When you think of Judas Iscariot, you probably think of someone like this picture portrays. The sneaky rat who stole from the rest of the apostles, scorned the woman-who-wiped-Jesus'-feet's sacrifice and gave Jesus away to torture with a kiss.
He's up there with the baddest bad guys in human history, the one who gave up the gentlest and best of men to die a horrible death because he was so hungry for a paltry handful of silver coins. Sound about right?
While the basic facts are true, I think we would probably be shocked at what a decent guy Yehudah of the Cities really was. In fact, even in the moment when Satan entered into him, I suspect you would've had to be a spiritually observant person to see it that way. Even his best friends sitting around him had no clue until they looked back on that night later.
My theory begins because of something I never could figure out: why did a distressed Judas throw the silver coins into the Temple before killing himself in violent despair? Did he really just suffer a fit of remorse because he knew Jesus was innocent, which is what the Gospels seem to say, or was his remorse because of something even more tragic than the betrayal of a wonderful man? Did Judas really believe he was doing something GOOD and couldn't understand what went wrong?
This thought comes about because for people to do bad things, they usually have to convince themselves they're good things. People do not get out of bed in the morning and say "I think I'll turn the Messiah over to be tortured today." And it's understanding how we can convince ourselves that bad is good that helps us continue to discriminate between good and almost good - which is really evil, because sin is simply "missing the mark" of Good, as Paul says.
What did Judas actually think he was doing when he did the unthinkable and betrayed the Messiah with a kiss?
As I've pondered this, a totally unexpected transformation of my picture of Judas Iscariot has gradually taken place.
I think Judas was trying to help Jesus take his rightful place as Messiah, King of the World.But he listened to the Spirit of Man rather than God, which is what made it possible for him to act with Satan's motivations.
He had the opposite of the spirit Jesus had which said to the Father, "Not my will but yours be done."
The Spirit of Man doesn't look like a bad spirit to us. It's been our downfall from the day Eve touched the fruit, thinking that if she just ate it she would be wise like God and wisdom is a good thing God would want, right?
It will be the tragic downfall of many of us in the future when we hold the philosophy - the number - of Man before our eyes and on our hands instead of God's. That 666 number everyone superstitiously regards as an Evil Number? It's called "the Number of Man". It's only one number off from 777, the number signifying God. It's almost right. It's therefore totally wrong, a symbol of wrong thinking.
And it is the ultimate reason Judas betrayed his beloved Teacher with no idea what was really going to happen next.
I think right from the beginning Judas fervently believed Jesus was Messiah. He saw things we can't imagine seeing, knew God in a way it's hard to quantify. He saw the face of God every day, just like Satan did. And like Satan, in the end he thought he knew how to make the plan of salvation work better than God did.
From little comments throughout the gospels, the picture I've begun to get of Judas is of a man who was always trying to make things happen the way he thought they should. That's why he stole from the purse, because he wanted things his way. It wasn't that he wanted bad things, but like other rebels throughout human history, he wasn't convinced God had everything under control. I think he was frustrated Jesus kept walking away from confrontation with the leaders. He couldn't understand why someone with Jesus' obvious power over even the weather didn't just take control and make things right in the world. He'd had a lot if experience with watching Jesus make the completely wrong right. He'd seen the dead rise, for goodness' sake. I doubt he even realized Jesus could die. It would be like thinking a superhero wouldn't come out on top in the end of the story.
But Jesus had this frustrating flaw: he just would NOT step up on that throne which was obviously rightfully his and get around to ruling the nations with a rod of iron as Messiah was supposed to do.
Judas decided to do what most of us often try to do in similarly frustrating circumstances when God isn't getting with our program: he thought he'd give Jesus the nudge he needed to get off his backside and get this rebel bunch of Pharisees and Saducees under control. Judas would put Jesus in a situation where he would just HAVE to reveal himself and then all the doubters would be blown away and every knee would bow and Jesus would finally make all the wrongs right.
That's why he chose the familiar kiss of greeting as his betrayal signal. He was letting Jesus know this was all good, this was the moment to reveal himself. "I've set this all up for you, Rabbi! You are King Messiah. You can handle this! Call the angels!"
It was the same thing Satan did when he took Jesus to the top of the Temple and said, "hey, you could prove yourself right now because you know your Father wouldn't let you hit the ground and everyone in the Temple would know who you are."
Of all the flaws any of the apostles had, it is this one it seems we're most susceptible to. We want our ways to be God's ways. We want his Kingdom to come through our will being done in Heaven as it is on Earth. That really wouldn't be God's Kingdom, but we tend just assume if we're happy with a plan, God will share our enthusiasm.
Ultimately, the picture of Judas the Evil Betrayer has done us no favors. It's created a monster we don't think we would ever imitate. Which is one of the dangers of making untruthful monsters instead of trying to understand the real people...who ultimately look a lot like us. I could've betrayed Jesus just as completely as Judas did. I might have gotten up in the middle of Jesus' Passover remembrance and gone out to make things right my way. And it is by pondering and remembering this that there is hope to avoid the same evil when I am faced with it in the plans God has made for my time.
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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