JUDAS! – Was he evil?

My apologies but today I’ve failed to be practical.

What would I tell the children about Judas – the truth.

Was Judas evil? No I don’t believe so.

What follows are my thoughts.

Who was Judas? And why would God choose a friend and follower to betray Jesus?

Why would Jesus choose someone who was greedy and a thief to be one of the twelve?

From Judas’ point of view… He had just finished washing our feet, we were all there. Jesus had been quiet whilst he washed our feet, actually I thought it was a bit undignified, my lord and master washing our feet but I went along with it anyway. When we were all seated again Jesus was looking down at the table as if he had the weight of the world on his shoulders and he began to talk.. He told us all that someone would betray him, some of my fellow disciples just didn’t get it.. but I knew what he was talking about. He knew it was me, when he dipped that bread into the bowl it was like everyone was holding their breath. He looked at me, right into my soul[B1] and gave me the bread. My heart was beating fast, I felt like my face was burning.. He told me to get on with it.. Do what you have to do… He said.. I couldn’t look at anyone.. I just scurried away into the dark of the night.

My reflection

Judas loved money more than anything else. Judas was in charge of the finances, he was the treasurer, a trusted position.

Quite often that money ended up in his pocket.

Did Judas have a choice about what he did?

Jesus had to die, it was part of God’s plan. Jesus knew he was going to die, maybe not the details of the when or how. But to fulfil scripture he had to die.

Jesus chose Judas but I do wonder if he chose him because he knew that he would be easily led? That he had a weakness and that weakness was money. So, instead of keeping him away from it he encouraged it. Knowing that at some point the temptation would just be too much.

Jesus knew what he was doing would be dangerous. From the moment Jesus was born people had tried to kill him. When he went into the wilderness Satan was there tempting him.. he knew his ministry wasn’t going to be easy. That his journey was going to be a difficult one.

Jesus chose each of the disciples for their skills, their gifts, their potential. But I believe that he knew their weaknesses as well and that under stress they would all revert back to the way they had been before they had met Jesus. After all he knew that Peter would deny him. Perhaps Peter did what he always had done? I am only hypothesising we really don’t know.

But human nature is human nature and when under severe stress we all revert to familiar infantile and unproductive coping mechanisms that were developed long before maturity.

Would it have been such a powerful betrayal if a stranger had betrayed Jesus?

It wouldn’t have been a betrayal if a stranger had done it. There had to be a close relationship otherwise that kiss wouldn’t have meant anything.

For just thirty pieces of silver. Judas was willing to hand Jesus over. He just waited for the time. He knew the time was right and in the Garden Jesus was arrested. There would be no turning back.

But Judas felt such overwhelming regret – He was so sorry for what he had done. Perhaps seeing Jesus in the Garden being arrested without a fuss, in quietness stirred something within him. For each of the disciples accepted that Jesus was the Son of God at different times. For some it took longer than others. Maybe at that precise moment he realised that this really was the Messiah. We don’t know..

But we do know that he was so filled with regret that he tried to give back the thirty pieces of silver when he realised that Jesus was to die. (Matthew 27:3) But it was just too late. Matthew tells us that it was early in the morning when the decision was made to put Jesus to death. I wonder if Judas slept at all that night knowing what he had done.. going over and over things in his head.. remembering the words. "woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born." (Matthew 26:24 RSV) The chief priests and the elders wouldn’t take the money back, you can just imagine his realisation that he would be responsible for Jesus’ death. He must have felt such despair. He felt like he should never have been born. He threw the money at them..

Judas couldn’t live with what he had done and we are told he took his own life. (Matthew 27:5)

The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this money into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. (Matthew 27:6-8)

I really have struggled with Judas.

Whilst I feel that Judas did have a choice – someone had to betray Jesus.

All of us at times make mistakes. We all have weaknesses that make us vulnerable to temptation.

But I think what we have is something that Judas didn’t – he didn’t know that if we turn back to Jesus and ask for his forgiveness he will give it to us.. No matter what we have done.

Even though he spent three years with Jesus, watching, listening – experiencing. He just didn’t understand what Jesus said over and over about forgiveness.

Peter was sorry for his denial and he received Jesus’ forgiveness.

I can imagine when Peter heard the cockerel crow he would have muttered I’m sorry Lord.

But Judas didn’t – he didn’t turn to Jesus, not even under his breath or in his head. He went back to those who were determined to kill Jesus to tell them that he had sinned.

Jesus died so that we might be forgiven.

If Judas has stood in front of the cross full of regret – I believe Jesus would have forgiven him.

If I were doing a children’s craft to remember Judas.

Wrapping buttons in silver foil and making a drawstring bag from felt would be my suggestion.

It is with thoughtful reflection I leave you today.
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  1. I can appreciate your perspective on Judas, and I am glad to note that you are not arguing for his being evil, but rather, human, misled, guilty, myopic, like us all.

    I do think the answer is much more complicated than the simplistic version that we are often fed, with Judas as the mustachioed villain, wringing his hands over the plot to kill Jesus.

    For one thing, if turning Jesus into the authorities was his own idea, he may well have determined that, given his likely background as a Zealot, Jesus was not the version of Messiah for whom he (Judas) was hoping. We know that Jesus did not meet the common criteria for a Messiah, nor was he interested in the overthrow of the Roman occupation, so it may have been that, more than "love of money" that compelled his actions.

    He may, alternatively, have wanted to place Jesus in a position where his potential Messiahship could be irrevocably tested. The subsequent suicide resulting from the appearance of Jesus' death, the crushing disappointment of that death, and his own unfortunate sense of timing. Had he waited, Judas would have had no reason to kill himself.

    I also have long thought it possible that Jesus himself wanted to test, or prove, his role as Messiah. I think it entirely reasonable that the events of Holy Week were not a series of accidents, or unfortunate mistakes, but an intentional movement from beginning to end. The entry into Jerusalem, the incitement of turning the tables over in the Temple, both designed to infuriate the authorities, help me imagine that later, at table, the ritual of the cup is not about Jesus revealing the traitor in their midst, but about Jesus identifying the one who was being called upon to take that next and necessary step of showing the authorities where he was. Jesus almost certainly could, at any stage, have avoided the cross, yet he seems not only to have accepted it as inevitable, but to have sought it out.