Now the betrayer [Judas] had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” Mark 14:44 (CEB)
Judas has gone down in church history has Jesus’ betrayer. In my childhood, I used to think about what a bad person he must have been. Even as an adult in my pre-seminary days, I pictured him as an evil person. In seminary, I began considering Judas as a human being who had other motivations for turning Jesus over to the authorities beyond what some of the gospels say about “Satan entering him.”
Judas was chosen by Jesus to be one of his followers. Did Jesus know even then that Judas would be the betrayer? Some might say that it was part of the “plan,” and others might say that certainly Jesus knew! Did he? I don’t know – none of us really knows, at least not about the very beginning of his ministry. From the scriptures, we gather that he knew when they all sat together at the last supper.
Did Judas really care about Jesus? Even though the scriptures don’t give us a lot of hints about this, I suspect that he considered him a friend, looked up to him, and had great hopes in Jesus. Maybe that is where his downfall was. He hoped for Jesus to “show his hand,” to rally the army and overthrow Rome at the point of his arrest. Judas may have wanted the “great king David” type of savior, and he must have been frustrated and let down when Jesus kept preaching peace and love and compassion.
It’s hard to know what Judas was feeling, but in the end, he couldn’t bear the weight of what he had done and died probably at his own hand. Sadly, we will never know what Jesus’ response to him might have been, except that Jesus was consistent, forgave Peter following Peter’s denial, and Jesus was always preaching forgiveness. I suspect that Jesus forgave Judas even before Judas betrayed him.
When have we been betrayed? Have we been able to forgive and let go? It’s not easy. When have we been the one who betrayed a friend, relative or fellow employee? My husband works in the business world as a salesman. He tells me all the time about experiences of being undercut and betrayed by fellow employees who “steal” his customers and lie about what they have done. Maybe the most painful acts of betrayal come when a spouse is unfaithful or a family member who takes advantage of an elderly parent or any kind of situation that makes us feel the pain and hurt of betrayal.
It’s good to look at ourselves and examine our own motives and behaviors. It’s good to run a check of times we may have betrayed someone. It’s good to think about how we can forgive – ourselves and others. It’s good to acknowledge that we, too, have betrayed Jesus in some way. May we know his forgiveness. May we live it.