Judas is the one we love to despise at Pascha. But he was not noticably different from the other Apostles. Indeed, he was pretty much like us.
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Judas, One Like The Rest Of Us
This past Sunday our thoughts were turned to Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus chosen apostles.
For the most part our thoughts about Judas focus on his betrayal of his teacher and Rabbi, after three years of listening to His teaching, seeing His miraculous works, but also getting to know Him as a person - a truly remarkable person, Who stood out from others because of the force of his personality, authority of his teaching, and the consistency of His life with His teaching.
We know the story and how it played out. When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, most of the disciples apparently fled, either sneaking off in the dark, or bolting outright - we aren't told. Only Peter, who had one of two swords, gave resistance, and was promptly rebuked by Jesus. John, who was known apparently within the High Priest's household, and Peter followed, though Peter didn't go beyond the outer courtyard of the house. Peter denied any connection with Jesus, and was reminded by a rooster of all things, that he had done exactly what Jesus had predicted. He went out into the darkness, weeping bitterly.
Judas, when he saw the consequences of what he had done, tried to undo it. But it was too late. The Jewish leaders had Jesus, in secret, without the masses knowing about it. Judas tried to return the money, but was scoffed at, humiliated, and sent away. Tormented, he committed suicide. Peter's remorse did not go so far, or else he was willing to live the rest of his life with it.
Through history Judas has been portrayed mostly as a scoundrel, and evil and duplicitous man, one who repaid good with evil. His name has become synonymous with betrayal. In paintings he has often been portrayed as ugly, or with a black halo among the other apostles all of whom have white halos. During some periods people have tried to explain his act of betrayal as one of trying to force Jesus' hand, to put Him in a position in which He must show the nation that He was/is the Messiah. In actual fact none of us can really know his true motives. Whatever his motives, he acted, and his actions had consequences that he could not undo. That is also true of us and our actions also - even if we ask and receive forgiveness.
One thing stands out though. None of the other followers of Jesus had a clue as to what he was about to do that Passover evening. He was there, no doubt in the discussion, of who would be the greatest in the coming kingdom. Remember, it was only a few days before that Jesus had ridden into Jerusalem in triumph, riding on the foal of a donkey - fulfilling publicly a well know prophesy. The disciples were doubtles exulted, their time was about to come. Like most of us, they were eager with anticipation. And they were jostling amongst themselves for places in the coming "cabinet."
When Jesus announced that one of those present would betray him, not a single one of them thought specifically of Judas. Instead, they all asked "Is it me?" Even when Jesus told Judas to go and do what he had to do, no one thought more about it than that Jesus had sent him on some practical errand - after all, there were bills to be paid, and Judas was the group treasurer. At that time, nobody "joined the dots" and understood Judas to be avaricious or stingy - perhaps he was in fact very careful with their resources. And then there is the little detail that he was that close to Jesus - as one of the inner twelve - that he knew well the habits and preferences of Jesus. He knew where he would find him that night after their evening meal. He was in on the plans. He was one of them, with nothing that they could discern to show he was the odd man out.
In other words, he wasn't all that different from the others. Indeed, he wasn't all that different from us. How many of us have not in one situation or another, acted dishonourably towards one of our friends, let one of them down, disappointed some one close to us; how many of us have not at one time or another tried to manipultate a situation, or even a person, to gain some advantage for ourselves? And indeed how many of us, really understand that we are, everyone of us, equally responsible for sending Jesus to the cross? How many of us hide behind the wording "He died for my sins" or "my sins were the cause of his death?"
What we should be praying is "Forgive me, Lord, for betraying You, and sending You to Your death. Thank You Lord, for leading me to repentance; thank You for the inexplicable magnanimity of Your love and grace, that in spite of my complicity in Your death, a death that I deserved and You didn't, You welcome me to share in Your life! What a wonderful Saviour and Redeemer You are!"
Learning is not only about adding knowledge and understanding, it may also be about replacing one certainty with another.
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