Oh, Judas

Holy light.

This is a continuation of daily posts through Holy Week.

For some reason, I’ve spent more time thinking about Judas this Easter than ever before. He keeps cropping up everywhere.

I wonder about him. 

Did he know the religious leaders intended to kill Jesus when he agreed to hand him over to them? In Mark’s gospel account of the betrayal in the garden, we read that Judas told the multitude who came to seize Jesus, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him and lead Him away safely” (Mark 14:43). 

Lead him away safely? That doesn’t sound like the directive of someone who knows he’s leading a band of marauders who have blood and death set in their hearts. 

I wonder about Jesus, too. 

When Judas approaches Jesus in that moment of betrayal and greets him with that traitorous kiss, Jesus calls him friend: 

“Friend, why have you come?” 

— Matthew 26:50


Jesus knows why Judas came. Just 30 verses earlier in the same chapter of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples that one of them will betray him and identifies Judas explicitly as the one. “Rabbi, is it I?” he asks Jesus. “You have said it,” Jesus replies. 

And yet he calls his betrayer friend and asks him why he’s come. 

I can’t help but wonder if Jesus is inviting Judas to face the truth of himself — that perhaps he knew Judas was detached from the reality of his actions. Even though Judas went directly to the chief priests and agreed to betray Jesus for a fee of silver, he then asked Jesus if he was the one who would do it. Did he not know — really — what he had set himself to do? 

Did Judas not have the strength to see and own the truth of himself? 

I’m not sure he did. We know what happened after Jesus was condemned by the religious leaders to death. Judas feels remorseful, goes back to the religious leaders to try and make things right, is denied, and then goes and hangs himself. 

Oh, Judas. My heart breaks for you.

Last year in an Ash Wednesday service, I was led to consider for the first time what happened during those three days Jesus spent in Hades after he died. What did he say or do in his time down there? Did he preach the truth of his own good news to those already dead?

I hope so.

And then recently, my rector posed a new question: Did he encounter Judas there? 

If so, I wonder what their encounter was like. I can’t help but hope Judas bowed at the feet of Jesus and repented of what he’d done, then received the open, forgiving arms of Jesus welcoming him back into love.