Tuesday, April 03, 2012
The Passionate Antagonists: 2 Judas Iscariot
Of all the people in the Passion Narrative, none is more wretched than Judas Iscariot. There's so little of him really mentioned in the Gospels that it is difficult to get any idea of his motives or what was going on in his mind.
So what little do we have to go on?
He is consistently named as one of the twelve disciples.
He is described by St John as the one who kept the purse.
He is also described by St John as a thief. (St John xii)
He is the one who goes to the Chief Priests to betray Jesus and that he receives money (30 pieces of silver) in order to do so.
He leads a mob to Gethsemane and betrays Jesus by indentifying him with a kiss.
He either realises what he has done, returns the money to the Chief Priests and hangs himself (according to St Matthew), or bursts asunder (according to St Luke in Acts). This is easily reconcilable if we make the assumption that the hanging body of Judas remained on the tree for some time and then fell in a state of decomposition. It might not be correct, but it's a credible explanation.
The first question we must ask is: what does Jesus see in Judas that makes him call him as one of the twelve? Is it simply that He knows Judas will betray Him? Judas, being a human being always has the choice to betray or not betray. So perhaps the question should be, what did Judas see in Jesus that he would accept being in the party? Was Judas so thoroughly a rogue that he could see Jesus as someone from whom he could embezzle funds as St John suggests? If so then he could easily have been seen the bribe of the Hierarchs as irresistable. Why then the change of heart at the end? Why did it bring him to suicide?
If Judas were one of the twelve, then he must have been privy to some of the deepest teaching of Jesus and received much of his personal ministrations. There must have been a considerable affection between them if it were in some way normal for an affectionate kiss to be shared between them. It seems that whoever Judas was, he cannot have been unaffected by the person of Jesus.
Yet still, Judas rejects Jesus. Material things mean more to Judas than spiritual. Money seems to hold a deeper place in his heart than what Jesus means to him and yet he is haunted by his doings which does indicate some conscience. However, rather than confront what he has done, he takes an easier yet horrifying route to silence that inner voice.
Judas is complex, yet rejects Jesus for material reasons. Does this mean he deserves the reputation of being so thoroughly bad? Are we completely free from association with Judas?