Monday, April 18, 2011

The sign of Judas

The reading for Holy Communion toay from the RCL is John 12.1-11.

      sleeping child
         ~face flushed
             with fever

I have always been a little uncomfortable with what might be termed the acceleration of accusation against Judas. By this I mean that as we 'travel' through time, from the earliest Gospel of Mark to the latest of John, the faults and failings he is guilty of multiply. By John he is not only the one who betrays Jesus for money with a kiss , but one who would publicly question Jesus' behaviour and an embezzling thief.

It all points to the natural abhorrence the early Christians felt for the character of Judas. But as one of my old teachers used to say, to ask if it is true is the wrong question - what does it mean? In this case, I think the question 'what does it mean' must be applied not to the individual actions of Judas but what does the man Judas himself mean ... I'm thinking about the idea that the meaning of who Judas is goes far beyond the person himself, but what he and his deeds stand for in the Gospels.

Judas is one of the 12, hand chosen by Jesus, an intimate friend who has seen the miracles, heard the teaching, and known the man. Yet he deliberately sets himself against him. He travels with him as he offers to his enemies to hand him over. He sits at table with him even as he plans to sell him for money. He comes forward to betray him with a kiss him even as he leads an armed mob to arrest him.

What does Judas mean? I think he means us. We also are ones whom our Lord has individually chosen to be with him, whom he has invited to be intimate with him. He calls us to him, to rest our heads in his bosom as his beloved disciple at table. Yet we betray him every day. It is our actions that place him on the cross. It is for our sins that he suffers and dies.

Judas is a reminder and a warning. He is a reminder of where our sins lead. They lead to a betrayal of the one we claim to love ... and to our own despair of soul and spiritual death. Judas reminds us that we may sit at table with Christ, calling ourselves his friend, and yet be a devil, no different from those who publicly confess themselves his enemies. Judas is a sign to us of what we may become if we love Jesus only with our lips but not truly in our hearts.

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