Tuesday in the Twenty-Seventh Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 26:20-25; Mark 14:17-21; Luke 22:21-23; John 13:21-30

Oh Judas! Oh Judas!

There are few, if any, Hollywood productions of the life of Christ that are worth watching.  One that is, but not without some of its own problems, is the six-hour long, Jesus of Nazareth.  I saw it as a boy, and it had a good effect on me.  I allude to it now because of the way it depicts Judas.  Judas comes off as a visionary who wanted to get Jesus before the Sanhedrin who, if they only knew him, would believe in him and proclaim him king, but in a peaceful way.  Other movies do something similar with Judas, perhaps painting him as a good guy gone bad, who became simply disillusioned with Jesus at the end.  In other words, Judas is constantly portrayed in a sympathetic light.

But Scripture does not paint Judas this way at all.  Indeed, early in John’s gospel and Jesus’ ministry, Jesus plainly says, “Did I not choose you, the twelve?  And yet one of you is a devil,” referring to Judas (6:70-71).  Again in John, he is called a thief (12:6), and twice we are told that the devil entered him at the Supper (13:2, 27).  And although John is more explicit, Judas fares no better in the other gospels.  And Jesus gives him ample opportunity to repent before his betrayal, warning him, “Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!  It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”  And in Matthew’s gospel, when Judas asks Jesus if he is the one who will betray him, Jesus answers, “You have said so.”  What could be more plain?  Don’t do it, Judas.  In contrast, the hearts of the other disciples are so pure: “Is it I, Lord?”  They suspect Judas not at all, even after he leaves, thinking that he was taking something to offer the poor.

And why are we so loath to follow Scripture and condemn the man who condemned Jesus?  Why do we make excuses for him?  Because we know that we have done the same.  Every sin is a betrayal of the one who shed his blood for us, “for if we go one sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26-27).  These are frightening words meant to warn us to stay away from sin, resist temptation, fight the good fight.  But we know that we are so weak.  So the Christian pleads alongside the disciples, “Lord, is it I?  Oh, please, no!”  It is a good place to be.

Judas had long since given himself over to Satan. And so the passage tells us that when he left, “It was night.” But we are of the day (1 Thessalonians 5:4-11).

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