it is somehow interesting that at Easter some people start to think about Judas Iscariot. I would find it more appropriate to think about Jesus Christ than about Judas at Easter festival.
Some people seem to have an intellectual problem with the issue of Judas: how could a disciple or a saved man do such an awful sin? According to the doctrine of the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (“The Cost of Discipleship”), Judas was baptized. Judas was baptized by the call of Jesus Christ: “Come on and follow me!” Not anybody had called Judas but Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God. This call was supernatural and powerful. Judas seemed to be obedient to Jesus’ call.
Jesus and his disciples were a small-scale Church; that means that everything was organized and they even had a cash box (coffer), and the housekeeper managing the cash box was Judas Iscariot. Once upon a time, an extremly devout woman came by and anointed Jesus with a very costly salve. When Judas saw the waste of the salve, he criticized Jesus that the salve could have been sold, and the money could have been given to the poor. No matter what Judas said, he was not concerned about the poor but about his small income. Sometimes when nobody was around, he found it easy to reach into God’s cash box and to take the salary which Jesus had neglected to pay him. Wasn’t he (Judas) the most diligent of them all?
The woman who anointed Jesus had a very great appreciation for her Lord, but Judas was somewhat annoyed that the ordinary son of the carpenter allowed wasting the salve instead to increase Judas’ salary. Although Judas was under the supernatural call of Jesus Christ, he never was a true disciple because he just followed Jesus in order to earn money (simony). Judas was a fraud, all the time. He had no appreciation for Jesus like the devout woman. The other 11 disciples loved Jesus truely and believed that he was the Son of God. However, they were in danger to get “infected” by Judas disbelief.
It is nearly a crime to compare the denial of Jesus by Peter with Judas’ betrayal. Peter acted on impulse when he denied Jesus. Judas in contrast calculated for a long time how he could sell Jesus most effectively. When Jesus was captured, Peter started to fight for his beloved Lord. He cut away the ear of one of the soldiers. Peter really believed that Jesus was the king of Israel and could not understand that Jesus didn’t defend himself by using violence. Jesus just took the ear of the soldier and put it back to its place at the soldier’s head (he cured him). Peter denied Jesus not because he wanted any money or because he was greedy for money, but because he didn’t yet understand Jesus’ way at the moment.
What was Jesus’ way?
Jesus had to be obedient to his heavenly father. It was the decision of God that Jesus should bear the sin of the whole mankind. Assumed, Jesus had struggled, then the plan of God had never been fulfilled. By accepting to be killed, Jesus provided the basis for our salvation. Romans, Chapter 6 says that we have died and resurrected together with Jesus. That means that our old man of sin has died together with Jesus on the cross, and we have entered a new life in Jesus in the power of his resurrection. At Holy Baptism this salvation was dedicated to us.
Let us praise Jesus Christ for making possible our salvation by his sorrow and suffering and the humiliation and shame He beared for us. Our answer to Jesus’ atonement must be discipleship (obedience). If we don’t want to be obedient, our baptism will never become effective for us in any way. To the contrary, if we don’t follow Jesus after we have been baptized, we are in big danger to get cursed.
People like Judas usually are not only greedy for money but also for fame, honour and power (it is fair to say that Judas was a typical politician or cardinal).
Many people feel somewhat for Judas because after he had betrayed Jesus, he got a big remorse and commited suicide. I must admit, for a long time, it was difficult for me to understand that some verses of the Bible obviously say that Judas will get punished at any rate for what he did, but on the other hand he seemed to repent his sin (usually God forgives someone who repents). Maybe, we make a mistake when we believe that Judas repented like a true christian. It is really possible that he solely repented because he saw his’ material hopes dashed. He became aware that he had distroyed the basis of his livelihood and appreciation, and that caused his big remorse.
How got his hopes dashed?
Well, shortly before Jesus was captured, he had told St. John that Judas is the betrayer, and he had told him this secretly. Jesus knew that Judas was going to take rule over the disciples (the young Church Jesus had founded, and which he loved with infinite love) after He had been captured. Jesus wanted to avoid the rule of Judas over the disciples.
Judas turned in Jesus by a kiss. Seemingly, he had the plan to deceive the 11 disciples. He didn’t want to know them that he turned in Jesus because after the seizure of Jesus, Judas wanted to become the bishop of the disciples.
After Jesus was captured, Judas tried to take over the rule over the disciples, but he failed. Thank God, Jesus had warned St. John about the true color of Judas. Now, Judas had a problem. All his hopes for his prospective livelihood, honour, power and fame were dashed. The disciples were no longer willing to accept him as a leader. Probably they told him: “Move on!”
Before Judas proceeded to leave this world, he decided that all people should have at least a good remembrance of him, and he went to the high priests and told them he had turned in guiltless blood, and additionally he threw the wage of betrayel (30 silver coins) into the Temple so that all people of Israel should get convinced that he had been a righteous man having made a mistake.
Now, Judas saw that his life had suddenly ended up in an unimaginable darkness. He had been catapulted to the very edge of the universe or even beyond. Time had come for annihilation and he did it. That was it. The Early Church said: “Poor Judas!”
Of course, it was merely an idee fixe of Judas to get annihilated by hanging himself. Judas will burn for ever in a lake of fire!
Correction from February 23, 2018
I would no longer say that Judas has deserved any compassion. He did not really repent his sin but only regretted that his dreams had not fulfilled, had not come true: to replace that lousy, unable “bishop” Jesus by himself, to approve himself an adequate salary and to enjoy the power and honour of such a high clerical position (of course, in contrast to unable Jesus, Judas had sought the friendship of the world, her applause, her riches, her people who needed a strong commander). He had managed to get rid of Jesus, but neither the Jewish leaders nor the disciples who had been warned wanted to accommodate him; that had saddened him. Judas had fallen between two stools, and took the consequences. Assumed, he had survived, he had been very harmful for Jesus’ young church – an intolerable damage.