March 24, 2016

The Judas in each of us (COMMENTARY)

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Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337), Cappella Scrovegni a Padova, Life of Christ, Judas Receiving Payment for his Betrayal.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337), Cappella Scrovegni a Padova, Life of Christ, Judas Receiving Payment for his Betrayal.

(RNS) Judas is a name I have never seen on a nametag. A mother would sooner name her son “Killer” than Judas. Synonymous with treachery, betrayal and evil, this infamous name conjures up faces akin to Saddam Hussein or Hitler.

But maybe there is more to consider about the man who betrayed Jesus, especially at this time of year when we celebrate Easter.

You don’t have to be brought up in the church to be familiar with the story. Twelve men, called disciples, were selected to accompany Jesus and spread his message. Judas was not only one of the 12; he was so trusted that he was selected as treasurer.

After three years of witnessing Jesus walk on water, raise the dead, calm the winds and waves, and perform countless other miracles, Judas decided to sell Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. As one of the most privileged men in history, who ate and slept daily near Jesus, Judas showed up at night with a crew of bloodthirsty Roman soldiers, walked up to Jesus and kissed him, giving the crew a secret sign to have Jesus arrested.


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In response, Jesus simply asks the question “You betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” What follows is an execution for the innocent Jesus and a suicide for the guilty Judas.

While we refuse to admit the likeness, in some ways our reflection looks a lot like Judas. Not only are we guilty of the same murder we lay at Judas’ doorstep, we also have some of the same issues that led to his demise.

1. Living a double life.

Judas faced a huge inner struggle, which no one knew. Feelings of doubt, uncertainty, violence, lack of faith and unrealized expectations were running through his mind. He was teaching and serving others with such a flawless performance that none of the other disciples knew he was a doubter. The proof of this was at the Last Supper when Jesus mentioned one of them was going to betray him: None of the other disciples knew it was Judas.

How many of us are similarly saddled without peace and facing inner turmoil, while those closest to us have no idea the depth of our struggle and confusion?

2. Encountering others who are inconsiderate of our pain.

Judas was surrounded by religious people who were cold and indifferent. The people who should have cared the most, cared the least. Judas went to the religious leaders to return the blood money and explain he had betrayed innocent blood. It was the perfect time to reach out to a man who was obviously on the ledge. Their response showed they were all show and no go when they replied, “What is that to us?” In modern-day vernacular, this could be translated to “It’s your problem” or “We don’t give a rip.” Of all the people who should have shown compassion, it should have been these leaders.

People who have been shunned by professing Christians, the church or religious leaders can be found everywhere. Regrettably, many of us have been on both the giving and receiving end of this mistake.

3. Plagued by loneliness and regret.

After finding no relief from his conscience or his demons, Judas became poisoned with thoughts of suicide. Wanting to escape from the hell within him, he threw a rope over a tree and hanged himself.

Jay Lowder is a full-time evangelist and founder of Jay Lowder Harvest Ministries and author of “Midnight in Aisle 7.” Follow him on Twitter at @jaylowder or @jlhministries. Photo courtesy of Jay Lowder Harvest Ministries

Jay Lowder is a full-time evangelist and founder of Jay Lowder Harvest Ministries and author of “Midnight in Aisle 7.” Follow him on Twitter at @jaylowder or @jlhministries. Photo courtesy of Jay Lowder Harvest Ministries

I regularly meet or correspond with numerous people who have either attempted suicide or are contemplating it. There are people from every segment of society who are battling this issue. Whether it’s us or someone else in the grip of self-violence, loneliness or regret, we should be committed to finding or offering assistance.

Easter is a time we celebrate Jesus walking out of the tomb, yet Easter should also be a time to celebrate the forgiveness He offered. After all, like Judas, we are guilty of the same betrayal.

For those of us who are believers, may we never forget our obligation to reach out to others living a double life and who are facing indifference, loneliness and regret. Undoubtedly, we are the most qualified because the best person to reach a “Judas” is a person who used to be one.

(Jay Lowder is an evangelist, founder of Jay Lowder Harvest Ministries and author of “Midnight in Aisle 7.” Follow him on Twitter at @jaylowder or @jlhministries)

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  • Garson Abuita

    I understand you’re writing this for a Christian audience, but this is still RNS. Plenty of Jewish and Muslim mothers name their sons Judah, Yehudah or Yahya. It’s no accident that the character whose name is almost literally “Jew” got made the villain of villains in the Gospels. In fact, in trying to make Judas more sympathetic, you simply chose other Jews as the foil this time.

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  • ben in oakland

    According to Christian theology, Judas did what he did so that Jesus could do what he did.

    In short, Judas wasn’t a traitor at all. Judas was a patsy. This continued idea that he was a traitor and cursed is one of the most human-betraying ideas of Christianity.

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  • John Marter

    You don’t understand. God – Jesus – never uses force. He did not make Judas betray him. But God knows the end from the beginning and so he knew that Judas would betray Jesus. That is why the betrayal was predicted. But right up to the end, when Judas left the upper room and walked out into the darkness, Jesus had beer trying to influence Judas to repent and respond to the love of Jesus. Judas was not a patsy – he chose to betray Jesus in the hope that it would force Jesus to take his stand against the Roman occupiers and set up his kingdom on this earth. This was a misunderstanding shared by all the disciples and the pharisees.

  • Ben in oakland

    And if judas had not “betrayed” Jesus? Then the whole story wouldn’t have happened.

    Sorry, your explanation makes no more sense than saying that God knows that child molesting priests will be child molesters when he gives them the gift of God, the charisma of the priesthood, but calls them anyway into the precise situation where they will harm little children, forgetting something about millstones.

    No sense to be found there.

  • Paula

    I’m not sure it wasn’t an accident. I am in complete agreement that the Jews came to carry all the blame as the tradition developed, but I’ve never heard anyone speculate that Judas got his name because of anti-Semitism in the first century. It is, after all, in Greek, the same name as Jude — the name of one of the minor books in the NT, and not a “bad guy.”

  • Leon

    If you really believe how the storyline played out. The name didn’t make him a traitor, the action did,for so little wealth. So yes Christians are Judas,because why are they still collecting so much of someone else’s blessing in the name of Jesus.

  • If Jesus knew he was dying for our sins (sic), Judas could not have betrayed him. If Jesus was ignorant of his impending death, he is not divine. Also, the myth builders need to decide if Judas hanged himself, or burst open in the Akeldama, which he bought with the silver. Or, in another story, he threw the money into the temple, whereupon the priests discussed building an outhouse with the dirty money.

  • God used force on the heads of babies and the bellies of their mothers in the bible.

  • Jay

    Matthew’s account of this incident (Matthew 27:7f) has been alleged to contradict what Luke said here; but, in actuality, the two accounts are in perfect harmony. Judas hanged himself, as Matthew related; but his body also fell, as in Luke. We do not know whether the fall took place as a result of Judas’ bungling efforts at suicide, or if his body hung until it fell of natural causes.

  • Everett

    “the myth builders need to decide if Judas hanged himself, or burst open in the Akeldama, which he bought with the silver.”

    Both happened

  • Fran

    Jesus knew he was going to die for our sins and voluntarily gave his perfect life for all imperfect mankind so that they might eventually live forever on earth (John 3:16) because of his love for them and his Father, the only true God (John 17:3). He always gave glory to his Father, never to himself, and he will never be equal to his Father, who is our Heavenly Father (1 Corinthians 11:3). God did not die, but Jesus, his son, certainly did, and only God resurrected him back to life.

    We should always worship the Father in spirit and truth, but can at the same time, be “footstep followers” of his son, Christ Jesus.