Spies Like Us: This is how we are like Judas, and why that isn’t all bad news.

Throughout the western world the Wednesday before Easter is called,”Spy Wednesday.” It is a reference to the night Judas’ sold-out Jesus to the Roman authorities. It was the night that set the crucifixion into motion.  For that he will always be remembered as one of the most evil figures of history. In some parts of the world on this night an effigy of Judas is thrown from high buildings or dragged through town while people throw sticks at it. He is blame worthy, cruel, and the farthest thing from our imagination we would ever want to be.  Which is why it is so important for us to see where we relate to him.

It is easy, and safe, for us to imagine that from the beginning of the story Judas was ill-intended, a willing agent of the devil. If he was evil from the beginning we can imagine we have nothing in common with him.  By doing so we draw a thick line between us and him.  We never have to imagine that it could be us, or even perhaps that it already is.

But Judas wasn’t always the shadowy evil figure in the background.  He was one of the first people to leave what he had and follow Jesus.  He made real sacrifices so it makes sense to assume some degree of sincerity.   The most frightening thing we can imagine is that Judas’ faith is utterly sincere.  If it was then perhaps anyone is capable of great evil, even if he or she begins from a place of faith.  Maybe it is supposed to be a little scary. Maybe that is one of the things this story wants to teach us.

Like many of us, Judas simply became disappointed with God.  He felt that the direction of Jesus’ choices and teachings were so far off from his expectations that surely Jesus was a farce.  Have you ever imagined what shifted in him to want to sell Jesus out? Originally his faith was enough to make him hit the road with Jesus.  That is a faith greater than have at times found in myself.   Is it possible that Judas at one time had greater faith than I do?

I can imagine it.  There are times in my journey I have been absolutely frustrated with the faith, ready to cash it in.  They have often been very angry moments for me, often when I was very sick of, and disappointed with, the Church.  At that point, with so much anger, why not unload the remnants of my faith on Craig’s-list for a few bucks.  I could trade in my books, my crosses, and even my prayers if I could.   Why not just quit now and find some other kind of value for what I have collected.  I should at least get something out of it.   It sounds unthinkable, but I hear this kind of story all the time.

Even Peter did that to some degree.  Out of fear and doubt Peter denied knowing Jesus and he didn’t do it just once. In fact all of the disciples, except John,  fled.
The biggest difference is that the other disciples had a chance to eat their words.

Mosaic in Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo. P...
Mosaic in Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo. Peter`s Denial (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Judas did not. It has me thinking that perhaps Judas’ greatest sin is not that he betrayed Jesus, it is that he decided not to stick around long enough to be proven wrong. I wonder what kind of great redemption would have been waiting for him if he had not ended is life from despair.   I remember what become of Peter
If betrayal is the unforgivable sin then we are all, to some degree, in trouble

But Is there anything God cannot forgive?  If we take the resurrection seriously have to answer no.    For the resurrection is the redemption of all of the betrayal the went into his death.  It is the ultimate forgiveness.  Could God have forgiven Judas?  Yes.  We have to believe so or else we believe there is something in humans the resurrection cannot reach.

…but it can.

This means God can forgive us, all of us, if we just stick around long enough.  Our greatest failure would be that we stopped believing in the possibility.  Nothing is outside the reach of the resurrection.


This post is part of “Diasappointed with God: An online retreat for Holy Week.” where you can read other reflections throughout this week.

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