Friday, April 10, 2009

Sympathy For Judas

I try to stay away from religious topics on this blog because religion is too emotional a subject to discuss rationally. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that it is impossible to dissuade someone from a religious belief with which you happen to disagree, just as it's impossible to convince someone who already holds their own set of beliefs to adopt yours if they don't happen to share them, no matter how right you may think that your beliefs are. So let me say from the outset that any religious opinions that I may express here are strictly my own. I don't expect my readers to agree with them, nor do I even suggest that they are any more correct than anybody else's beliefs. I will also state, for the record, that I was raised as a Roman Catholic, although I hardly consider myself to be a "good" Catholic. An example of what I mean by that will become clear shortly. In earlier times, the Pope would likely have excommunicated me if he knew of my beliefs.

As it's Good Friday, I thought I'd share my thoughts about Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus. As you may have already surmised from this post's title, I have a certain amount of sympathy for Judas. This is hardly an original idea. The rock opera, "Jesus Christ Superstar" portrays Judas in a somewhat sympathetic light, depicting him as a man whose lack of faith in Jesus and whose fear of the authorities drive him to turn Jesus in for the good of his followers. It also suggests that Judas merely performed an undesirable service that had to be performed by someone. After all, if no-one had betrayed Jesus, he would not have died and the entire purpose for his coming would have been lost.

In recent years, it has been suggested that the Gnostic Gospels may include a Gospel of Judas and that, in that Gospel, Jesus, far from rebuking Judas, declares him to be his most trusted friend and, in fact, asks for Judas' help in betraying him. "You will exceed all of them," Jesus said to Judas, according to this Gospel, "for you will sacrifice the man that clothes me." This Gospel is not, of course, recognized by any of the modern Christian churches, but I present it as evidence that I am by no means the first person to suspect that Judas may have been very misunderstood. I do, however, wish to offer a new perspective that I have not heard suggested before. Perhaps Judas' problem was that he had too much faith in Jesus.

During his time among us, Jesus reportedly performed many miracles. He turned water into wine, he fed multitudes with just a few fish and a few loaves of bread, he walked on water, he healed lepers and paraplegics, he cast out demons, he even raised the dead back to life. Surely a man capable of doing all these things would not allow himself to be put to death. Perhaps Judas said to himself, "The Pharisees are fools! I'll take their money. We could use it! It will do them no good. Jesus is the Messiah; the Son of God! They can't hurt him!"

So he took the silver pieces, and he lead the soldiers to where Jesus was, in the garden of Gethsemane, and then he watched in stunned horror as they arrested Jesus, beat him, put him on trial and ultimately executed him, while Jesus did nothing to stop them. He didn't even speak in his own defence!

I imagine poor Judas, standing there, waiting for the miracle; waiting for the heavens to open and smite those who would raise a hand against the Messiah, and ... nothing. If I'm right, it was Judas who must have felt betrayed. Everything he had believed up to that point was suddenly wrong. His Messiah turned out to be all sizzle and no steak. And now Judas was unwittingly responsible for his death. I can well understand the despair that would have followed and led him to hang himself. When viewed in that light, it all makes perfect sense to me.

Call me a blasphemer if you will, but I believe that, if there is a heaven, there was surely a place in it for Judas. His only sin was not understanding Jesus' plan. Then again, what do I know?

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