all by himself. But I do think that we like point fingers, tut and shake our heads at him because we assure ourselves that WE would NEVER do anything like that! In a smug way, Judas makes us feel good about ourselves.
And yet do we not betray Jesus every single time we fail to love God and love our neighbours? Do we not sell him out every time we chose …… (Insert temptation of your choice here) …… over him? Do we not betray him by keeping quiet when we should speak out, or when we speak in anger instead of love? We betray God’s love for us multiple times a day, every day. Instead of judging Judas we should learn from him and, more importantly, Jesus’ response to him. Because, in that, we see God’s response to us and our failings.
Jesus knew what Judas intended – and yet he still broke bread with him.
Jesus knew what Judas intended – and yet he still washed his feet.
Jesus knew what Judas intended – and yet he still gave him the opportunity to
change his mind.
Jesus stood as Judas betrayed him – and still he called him friend (Matt 26:50)
I am not saying Judas was right or in any way justified in what he did; because neither are we justified any of the times we betray Jesus. What I am saying is that Jesus does not turn away from us. On the contrary, he goes to the cross so that we do not have to live and die with the consequences of our actions weighing on us.
Two points to finish on.
It has been said that Judas’ main failing was not hanging (ouch sorry dreadful and unintentional pun) around long enough to receive Christ’s forgiveness as Peter received it; and secondly – something one of the kids at Todmorden said when asked ‘What do you think Jesus was doing on Holy Saturday?’ – Jesus went to find and rescue his friend.
I hope and pray that both of these are true because there are many times that I do not feel worthy of Christ’s forgiveness – my failing not his – and many many times when I seem to have backed myself into such a corner that ONLY Jesus coming to find me will ever get me out – he has never failed to do so.
Jesus has never and will never fail any of us.
God bless you all and may you have a blessed Maundy Thursday.