Judas – villain or victim?

For over two millennia the name of this disciple has been universally used as the personification of betrayal and disloyalty.   The usual portrayal of Judas’s part in the Crucifixion story is one of greed and deceit, but perhaps if we consider his motives, the picture becomes more complex.

Was he just a person consumed by greed in asking for thirty pieces of silver for delivering Jesus up to the Temple authorities ?  In John 12 the evangelist describes Judas as “a thief: as keeper of the money bag he used to help himself to what was put in it.”

If this is so, there is no doubt of his villainous character.

Others suggest that Judas intended no harm to Jesus, but was so consumed with impatience for him to reveal his Messiahship and deliver Israel from the Roman yoke that he engineered a confrontation between Jesus and the Temple authorities to provide the opportunity for such revelation:  he had been one of the twelve during Jesus’s ministry and was well aware of his divine powers.

This belief gains credence by Judas’s later actions;  realising how misguided he had been “he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and elders.   ‘I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood’.” Then went and hanged himself.

The Scriptures lead us to see that Judas’s part in God’s plan was necessary for its fulfilment. Powerless to avoid his pre-destined role perrhaps he too was a victim in this drama.

Would it be too fanciful, or irreverent even, to wonder whether if Jesus had not been betrayed, and had gone on preaching and teaching for the duration of a long life, followed perhaps by a natural death and resurrection, his ministry would have carried the same impact ?

It requred the image of a cruel execution – a blood sacrifice –  to inspire the apostles to go out and give their own lives to pass his message on to all who would become Christians.


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