Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Forcing the hand of God (Reflections on Judas's betrayal, Wednesday of Holy Week, Mt. 26:14-25)

Judas is such a tragic figure. Why did he betray his master and friend? There are three possibilities.

First, the gospels tell us that he was stealing from the money that Jesus and his band of followers had to use for their daily needs. Judas may have betrayed Jesus because he wanted the money. But this is really unlikely. We are told that he sold Jesus for thirty argurion. An argurion, is such a small amount that all thirty pieces would’ve been no bigger than six dollars in value. Judas didn’t betray Jesus because of money.

Second, he may have done it because he started to get disillusioned and so hated Jesus. He thought Jesus was going to lead the rebellion against the Roman occupiers, but Jesus refused to do this and preached peace instead. But this is also unlikely. For a person who hates would not have felt so guilty and remorseful that he would hang himself, as Judas did. Judas didn’t betray Jesus because of hatred.

Third, it may be that Judas never intended Jesus to die. It may be that he believed Jesus to be the Messiah. But he may have thought that Jesus was moving too slowly; and he may have wished for nothing else than to force his hand. That is in fact the view which best suits all the facts. Judas betrayed Jesus in order to force him to act and reveal himself as the Messiah.

However we look at it, the tragedy of Judas is that he refused to accept Jesus as he was and tried to make him what he wanted him to be. It is not Christ who should be changed by us, but we who must be changed by him. We can never, and must never, use God for our purposes.

The tragedy of Judas is that of a man who thought he knew better than God. As we enter even deeper into the mystery of Holy Week, Christ invites us to do what he did, to put our lives in God’s hands and say with him: “Father, not mine, but your will be done”.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)