Friday, 8 June 2007

Props to Judas

What's so wrong with Judas? He's gotten a bad rap, as far as I can see. For two thousand years he's been labelled a traitor, but I think that's a label that's open to some very valid criticism.

Did he betray Jesus? Perhaps the better question is this, "Did he hand Jesus over the authorities deliberately?" The answer is yes. However, I don't think that this is a betrayal in the treacherous sense of the word. Rather, consider that Jesus intended to die by crucifixion. The canonical gospels record that Jesus repeatedly tells his disciples that he will die, and that he will be lifted up and that each must take up their own cross.

Jesus also orchestrated his own death. Rather than avoiding his enemies in Jerusalem, he confronts them. He makes all the signs of a prophet who is decrying the religious establishment. He makes all the signs of a Jewish zealot who rides into Jerusalem to liberate it from the Romans. He has set up his own death and all he needs is the pathway to the courtroom and a death sentence.

Judas, far from being the one who didn't understand Jesus' intent, is possible the only disciple who did understand it. He was obedient unto death: the death of his master and of himself. He was obedient unto ridicule - a ridicule that has lasted for millenia. He did exactly what Jesus told him to do: "What you must do, do quickly."

Compare him to Peter. Peter tried to stop Jesus from dying whereas Judas helped. Peter is called "Satan" by Jesus but the only one to accuse Judas of Satanic activity is the narrator of the Fourth Gospel. Peter denies Jesus three times. Judas does not do it even once. And yet Peter is hailed as the first pope, and John is reputed to be the disciple whom Jesus loved. Judas is reviled by the people of the time and ever since - and yet he did only what his master asked of him.

Ultimately, I think that Judas has been cast in a bad light by a community of faith that could not understand what he did and yet proclaimed how good it was to live in the afterglow of the resurrection - a resurrection that would not have happened if Judas did not deliver Jesus to the authorities.

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