Judas. The name is synonymous with “traitor.” (Remember how in the presidential campaign, James Carville compared Gov. Bill Richardson to Judas Iscariot for disloyalty towards the Clintons?) I grew up learning that Judas betrayed Jesus, apparently for monetary gain. But then why did he throw the money back? If betraying Jesus was his goal, why was he distraught enough to commit suicide?
Underneath the following thoughts about Judas is a secondary tale of how different forms of technology shape me spiritually.
Back in 2003, I had interesting interactions with a blogger named Jared. He then invited me to a gathering called the Soliton Sessions. I went, and it saved my faith. The Sessions became an annual pilgrimage for me.
When I went in 2006, Kester Brewin shared something he had blogged about Judas: Maybe he handed Jesus over in order provoke a final showdown, perhaps provoking a riot as a catalyst for Jesus to ascend to power. Kester warns,
Whenever we try to co-opt God into our own programmes, box God up and decide for God what God is going to do, when we kiss Christ, but more in lust for power than love of the Other, we are playing Judas, and betraying this complex Christ who will not be controlled.
Every person seeks for either Love or Power. These two things are mutually exclusive.
Fast forward to Palm Sunday, 2009. A video clip is shown during our church gathering (I don’t know which movie it was) portraying Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem. Zealots (freedom fighters to the Jews, terrorists to the Romans) are in the crowd. They make contact with Judas, asking when Jesus is going to make his big move and step into political leadership. “Soon,” Judas responds, “I’ll make sure of it.” (Or something like that. Can anyone identify the movie?)
One of the people I met at Soliton was Mike Morrell. On Facebook, he posts “What Would Judas Do?” with a link to his blog. His blog post is an excerpt from The Orthodox Heretic by Peter Rollins featuring a first-person narrative of the Last Supper, but from Judas’s point of view.
This gets me thinking back to the movie clip, and further back to what Kester said and wrote. I left a comment on Mike’s Facebook page:
“I’ve recently been touched by the idea that Judas wasn’t a jackass traitor, but that he wanted to force Jesus into declaring his martial kingship.
…A warning against trying to manipulate the kingdom on our terms…”
To this, another of Mike’s Facebook friends, someone I’ve never encountered before named Tim Keeler, left this follow-up:
I have once heard a man speak of Judas in the context of the two things in life that people seek after. Every person seeks for either Love or Power. These two things are mutually exclusive. If we view Judas’ actions in this light, perhaps he was, as Jon says, trying to force Jesus to show himself as The King of the Jews, in an earthly kingdom. In doing so, he took the money from the Sanhedrim, as payment for brokering a deal for an alliance. Thus, he would ask Jesus honestly, “is it me Lord?” when Jesus said one would betray Him.
I would also explain why he would hang himself when he saw the actual consequences of his actions.
It is a fact that we cannot Serve God (who is Love) and Mammon (power)
Again, wow. I shared these ideas with my family over the breakfast table. Kay said, “Oh yeah, I don’t think he meant to kill Jesus at all. He just wanted the kingdom of God. But he forgot the first and most important thing.”
“What’s that?” our youngest asked.
“To listen to Jesus,” Kay replied. “He might have picked up on the ‘greatest is least’ bit. And in the end, he might have forgiven, and been forgiven.”
“Like Inspector Javert in Les Mis,” I added. “He earnestly pursued what he thought was right, only to find that he was mistaken, and in the end, killed himself rather than be reconciled.”
I asked Tim for permission to blog this. He replied by expanding even further on my Facebook page:
The author that I was referencing was, I believe, Malcolm MacDonald.
About 20? years ago, I was in a church meeting where the speaker read from a book, and we discussed this issue. I am also drawing from Dorothy Sayers’ play “The Man Born to be King,” written for BBC Radio during World War II.
I am not sure how much of this I am collecting from these authors/speakers, and how much I am deducing myself, but I see it pretty much as follows:
We know that Judas stole from the common money bag. We know that he seemed surprised when Jesus said one would betray him. We know that the devil entered into him, and he went out from the Passover Supper, when Jesus said to him,”you are the one. What you are about to do, do quickly.” We also know that he tried to give back the money to the Sanhedrim, and when they refused it, he flung it onto the ground, stormed out, and went home to hang himself.
We also know that there was a party of Zealots who had contact with Judas, while trying to foment a rebellion, aimed at getting a leader to throw off the yoke of Roman Rule.
So, we put all this together.
Judas has control of the money. He uses some of it to pay messengers to communicate with the Zealots. Remember, most of the disciples believed that the Kingdom Greater than David’s, was one physically on earth, by swords and spears, not understanding the spiritual Kingdom of Heaven. In his mind, he is not stealing this money, but rather using it to further the Kingdom. He hopes to be hailed as one of the players in the coming of the King who would throw off the Roman Rule.
He negotiates with the Sanhedrin to lead them to Jesus, where he hopes to broker a deal to form an alliance. Thus, he is rather taken back by Jesus saying that one of them would betray him, and he would be killed. He asks, quite innocently, “am I the one?”
Judas identifies Jesus to the Temple Guard by giving him a Kiss. He has no idea of what he has just done. He still thinks that the Kingdom is one of earthly thrones, and he is driven by a desire for power. When Jesus is tried by the Sanhedrin, and sent to Herod and Pilate, finally being taken to Golgotha and crucified, his eyes are opened to the terrible thing that he has done.
He then tries to make amends, but finds it to be too late, where-upon he hangs himself.
He was trying to fulfill prophecy, but I think he was trying to make Jesus King, Greater than David, not trying to betray the Son of God to Death.
As I said on Mike’s page, Jesus said you cannot serve God (Love) and Mammon (Power). This has been the struggle through the ages, man seeks for either Love, or Power, and can never attain both.
Double and triple wow.
And so I share with you, dear reader, the words of someone I’ve never had any interaction with before, but who has blessed me through his comments on the Facebook page of someone I met at the Soliton Sessions, which I participated in because of a blogging relationship. I hope they are a blessing to you, as you read them here. On a blog. Which you likely found through your RSS reader, or through Facebook, or through Twitter.