Judas Iscariot is not often considered much of a spiritual guide, but his patterns of thought have been very much on my mind during these last days of Holy Week.
Some call today ‘Betrayal Wednesday’ – the day on which we hear the gospel account of Judas’ decision to hand Jesus over for arrest.
In Matthew’s account, it’s clear that Judas had been planning the treachery for some time. ‘What are you willing to give me?’ he asks of the temple authorities. Seems he’s calculating the cost-benefit ratio. Perhaps he’s asking himself whether discipleship is worth the trouble. And he lets that dark idea fester in his heart for a while. He ruminates upon it, and eventually the notion begins to take on a life of its own: ‘from that time on, he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.’
Sinfulness is often like that, it seems to me. Sometimes, the opportunity to choose happens in an instant – good or bad, right or wrong, a bright obvious line between white and black.
More often, though, sinfulness seems to weasel its way in. You make a small compromise here. You give into a bad habit there. You allow a busy schedule to plant the seeds of anxiety in your heart. You may even choose to water those seeds…and fertilize ‘em…just to see what happens next.
Which is to say, Judas Iscariot is perhaps far more human than I’d typically like to admit. I’d rather demonize him…depersonalize him.
That’s a lot less trouble than recognizing the patterns of thought and action the two of us might actually have in common.
It’s interesting to note, though, that Jesus chooses a different way to relate to Judas – even in the moment of betrayal.
Judas says, ‘Surely it is not I, Rabbi?’ And Jesus replies, ‘You have said so.’ As if to affirm the goodness he sees, even now, somewhere in Judas’ heart. As if to say: ‘This is NOT you, Judas. You ARE better than your darkest thoughts, your worst choices.’
What a blessing we have in Jesus – a Savior who never gives up on us, even when it demands everything of Him.
Let us pause now…to remember that we are in the presence of the Holy One.