Judas is a complicated person. (Aren’t we all.) We know, of course, that Judas had been invited by Jesus to be among his twelve closest followers and friends… and we experience Jesus to be a very keen judge of character. What did Jesus originally see in Judas? What did Judas see in Jesus? We’re not absolutely clear. We do know there was subsequent jealousy among these twelve apostles: who was the greatest. (1) The one nicknamed “the Beloved Disciple” seemed to have the greatest intimacy with Jesus and was the target of some jealousy. (2) Judas seemed to have the greatest… greatest something in Jesus’ eyes – greatest power? greatest stewardship? greatest accountability? we don’t know – because he was entrusted to carry the money. With that responsibility, Judas’ reputation became mixed. Though he upbraided Jesus with the other disciples about their self-indulgence in the face of the poor, he was known to steal money from the common purse. (3)Something else that is not clear is why Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss? It was hardly necessary to identify Jesus to the authorities. Jesus was well known already. And, by this point, Judas is well known, at least to Jesus: what Judas was up to. Why Judas committed his ultimate act of betrayal, we also don’t know for sure. The scriptures, theologians down through the centuries, and an endless array of psychologists offer very mixed explanations. Judas betrays Jesus, and Judas is remembered in ignominy; another disciple, Peter, betrays Jesus, and Peter is remembered in glory. And then there were the other ten, who eventually, and only eventually were on the glory side.
I take these twelve apostles as a composite personality. I am they. I am all of them. And so are you. Some days, one personality may be stronger than the other in our own individual identity. But we all are the 12 apostles, for better and for worse. Aleksander Solzhenitsyn writes in The Gulag Archipelago: “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. … At times [one human being] is close to being a devil, at times a saint.” (4)
We’re such mysteries, all of us, and some days even to ourselves. Let mystery invite mercy. Let the mystery we experience about our own selves and in others invite mercy. We see this in Jesus.
- Matthew 18:1; Luke 9:46; the Beloved Disciple, named as such five times in the Gospel according to John.
- Jesus makes a resurrection appearance at the Sea of Galilee: “Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!’” – John 21:20-22
- “Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)” – John 12:3-6
- Aleksander Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago, p. 442.
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