Last night someone made an interesting comment, they’re angry at God because of Judas. Prying a bit I discovered that God allegedly used Judas for His own purpose. Maybe Judas was a good guy, just some poor schmuck given a crappy role in the story. If you think about it, or so the story goes, if it weren’t for Judas, Jesus Christ would never have been crucified and the salvation of mankind would never have happened. So the allegation is that Judas is really the hero and that God didn’t give him his due. Worse, the allegation is that God deliberately made Judas look bad, set him up and then blamed him when he performed exactly as he was designed to.
My first thought was, why do people always say these really profound things to me right when my mouth is stuffed with cream cheese and smoked salmon? Not only will it take me hours to explore that idea, if I even try to speak, I’m going to spray you with cracker crumbs.
I also heard the plaintive wail, unspoken perhaps, but still haunting those words. Somebody knows what it’s like to be the good guy, unrecognized, falsely maligned. That’s what lurks behind those kind of rabbit holes, emotion, projection, old wounds. They fester and mess with our minds, until one day all that torment begins to empathize with Judas, to self identify so to speak, with Judas as the maligned and exploited collateral damage of God himself.
Before we know it we’re calling good evil and evil good and the whole world is now wrapped in moral ambiguity and Judas simply becomes a hapless victim of God Himself.
First let me say, Judas is dipping out of the till for a long time. His love of money and power doesn’t just pop up when he betrays Jesus for a few pieces of silver. We have a long history of character and behavior here. Judas also comes as no surprise to Christ, He knows He will be betrayed. Judas is reliable enough that he can be trusted…. to be Judas.
Second of all, there really is no condemnation of Judas coming from Christ. Jesus breaks bread with Judas. John says, “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” Nobody else really knew what Judas was going to do. John goes on, “some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor.”
I do not read any condemnation into those passages. Resignation perhaps, acceptance? In the modern world however, quite true, most people condemn Judas.
I was fascinated to discover there is actually an entire sect of gnostics who seem to believe that very thing, who believe Judas was a hero, the disciple who followed God’s will and made the largest sacrifice, giving up his reputation, bravely facing his guilt, eventually taking his own life when the burden was too much to bear.
I wouldn’t go that far at all, but something that is really fun about literature is how we will often project ourselves into the characters we are exploring, subjectively recreating them in our minds, often as reflections of some aspect of our own selves. To really get a feel for who people are in their own right, we have to pull ourselves out of the equation. Quiet our own reactions and still ourselves.
Besides the plaintive wail of my friend, the shadow of pain that said, I know what it’s like to be the good guy, unrecognized, falsely maligned, and the fact that his misunderstanding of Judas separates him from God Himself, I think there is some wisdom there. We are all like Judas in some way, he represents some aspect of who we are. Peter does not betray Jesus, but he denies Him 3 times. God knows what lurks in our hearts far better than we do, and why it lurks there, and how it may impact our behavior in the future. Few of us have the eyes to see that, even within our own selves. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” -Jeremiah 17:9
I could not be bothered to leave my smoked salmon alone, but someone else said, “we go to hell because we sin” and I thought, No, that is not true at all. We go to hell when we fail to place our faith in Jesus Christ. Perhaps like Judas, the weight of our own sin eventually destroys us becasue we are unable to trust Christ with it. That is what happened to Judas, he placed his faith in himself, and in the powers that be, and not in Jesus Christ.