Judas is a perplexing figure, isn’t he? His name is synonymous with deceit and betrayal, so it’s easy to simply dismiss him as a kind of “necessary evil” in the act of Jesus’ narrative. But if we’re willing to ponder a bit further, perhaps more can emerge.
As one of the Twelve, Judas was part of a tight circle around Jesus. He spent the better part of three years accompanying Jesus everywhere He went. He heard Jesus teach hundreds of messages, watched Him perform countless miracles. He must have had dozens of personal and intimate conversations with Jesus- on the road, around a fire, over a shared meal. Laughter, tears, insightful moments beyond description. Seriously, think about having Jesus as your small group leader, except He’s the Son of God and you actually live together. Just think about the depth of connection Judas had with Jesus.
So what happened? What went wrong in the mind and heart of Judas to lead him to such an insidious betrayal? We could chalk it up to the fact that he was fulfilling a purpose that had been laid out for him. But Judas was free to choose. He had personal agency in his decisions. We can gather some clues in what we’re told of a character flaw in him, a proclivity towards deception and theft. As the keeper of the group’s funds, apparently Judas would help himself to some of the money. I wonder what his inner dialogue was like about this. How did he justify and rationalize this larceny? Maybe he convinced himself that he was entitled to some extra, or that such pilfering didn’t really mean anything. Whatever his reasoning, clearly this cultivation of a kind of double life became an opening for the enemy to exploit. Sobering to reflect on. Are there hidden parts of me- places of rationalization and entitlement- that open a dangerous window to my soul?
But what must, in the end, have led to Judas’ fateful decision was something we’re all vulnerable to. Disillusionment. Disappointment with Jesus. Perhaps Judas had expected Jesus to be a different kind of leader or revolutionary. Maybe he thought he was getting an inside track on a key role in a new administration. Whatever his hopes, Jesus was clearly not lining up. Likely the disenchantment started small- some frustrated thoughts or confused moments. Unchecked and uncorrected, they festered and spread. Eventually they became a raging fire that consumed him from within.
Of course it’s not only Judas that gets disappointed and confused with Jesus and His ways. We all do. It’s what we do with the dissatisfaction that matters. I wonder what might have happened if Judas would have brought those to Jesus. Sat with him and had an honest conversation around the campfire. Maybe that’s not just an idea for Judas, though. What if we brought ours to Jesus, too?