Judas, called Iscariot

Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve.

According to the folks at the History Channel, NatGeo and other purveyors of revisionist Christianity, Judas Iscariot was a well-meaning, misunderstood victim of his own good intentions.

Every year at this time, we are treated to shows that expose us to experts we’ve never heard of before expounding on how Judas didn’t really mean it. He was, they tell us with remarkable certainty, just trying to provoke Jesus into defending Himself and starting a revolution. Judas wanted a warrior messiah who would throw off the Roman yoke and return Israel to the glory days of Kings David and Solomon, they say.

Instead, he got this gentle healer and teacher who refused, as Scripture tells us, to bruise a reed.

So, Judas took things into his own hands. He set Jesus up with the intention of having Him throw off his attackers like Samson slaying the Philistines. What he got instead was a crucified Lord and guilt that destroyed him.

It’s difficult, 2,000 years later, to determine Judas’ intentions. Whatever he intended to happen, his failure of faith doomed him in the end.

Notice, I do not say that his betrayal of our Lord doomed him. I don’t say it, because that didn’t do it.

Peter betrayed Jesus, as did all the Apostles except John. Peter suffered the ignominy of denying that he even knew Jesus. He denied Jesus repeatedly, and then, at the critical moment, when he was actively cursing Jesus, he turned and saw his Master looking at him while he did it.

That black night was such a welter of misery and betrayal. It was, as Jesus said, Satan’s hour.

There is such poignance to the things Jesus said during this time. The hurt echoes in the statement, Judas, do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?

Think about it for a moment. Judas knew Him. He had traveled with Him, ate with Him, followed, listened and been near Him for years. He’d seen the miracles, experienced the love. Then, whatever his motives, he betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. And he did it with a kiss.

Jesus’ sadness, not for Himself, but for Judas, reverberates down the centuries. Judas, do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?

But it wasn’t the kiss the doomed Judas. It wasn’t the thirty pieces of silver or the betrayal. It was Judas’ lack of faith.

In the final analysis, the thing that separates Judas and Peter is faith.

Is it faith, or is it weakness to turn to God with our sins and confess them to the depths of their utter blackness? Is it faith or is it brokenness that makes us throw ourselves on His mercy and seek forgiveness we know we do not deserve and can never earn?

It is lack of faith, or is it pride that keeps others from admitting their crimes against God? What causes one person to seal themselves inside their sinfulness and die there, while another reaches out like they were drowning and grasps the nail-scarred hand?

I think all these things are factors to differing degrees with different people. But in Judas’ case, it was most likely a lack of faith. Judas had no pride when he went to the priests and threw the money at them. “I have betrayed an innocent man,” he said.

He had no problem admitting the truth of what he had done. He just didn’t admit it to the right person. The priests, now that they had their prey, no longer found Judas useful. “What is that to us,” they replied to his anguished admission. “See to it yourself.”

One might ask what kind of priests these really were who would turn away a sin-sick man so coldly. But such a question would be redundant. They were corrupt priests who had plotted, bribed and bullied their way to the execution of an innocent man in order to preserve their delicately balanced position of power in occupied Israel.

Did they know this innocent man was God? I don’t think so. After all, Jesus, when He prayed for them, said they know not what they do.

But they did know He was innocent. They did know the lies, bribes and political maneuvering they had committed to bring about His death. They knew what they had done, and they were, as Jesus described them earlier in His ministry, indifferent with great hardness of heart. 

Judas confessed his sin. But he confessed it to the wrong person. He went to corrupt priests who told him to “see to it” himself.

Peter, after enduring what must have been unbearable grief and shame, took his sin to Christ.

Judas could and would have been forgiven. All he had to do was humble himself and ask for it of the Man he had betrayed.

The lesson in all this for us is not so much that we should never betray a friend — although that is certainly a worthwhile lesson to learn. The lesson is that, no matter what we have done, we can find forgiveness in the merciful heart of Jesus.

No matter what we have done. No matter how many times we have done it. No matter how horrible or trivial it is. We are sinners. And we need the forgiveness of the only One who has the right to forgive. We need tthe forgiveness of the Living Christ.

Confession is not a way of sidestepping this forgiveness, it is a conduit of its grace. The priest does not and cannot forgive us. He does not and cannot confer newness of life on us. Those things come only from Christ Jesus.

Confession is a simple and accessible way to meet the Risen Lord. it is contact with Christ through the graces of the Church.

However, the healing comes from one place only, and that is the Heart of Our Lord. Even though we should all go to confession, we should never wait to take our sins to Jesus.

If you have sinned — and we all have — turn to Him immediately and ask forgiveness. Then, go to confession when it’s available to you.

Then, Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, Scripture tells us.

Simon, Satan has asked to have you, that he may sift you like wheat, Jesus warned Peter.

Satan had his day with both these men. One of them emerged stronger, the rock on which Christ would build His Church.

The other went out and hanged himself.

They both repented of their sins, and grieved them deeply. The difference is who they asked for forgiveness.

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  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

    ” Judas wanted a warrior messiah who would throw off the Roman yoke and return Israel to the glory days of Kings David and Solomon, they say.”

    Funny, I always believed the opposite- that Judas was smart politically, but that the Sanhedrin were smarter- and that he believed, right up until the 30 pieces of silver, the blood money, that Jesus would just be jailed and kept from provoking the Romans into destroying Israel (the same thing the Sanhedrin were really frightened of).

  • http://corbiniansbear.blospot.com/ St. Corbinian’s Bear

    Good article.

    • hamiltonr

      Thank you.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    From Matthew Chpt 27:

    “Then Judas, his betrayer, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, deeply regretted what he had done. He returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? Look to it yourself.” Flinging the money into the temple, he departed and went off and hanged himself.”

    Judas saying “I have sinned” is a confession. He repented. He “deeply regretted what he had done.” But then he hanged himself, a loss of faith. If he had stopped at repentence he would have been saved. I still have hope for him. It is possible while hanging and prior to death he found faith once more. It only takes a fraction of a moment. May God have mercy for him. I personally don’t look down on him.

    • Dave

      Yes, but didn’t Jesus say something to the effect of “woe to the man by whom I am betrayed, it would have been better for him never to have been born.”? That doesn’t sound like he was saved, though I suppose it could be barely possible that he made it to purgatory and had to suffer there for 1000 years or something.

      • cajaquarius

        I read that as a warning of the misery that it would bring him (the misery that drove him to take his own life, in all likelihood). Not so much a promise of eternal hellfire, though that is much more comfortable for us to believe.

      • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

        Yes, that was on my mind as well. But Christ forgives if one repents is a foundational concept in Christianity.

  • cajaquarius

    [According to the folks at the History Channel, NatGeo and other purveyors of revisionist Christianity, Judas Iscariot was a well-meaning, misunderstood victim of his own good intentions]

    And according to one of the Popes and my old CCD teacher, it was pride that drove him to betray Christ and then kill himself (because he would rather hang himself than admit he was wrong, I guess). As someone whose biological father hanged himself when I was six years old, I never get tired of people using the death of this man to make wild assumptions on his part. Reminds me of the wild assumptions of my own fathers motives; cowardice, guilt, depression, and so on. Seems to me saying sorry to the priests is saying sorry to God, unless God suddenly stopped being omniscient.

    The simple fact is, Judas was the fall guy. He needed to exist to complete the contract and make the prophecies come to pass. Without Judas, Christ would have just been another quickly forgotten scrub, remembered about as well as Mithra, Zoraster, etc. At least he had the courage to pay blood for blood by his own hand; didn’t flee into the night like the other eleven who only paid the blood debt when forced to by being martyred at the hands of others. You have to give him that.

    • hamiltonr

      Judas could and would have had complete forgiveness. All he had to do was turn to Jesus and ask for it.

      • cajaquarius

        It seems to me he most likely did. Confronting the priests, discarding the money, and taking his own life seem like strong indicators that he was repentant for his crimes. I suppose it would be hypocritical of me to say I know for sure after my initial comment but, that said, I have a hard time seeing his final actions as anything but a noble act or repentance, taken together.

        Don’t get me wrong; I see why, for many, seeing Judas in a light that doesn’t cast him as some two dimensional dastardly villain is important. We like to assume we could never fall so low, don’t we? We make these separations to make ourselves feel better so that we can maintain our egotism that we are better than they. As mentioned, I noticed that with my own father as well after his suicide. People made him out to be like a sick animal because nobody wants to admit they are just as human as he was.

        Pride is the first of the seven sins for a reason, I suppose.

    • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

      I wouldn’t call Judas simply “a fall guy.” That implies he was set up or was under some delusion. He used his free will to do what he did.
      I’m sorry to hear about your father. Like I said below for Judas, it is very likely that a person hanging himself has a change of heart while hanging. Whatever the reasons for your father, it is quite likely he repented and Christ forgave him.