Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I've had Judas Iscariot on my mind lately. Can you think of a character in history more vilified, more hated than Judas? I can't. "The betrayer of Jesus" is heavy, the heaviest. But I really don't understand why. The way I see it, whether you believe in the literal death of Jesus on the cross, resurrection and ascension, the event which allows salvation for believers, or understand the passion story as a metaphor for how one must die to self in order to be born anew with God, the role Judas played was critical. It's pretty clear that Jesus understood that he had to fulfill his destiny. He could have stopped antagonizing the establishment and walked away from his doom, but he didn't. He accepted the "cup" and allowed himself to be executed. Therefore, the role Judas played in helping lead the "authorities" to Jesus was an essential one. I guess Jesus could have turned himself in, but that would have meant that he was pleading guilty to the charges of heresy. blasphemy, disturbing the peace or whatever it was he was accused of. Jesus needed someone to set the events in motion and Judas took on that role.

The "lost" gospel of Judas was found some time ago, and published by National Geographic last year. It is a dialogue between Jesus and Judas and Jesus and the disciples (written by Gnostics in the 2nd century AD). In it, Judas claims to be the disciple to whom Jesus taught the true lessons. Judas was asked by Jesus to set the actions into play which would allow Jesus to fulfill his destiny.

If this is true, it seems to me that Judas should be honored for the courage and trust in Jesus it must have taken for him to follow through on his actions. I can't imagine what it would be like to do something I knew had to be done knowing that I would be scorned, hated, perhaps even killed by my closest friends for doing that thing (the Gospel of Judas says that Judas was stoned by the other disciples).

Even if the Gospel of Judas is not true, I don't think Judas should be hated. He was fulfilling his role. Even if did he turn Jesus over to his enemies for 30 shekels, he was doing what had to be done, just as Pontius Pilot did. Jesus had to die in order to show us how to live and it seems he required a person to set the event in motion which would allow that to happen.

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