It's Easter week, and in the midst of everything else that makes this week meaningful to Christians, I sometimes wonder about Judas.
Rightfully so, Judas is generally thought of as the villain of Easter. Now, we could get all theological and talk about how Adam's sin, or my sin and your sin, of just the appearance of sin in this world, required a sacrifice if the relationship between God and man could ever be restored, so Judas didn't send Jesus to the cross because we did.
But I don't want to get all theological. I can't think that way for very long. I tend to insert myself into stories to figure out how I'd feel if I were there.
Up until Easter week, was there any reason to think that, of all the disciples, Judas would be the one to sell-out Jesus to the authorities? After all, it was Peter who wound up denying Jesus (shortly after promising to identify with Him forever). It was Peter who said "If you really are the Christ ..." and to whom eventually Jesus would say, "Get behind me, Satan!"
Sometimes I think we forget that Judas must have been doing everything all the other disciples were doing. He was there in the boat when Jesus calmed the storm and walked on water; he was there handing out baskets of food at the feeding of the five thousand. When Jesus sent the disciples out to do miracles, Judas must have gone along and performed his share of miracles, too.
We know thousands of people followed Jesus, and that the disciples ministered to those thousands in very personal ways. So it is not far-fetched that - while people followed Jesus - they also connected very personally with individual disciples.
Some people may have identified with James and John, the "Sons of Thunder;" some would connect with Peter "The Rock;" others might relate to Matthew the Tax Man, or Thomas the Doubter, or Simon the Zealot (sounds like the tag lines for a series of trading cards).
Judas was the money keeper, so he had to have had a position of some trust and authority. When a certain woman came and poured the very expensive contents of an alabaster jar of perfume on Jesus head as an act of worship, Judas is known for being bothered by the gift of perfume because he saw the value of that "wasted" gift in terms of what it could have done for the poor. However, in every version of the story except John it says "the disciples" were bothered by this 'waste' - the suggestion being many, if not all, of the disciples.
And Jesus' answer is interesting in that He says not to criticize the gift because "... you will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me."
However, John singles out Judas in his Gospel, saying, "One of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected,. "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages." He (Judas) did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it." (John 12:4-6).
I wonder if John added that as he and the others looked back and asked themselves how Judas could have betrayed Jesus. Maybe John didn't want to admit other disciples were appalled by the act too. Maybe the disciples had suspected Judas all along of helping himself to the money.
Or maybe John recognized there was a little bit of Judas, the potential to be a "Judas,'' in all of them
Regardless, Judas was hardly the first - or last - "man of God" to dip into the church's coffers for personal gain.
I'm not trying to defend Judas.
Oh, I have always been curious about how someone who could have been so close to Jesus, seen what Judas saw, do what Judas must have done, could then turn on Jesus. When in college I was in a play in which I portrayed Judas. The little theatre group that put on this play wanted a really dramatic scene where Judas realizes what he's done and is consumed with guilt. They wanted some potentially dramatic speech by Judas before he throws the reward money away and goes off to hang himself, and asked me just to write it myself. And there is a scene in "Jesus Christ, Superstar" - I think it is, and I don't have time to research it to be honest - where Judas essentially blames Jesus and even turns the tables on Jesus, saying "You (Jesus) murdered me!" The implication that Jesus had to have someone betray Him in order to get to the cross and complete the mission, so Judas was a victim.
But again, I don't mean to get all theological here. It's a subject that requires more than I can do in this blog.
Truthfully, I believe Judas was like all of us - a creature of free will who was allowed to make his choices,. And he will be known forever for the choice that he made (as all of us will).
What I wonder about are the people ... those thousands that followed Jesus as various times ... those disciples of Jesus who were not part of the "twelve" but had been affected in a positive way by the ministry of not just Jesus but the disciples.
Imagine, if you will, being someone who was drawn into following Jesus by Judas; who used to sit and talk about 'the mission' from Judas' perspective and, not realizing he was a thief (as John tells us after the fact); people who perhaps even thought "I want to be like Judas."
That's natural, isn't it? I mean, we all want to be like Jesus. But we also see people who appear to be closer to being "like Jesus" than we are, who appear to have a relationship to Jesus that we long to have, who appear to have "it." And the truth is, we learn by copying, and it's easier to copy someone who appears to have overcome flaws rather than lived a perfect life as the Son of God.
I don't know about you, but I've been disappointed by people who I thought really were "walking like Christ" but turned out to be stealing from the church (some literally taking money and others simply betraying the trust that people in the church placed in them)
And, if I'm honest, I've probably disappointed people who may have looked to me (as foolish as I'd say that would be) to see how a Christian is supposed to live.
Maybe, in that sense, there are lot of Judases' running around - maybe even some in your church, in your pew ... in you.
Maybe it's just all the more reason to be aware of our shortcomings, to be aware of how easily we can not only be led astray but lead astray, and stay focused on ... the Cross.
The fact is, those early band of followers survived the embarrassment of having Judas in their midst. There may have been people who wondered, "Well, if Judas was like that, what about Peter? Or James? Or Andrew? Or ..."
And I wonder if the surviving disciples wondered how close any of them came to being a Judas, and if that fear drove them to the acts that followed after Jesus' resurrection and ascension.
The church has survived many "Judas'' moments in its history.
Perhaps the real key is how we survive our own "Judas" moments.
Thank God we have a forgiving God who allows us to survive those moments.
Thank God for the cross.