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Rehabilitating Judas

One of the benefits of being feral is that I feel freer than before to think creatively about my faith. I’ve done that with my thinking about Jesus’ death, and through Holy Week and Easter this year I’ve found myself wondering about Judas, whom I fancy may has had a raw deal from the Church. He’s been vilified as the betrayer, but was he really that much worse than the other male disciples? Peter denied Jesus, the others, bar Peter, James & John, fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane, all of them ran away when Jesus was arrested, and apart from John none of them seem to have been present when Jesus was crucified.  None of the male disciples covered themselves in glory. Why put all the blame for Jesus’ death on Judas? Who would benefit from doing so?

What stirs me most powerfully is my sense that Judas has been made a scapegoat Scapegoating is a nasty business: it places all the blame & responsibility for failure solely on one person’s shoulders, leaving everybody else looking innocent. Everyone else is free of any responsibility because its all the fault of the one scapegoated. Society does a lot of scapegoating, and so does the church. I’ve written about it before. And I fear its what we’ve done to Judas.

In the Synoptic Gospels, Mark, Matthew, & Luke each recount how at the Last Supper Jesus said that one of the disciples would betray him, and all asked ‘Is it me?’  Jesus doesn’t answer the question. Only Matthew goes on to link the betrayal with Judas.  All three imply that Judas was present at the sharing of the bread & wine. Whatever Judas might be about to do, Jesus did not exclude him from the fellowship of the Last Supper. But then when Jesus leads the disciples into the Garden of Gethsemane, it is Judas who leads a crowd of armed men to arrest Jesus, having identified Him to them by kissing Him. One of Jesus’s followers resorted to violence & cut off the ear of one of the High Priest’s slaves and was rebuked by Jesus for doing so. Jesus was then led away.

John’s Gospel explains that the arrest was necessary because the religious leaders in Jerusalem were concerned that Jesus’ popularity would lead to a bloody confrontation in Jerusalem that would precipitate a brutal Roman reaction. Thus, they wanted to get Jesus out of the way, & looked for a way in which He could be arrested quietly, without provoking a violent reaction.They needed someone who could take their armed men to where Jesus could be found alone, and they needed someone who could identify Him to them so that they could arrest Him. That would make sense.

But I wonder if Jesus might have wanted much the same thing? He could hardly have been unaware of the possibility that His presence in Jerusalem at the Feast of the Passover, with some hotheads proclaiming that He was the Messiah, would lead to a bloody confrontation with the Romans, and its not difficult to imagine that he would not have wanted it.  He probably foresaw the religious authorities wanting, indeed needing, to arrest Him, & didn’t want His followers to take up arms to resist them. I suspect that He might have welcomed the opportunity the face the religious authorities alone, without endangering the lives of His disciples, and to speak to them face to face, placing His trust in God as to the outcome.

If Jesus wanted to avoid a disastrous violent confrontation, but welcomed an opportunity for a meeting between Him & the religious authorities, how might that come about, other than the way in which it did?  Might He have either asked Judas to do what he did, or perhaps was aware of what Judas would do & was content to let it happen?  Either way up I wonder if Judas’ actions brought about what Jesus wanted, and if the two of them might even have been cahoots to achieve it? If so than Judas expected a positive outcome and was appalled by what actually transpired & his part in it, and so took his own life. If he hadn’t Jesus would surely have forgiven him as He forgave the others, wouldn’t He?

1 Comment

  1. Henry Morgan

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