Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Treating Judas Iscariot

I finally found a use for my iPod other than sitting in my bag looking trendy. I now take walks on my lunch break (I need the exercise and sun more than you know), so I can listen to Podcasts. I used to listen to radio preachers in the car on the way to work, or on a portable radio when I walked, but now I don't walk and don't drive to work. So I listen to Podcasts for Allister Begg, and R.C. Sproul.

Today I was listening to past episodes of Alistair Begg about Judas Iscariot. I had a few thoughts about this character I wanted to perhaps share.

There are usually only two readings of Judas: one vilifies the "traitor" making him into the most despicable character imaginable, and the other tries to exonerate him of his wrong, saying he was trying to do something right in bringing the Kingdom of God. Let's briefly look at the two pictures.

Ever since the early Church foundation, Judas was the bad guy. Many scholars say the manuscripts were even altered to make him out to be really terrible, even before the betrayal. It's easy to see why, he not only turned his back on Jesus, he sought out his death. The scriptures record he hung himself, and the Church has said the devil did this to him, partly because they think suicide is caused by Satan and partly because they don't want to make Judas look remorseful for what he did (even though he returned the 30 pieces of silver). He's the model of the antichrist, and rightly so for the antichrist comes from within, not from without. But in this way we distance ourselves from this man to not even give him any traits we might possess so we don't learn from him for life, only for theological reasons. Begg made a good effort to apply Judas traits to our own selfish ambitions and love for money, but he also vilified the character.

On the other hand, we hear that Judas was either secretly asked by Jesus to turn him over to fulfill scripture, leading to the other Disciples mistrusting him and casting him out. They say this is supported because Jesus doesn't seem surprised in the garden, and Judas kisses him emotionally. They suggest the two had a close relationship, even closer than the other Disciples. Others say he was just a zealot (Begg even suggests this in passing) who is impatient with Christ and wants to force his hand by stirring up the people during the Feast of Passover bringing a revolt. He is saddened when the people who profess love for the Messiah turn on him and choose Barabbas instead.

I feel we miss something by either of these two. Begg has come closest I've seen so far in bringing Judas' motives close to home. Judas was just like us, and we should be careful that we do not follow his steps. We should be very solemn to think that he is no better or worse than any of us. Judas was caught trying to serve two masters and opted for Mammon over the Lord. How many of us also try and split our allegiances? We would sell out our Savior for power, prestige, money, our country. We're living on the edge here, and it's not some extreme sport or extreme lifestyle. We're on the edge of eternal life and this fallen world. We're so close to letting our worldly concerns envelope our very existence.

We're defined by our vocations, our language, our nation. We should desire to be defined by our devotion to the Living God. Instead we find we are traitors, betrayers, murderers and thieves. O Lord, please save us.


LiverofGod said...

So steve I have a question. I appreciate what you said about the guy, and though we tend to think of him in terms of what we have been taught throughout our upbringing as one bad dude, I feel akin to him often. His main context in life was money, and it was ruled by it.

Okay, check. Got that one covered on my end too.

But he had to love Jesus, to a degree. I mean, he followed him, looked up to him, was enamored by him no doubt.

Okay, check, got that one covered too.

His desire for self was at the forefront of his thoughts, but he also knew his giftings right? He was a connected dude, a networker as well. But he was being discipled by the Christ, Messiah, Holy One.

But he never had the promised Holy Spirit. But he DID have the life of Jesus displayed before him. So where did discipleship end? Where did it go wrong, as the history books proclaim? Where is the real difference between me and good ol' Judas?

Destroy:Ideas said...

It's all speculation, of course, concerning the motivations behind Judas' betrayal. The most obvious one would be money, as he was known to dip into the Disciple's petty cash. But could he have just been an idiot? Maybe he didn't really expect Jesus to just give himself over. Maybe he expected Jesus to call down fire from heaven or something (as the Disciples urged him to strike down mockers, or when Jesus rebuked the fig tree). So to answer that first question about when discipleship ended, that's a challenge.

Where did it go wrong? That's also hard to say. Was it a spur of the moment thing during the sader meal, or did it build up over time? Maybe he saw a "wanted: dead or alive" poster in Jerusalem and went for the chance. We don't have the complete story.

The last question is the hardest. Where are we different from Judas? Don't we sell out Christ every chance we get?

LiverofGod said...

exactly on all of your comments...exactly. We just don't know. So what DO we know? We know what he did and the final consequences of it, but I have no idea if Judas was too different then me. And here's the scary part, because of the culture of the day and the discipline inherent, he could probably be considered more of a follower of Christ than I. Though God looks at the intentions of the heart, he also have given us resources to honor him and give us "everything we need for life and for godliness" (thank you 2 John 1). Judas is an enigma to me I guess, because I know human nature, and I know human tendencies to an extent. It's not complicated and it's not tough to figure out, despite what society screams. I guess I would just tell Judas, "Brother, welcome and eat at my table, for we are akin in more than one likeness."

Destroy:Ideas said...

I think you and I might beat ourselves up a bit too much.

1 Corinthians 1:28-31
He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."