Holy Week

And then there’s Judas

(Wednesday of Holy Week Year A    John 13:21-32)

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, "Very
truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me."

The disciples looked at one another,
uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples–the one whom Jesus
loved–was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask
Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him,
"Lord, who is it?"

Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when
I have dipped it in the dish." So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of
bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "Do quickly what you are
going to do."

Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that,
because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, "Buy what we
need for the festival"; or, that he should give something to the poor. So,
after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
(John 13:21-30, NRSV)

When my oldest son was an 8th grader, we put on a production of "Godspell" at Large Church. A group of kids gathered to audition. Among the boys, there was one part they all wanted to play.

And it wasn't Jesus.

Everyone found Judas more compelling as a character. They liked the idea of being the one so close and yet so far off the mark.

Although all the gospels name Judas as the betrayer, it is John who sets him up with a reference ahead of time, naming him as a thief who pilfers from the common purse. John makes the people around Jesus come alive, both good and bad, and in his version Judas is not only a bad buy but possessed by Satan. Oddly, that spirit of evil enters him after he eats the bread Jesus gives him, in a sort of horribly opposite Eucharist.

Since for John it matters for Jesus to know exactly what lies ahead, you have to wonder how early in the process Jesus chose Judas to play this particular part? Did he recruit a bad egg on purpose? What if Judas had been changed?

My oldest used to play with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figures when he was a little guy. He had a huge collection of the characters, good and bad, as well as environments in which to arrange them. One day I noticed the Evil Shredder's henchman, BeBop, being used on the side of the Ninja Turtles. When I asked, #1 Son said, "He came over to the good side!"

I believe in coming over to the good side. And so my heart goes out to Judas. Was he in the grip of something he could not comprehend? Or was he simply a right down bad'un who never repented?

I have to think it was the first, because I find it hard to believe that someone, anyone, could walk with Jesus for three years and not be changed in some way.