Faces of Faith: Judas
Usually, when we think of the person of Judas, we do not associate him as a person or face of faith. Throughout our series so far, we have seen many strong and brave characters. People who have met challenges of their faith head on with humility and understanding. During the season of Lent, we don’t really even talk much about Judas, just that he betrayed Jesus. We would rather focus on the more vivid and pleasing characters, like the woman who anoint Jesus with the costly nard; or Peter, the loveable disciple who so wants to please Jesus but rarely has a clue about how hard that can be; or Joseph of Arimathea, the man who offered his tomb and who you all learned about from Sam a few weeks ago. But rarely, do we ever think about Judas. However, Judas is a face of our faith that we should take the time to examine. I think that Judas, is a disciple that we need to know his story and learn more about him because he is no less of a disciple than Peter or John. He was called by Jesus and followed Jesus throughout his ministry. And though we know what he ends up doing, have we ever stopped to wonder what led him to that moment? What led him to betray Jesus? This morning we shall imagine the inner thoughts of Judas.
I am called Judas Iscariot. I’m the only Judean in the group. The others must have had confidence in me because they elected me their treasurer. And Jesus surely believed in me, because he chose me as one of the twelve. I have followed him, but I am growing tired of his unwillingness to take a stand against the Romans. I believe he is who he says he is...but really…(with disgust)..why would God send a Messiah to wash feet and serve bread? Really! We need a real king!
We need a political king (shake fist)…someone that will lead us in overthrowing these Roman tyrants! Look how many people follow him, how many will gather on a hillside just to hear him speak. He could put together a real army in no time!
I know what the others say behind my back—that I am impatient and ambitious and stingy. Some say that Jesus’ words about the love of money and greed were personally directed at me. Of course I complained when Mary washed his feet with that expensive oil. (with emphasis) I still think it was a waste of money!
(with emphasis) It’s time someone made Jesus understand that we need him to make his move, lead us to victory and a position of power! Why does he refuse! (pause) Well, I’ve made a move. So what if I have conspired with the chief priests and if I have thirty pieces of silver to show for it, that’s my affair! It had to be done!
(with seriousness) He hints that he knows what I’ve done. He said as much a few moments ago when he washed my feet, and again when we dipped our bread in the same dish.
What would you do in my place? Should I ignore his remarks? (with disgust) Or should I be like the others, piously and self-righteously asking (with mock innocence) Is it I? (small pause)
Is it I ?
Nobody can be sure, of course, why Judas sold Jesus out although according to John’s gospel, he already had a reputation for dipping into the poor box from time to time so the cash may have been part of it. If, like the other disciples, he was perennially worried about where he stood in the pecking order, he may also have been reacting to some imagined slight. Maybe he thought his job as treasurer to the outfit was beneath him. Another possibility is that he had gotten fed up with waiting for Jesus to take the world by storm and hoped that betraying him might force him to show his hand at last. Or maybe, because nothing human is ever uncomplicated, something of all of these was involved.
In the context of the crucifixion narrative – really, the messianic narrative – Jesus has to be betrayed, the betrayal sealed with a kiss, and it has to come from inside his circle. Somebody has to do it. Indeed, at the table of the Last Supper, Jesus basically instructs his disciples accordingly. Somebody’s going to turn him in.
Judas is a complex and broken character. It’s natural for us to have strong or mixed feelings about Judas. Some feel a sense of hatred toward him. Some pity him. But why hate him? However, without that betrayal, there is no passion, no crucifixion. Without the crucifixion, there is no resurrection. From a plot perspective, and a character development perspective, the disciple Judas is utterly necessary.
And from a discipleship perspective, Judas’s story is one we need as well. Judas represents our own brokenness and humanity as disciples of Christ. Judas reminds us that we all fall short, and betray Jesus and his ministry and life. As theologian Karl Barth reminds us about Judas, he could not forgive himself, said Barth, because he assumed that Jesus wouldn’t have forgiven him. How many of us have done something so wrong, so hurtful that we thought we were beyond someone’s or God’s forgiveness? However according to Barth, “we…are terrible judges of ourselves, and that’s not our job.” Barth is right. We are terrible judges of ourselves, and that’s not our job.[i]
Yet, we can benefit from thinking about Judas and our own commitment to the Lord. Do we fully commit to Christ? How have we betrayed him? And if we fail or fall short, do we give up all hope, or do we accept Christ’s forgiveness and seek restoration?
This morning I end us with a prayer of confession in the style of Judas, reminding ourselves that we do and will fail in our discipleship, we do and will put unfair expectations on Jesus, and we assume that Jesus will not forgive us, but that is not our responsibility to worry about, because we are loved by a God who will always forgive us, and always accepts us for who we are. Let us pray.
Surely not I, Lord? Surely not us? Surely not.
Surely I am not the one who will betray you.
Surely we are not the ones.
It’s someone else who denies knowing you,
someone else who uses you for their own gain,
someone else who wants to control you.
Surely not us.
For the times when we object too much…
For the times we point fingers to cover up our own wrong…
For the times we think of ourselves more highly than we ought…
For the times we have betrayed you with our words—
hurting someone to get a laugh,
denying that your call extends to the parts of our lives
we would rather keep to ourselves…
For the times we have betrayed you with our actions—
living as if you are confined to the sanctuary,
leaving us free when we are not here,
acting as if we have been given domination over,
rather than stewardship of, your creation,
walking away from those in need, literally and politically…
For the times we have betrayed you with our hearts—
putting you far down our priority lists,
loving our ideas about you more than we love you,
longing for our way to be the one you choose…
For the times we have lived contrary to our baptism,
dipping our hand in the bowl but keeping our whole selves out,
believing we can earn grace…and that they should work for it too,
Surely not I, Lord?
You have said so.
The truth rings in our ears…
and it hurts, O God, to admit it: it is us.
We follow other gods,
we are a poor reflection of your glory,
we use our wealth, status, and power in ways contrary to your will,
we imprison you in our understanding of your word,
we refuse to create justice or to love mercy,
and walking humbly with you
would mean letting go of our way.
The truth hurts us, Lord,
even as we hear you say: you have said so.
And yet we believe—
we believe that you have the power to transform us
and through us to transform the world.
We believe that your grace is enough.
We believe that we have received more love than we can imagine.
We believe that you are the Way, the Life, and the Truth—
the truth that sets us free.
And may it be so. Amen.
[i] Theodore J. Wardlaw, Has Judas Died for our Sins?, http://ezproxy.ptsem.edu:2112/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=3&sid=b5cf9933-d475-439e-8839-4a6ce036f30a%40sessionmgr4009.