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Who is Judas Iscariot?

We have now embarked on our fourth day of Holy Week, the betrayal of Christ is imminent, but do we truly understand the gravity of what transpires the night Jesus is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane?

The name Judas is familiar to us, colloquially we throw his name around when we are slighted by a friend of ours, usually referring to a minor laps in trust or perhaps an ill advised joke. We make light of the betrayal of Christ into the hands of the Sanhedrin and compare an acquaintance of ours to the one who sentenced Christ to death.

In actuality it is unfair for us to use the name of Judas in this manner, there was more than one disciple named Judas, the Gospel of John uses his surname to differentiate between Judas, the one who betrayed Christ, and another named Judas who was part of the 12. (John 14:22, Mark 6:3)

What we do know of Judas is limited to the Gospel narrative, much else needs to be filled in by what we know about Christ and the Apostles, as revealed to us through the Holy Scriptures. Obvious conclusions that we can make from our knowledge is that he spent three years in the midst of Christ, listening to His teachings, and witnessing to His miracles, Judas spent three years in the presence of the Kingdom of God, and was still blinded to the fact of who Christ really was.

In Matthew Chapter 9, Christ is challenged about fasting.

"[14] Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” [15] Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast."

What does this tell us?

Very early on in His Earthly ministry, Christ is revealing himself as the Bridegroom to His followers. The Very Bridegroom that we have venerated this week.

"Behold, the Bridegroom is coming in the middle of the night; and blessed is the servant He shall find awake and watching; unworthy is the other He shall find being lazy. So beware, O soul of mine, be not overcome by sleep, so that you not be handed over to death and be shut out from the Kingdom..."

We look to the coming of the Bridegroom, because we hope to be including into the bridal feast, that is the heavenly banquet. Christ makes this connection when his disciples are challenged on fasting. This means that so long as we are with Him we are experiencing the Kingdom of Heaven.

Judas spent three years in the very presence of the Heavenly Kingdom, but could not see the glory, his heart was hardened by greed. The Scriptures also tell us that he was the treasurer of the group as they traveled with Christ around Judea and the Holy Land.

[6] He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. (John 12:6)

Christ reminds us often in His teachings not to store our treasures here on earth where they will decay, we need to reject earthly things, such that we will build our treasures in heaven. Knowing that Judas was present during these teachings, these lessons clearly fell on deaf ears, as he was more focused on skimming from the groups "moneybag" for his own gain.

His love for money drove him truly insane. What else could have caused Judas to commit such a betrayal? It is difficult for us to comprehend the gravity of the betrayal of Christ, as we know the whole story. To fully comprehend the pain that was caused to Christ prior to his passion we must focus harder on the idea of betrayal.

A basic definition of Betray would be the following: To expose to danger; to be disloyal; and finally to break faith.

The Greek word used in the Gospel narrative is παραδίδωμι, which simply translates to "To hand over," a closer look at this word shows that its meaning is one of malice.
Judas broke his faith with Christ. He broke his communion with Christ! Mere moments after receiving the first communion, the very institution designed to keep Christ close to us after he leaves, he turns the Son of Man over, παραδίδωμι, into the hands of sinners.

Anyone could have arrested Christ, however, it was Judas who betrayed Christ, only one who is like family could commit an act of betrayal! In Luke 22:48 Christ says, "would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?" Not just any kiss but rather as the Greek states, φιλήματι, a kiss of brotherly affection. Judas was considered family to Christ, and it was his own brother, through Eucharistic union, that handed Him over to death.

The idea of betrayal is not something we should consider lightly, before Christ was shackled, humiliated, scourged, and finally crucified, naked, for all to witness, He was first stabbed in the heart by one whom he considered His own brother.

What then can we learn from the example of Judas?

If the Gospel narrative is to be read backwards, through His Parables, you can almost see Christ speaking directly to Judas, preparing him for what was to come. In the story of the Vineyard Workers (Matthew 20:1-16) Showing him that even at the 11th hour, God will offer salvation to the faithful. The example of the poor widow (Mark 12:41-44), teaching that it is not the amount of money we posses but the manner in which we offer our money to God. Through the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) reminding us that no matter how far we stray, repentance will always bring us closer to God.

We know that Judas was too hardened by greed though, more focused on the 30 pieces of silver (about $450 today) than communion with Christ. Satan was still able to take hold of his heart and motivate his actions of betrayal

[26] Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. (John 13:26)

In the Gospel narrative it seems that Judas almost breaks out of a trance and is at once overcome with grief, returning the silver, he runs off to hang himself. Satan had taken such a strong hold on his soul that he saw to value in his own life anymore. Nothing he learned from Christ's ministry over three years was able to move him towards repentance.

If Judas only had the volition to approach God in repentance, would Christ have forgiven him? Our theology tells us yes, but ultimately those matters are left unanswered.

Remorse and repentance are very different. Tonight we must approach the Cross humbly and bear all of our sins to the One who died for our sins. May we follow the example of the publican, the prodigal and the thief on the cross,  and pray to God that He may remember us in His Kingdom.


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