All Saints Episcopal Church, Hilton Head Island, SC

Rector's Thoughts and Reflections

April 1, 2006

Judas Iscariot

The name conjures all sorts of images, not only for the Christian but also for the casual observer. The name and the person behind the name are hardly welcome as we move towards Holy Week: the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. The nascent Church tried its best to relegate Judas into oblivion.

He was placed last in the list of apostles; he was, after all, the "betrayer", in the eyes of the church the unforgivable sin. (The fourth Gospel practically identifies him with Satan and the Antichrist, John 6:70; 17:12.) The apostle is certainly the most enigmatic person in the gospel story. The meaning of his name (or designation), his background, his character, his motive in betraying Jesus, the manner of his death are riddles now quite insolvable.

Jesus chose Judas. Jesus saw the possibilities in Judas that the church and the world have tried to forget. The love of Jesus, that knew no bounds, reached out to Judas, and they became very good, trusted friends in a tight circle of friends. We have speculated for centuries upon the motives behind Judas' betrayal. Did Judas' enthusiasm wane? Was Jesus not decisive enough for Judas? Did Jesus associate with the "wrong" people, tax collectors and prostitutes? Or was Judas attempting to force Jesus into a display of power so that the religious and political authorities would be convinced of his messiah-ship? Perhaps it is possible that Judas was simply avaricious and dishonest and couldn't resist an opportunity for personal gain?

Judas loved Jesus. My faith informs me that Jesus loved Judas just as deeply, and with full forgiveness, after the betrayal. I can only imagine the deep turmoil within Judas before, as tradition suggests, he hanged himself. As grievous as his sin of betrayal, regardless of his motives, Judas was in the presence of a Savior whose love had and continues to have no bounds.

I find it remarkable that Judas betrayed his friend Jesus at the critical moment in the swirling events that surrounded and influenced the life of Jesus before the Passover, and that Peter, also a close confidant, denies Jesus not once but three times at a critical moment and yet finds salvation. One friend is condemned by those who would follow, and another helps lead the "church" into an uncertain future.

We have a bit of Judas in us, in that we "betray" our faith at times, that our own desires override the will of God, and that we love God and yet find ways to walk in other directions. Was Judas just plain willful, trusting his own desirous outcome over and above his love and admiration for Jesus? The cross of betrayal, the burden of that sin or sins is a cross that Judas apparently could not carry in this life.

I trust Christ carried it with him into the next life.

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