Apr 8, 2009

Spy Wednesday: Thoughts on Judas

Today is the day that we recall that Judas "looked for an opportunity to hand him over" an imfamously became the most well known traitor known to man.

But isn't there a bit of Judas in all of us? Don't we sell Jesus out every time we choose to sin, or choose not to know, or choose not to love someone as best we can? Most especially, I think we reflect Judas' thinking when "we think we know better than God does."

Judas had it all mapped out. Jesus just needed the right back-up from those in power and he would take over the world. He had this picture of what revolution could look like and nothing was going to alter his vision.

Not even Jesus.

What was Jesus waiting for? Why wouldn't he be moving this whole thing along faster? And what's all this talk about dying?

Some scholars believe that Judas tried to force Jesus into declaring his Messiahship and thus establish the Kingdom of God on earth.

He had it all figured out.

After the betrayal, Judas realizes what he had done and flings the 30 pieces of silver into the Temple. Two conflicting stories of Judas' despair follow. The Gospel of Matthew states that Judas went off and hanged himself and that the Chief priests used the 30 pieces of silver to buy the Potter's field and buried him there. Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, tells a different and more gruesome version where Judas in despair used the bribe to buy a field, but fell down headfirst, and burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. Scholar Raymond Brown notes that what we can take from this is that Judas died quickly and violently and that people used Old Testament traditions to help explain his death. Many times hanging was accompanied by disembowelment and other times people would impale themselves on a stake after throwing themselves from a tree with a rope around their neck thus breaking their neck and also impaling themselves. A graduate school professor I once had said that if one were to commit suicide, one wanted to make sure that they'd end up dead--so the spike served as a failsafe.

What I take from all of that is that Judas continues not to learn the lesson that he is not in control to the point of taking his own life. For Judas, his plan went miserably awry and there was nothing left for him and to make matters worse, there was nothing left for Jesus. Without the eyes of faith we often lose track of the big picture and end up in a world where all we can see is our own ideas.

How do we in our own ways, "look for an opportunity to hand him over?" Do we choose our own selfish occupations ahead of the needs of others? Do we fail to see that the poor need us in favor of our own pleasures and comforts? Are we so wrapped up even in our most well meaning of intentions that we become uncharitable and even destructive in order to see that our vision is fulfilled?

Perhaps the lesson in Judas' story for us is to have faith. God is in control and we are not and even our best intentions and efforts don't change that. While we do what we are called to do for others and face overcoming many obstacles on the way, we also are not God and cannot accomplish it all. Sometimes we need to get out of out own way and let go of our tight grasp of our limited vision in order for God to step in and work on us a bit more.

We do not have it all figured out. And neither did Judas. But don't despair, God knows that and works with us each day, even with our betrayals of Him in our own pride. Lent and Holy is quickly coming to a close. Perhaps we have moved a bit closer in dying to what keeps us as prideful as Judas and can move into a more loving way of being united with Christ both in accepting the cross and faithfully believing and experiencing Resurrection.

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