Judas had been called personally by the Lord, followed him for three years, heard him preach and teach; had seen him walk on water, still stormy seas, feed thousands with five breads and two fish, raise three people from the dead, heal on countless occasions the sick, blind and lame and have mercy on countless sinners. He had even received from the Lord, the power to do many of these same things himself and had been entrusted by Him with the money bag for the twelve. (Fr. Roger J. Landry)
Judas had a master who was in no way a dictator, but rather was the most compassionate and loving man to walk this earth. What went wrong then? Why did Judas betray the most loving man to ever live?
There is very little mentioned in the scriptures about Judas. Yet, from the little we know, we shall aim to learn a bit about his betrayal of Jesus and the lessons that it teaches us.
- Jesus himself appointed Judas to be His disciple
So He appointed the twelve: Simon……….. and Judas Iscariot (Mark 3:16,19)
Jesus appointed all his disciples knowing very well that they had a lot of good in them but also knowing their sinful tendencies. He loved them in spite of their faults. He loved them and chose to see the good in them rather than the bad. His knowledge of Judas’ character did not prejudice His decision in choosing him as a disciple.
How difficult is it for us to love those who have faults and failings? Do we see others for the sinners they are or for the saints that they can become?
For if you love only those who love you back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. Do not judge; do not condemn. (Luke 6:32, 37)
- Judas knew about Jesus. He did not know Jesus
Judas tragically never got to know Jesus and even more tragically never got around to loving Him. He remained just a follower of Jesus on the outside, not on the inside. In betraying Jesus, Judas valued Him less than a handful of coins, forgetting that it would profit him nothing to gain the whole world and forfeit his life. (Fr. Landry)
Do we have an intimate relationship with our Lord? Is our service to the Lord only lip service or do we allow His love to transform us on the inside?
Jesus says, “This people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me”. (Matthew 15:8)
- Judas could not comprehend the mercy of God
Judas never realised that the main point of his life was to come to know and love Jesus, to trust in His mercy and to participate in His work of salvation.
Unlike Peter, who despite denying Jesus, wept when he realised his mistake and returned back to Jesus for mercy; unlike the thief on the cross who, despite leading a wretched life, turned to the Lord and His mercy in his end hours; Judas never understood the depths of Christ’s love and mercy.
He didn’t understand that the entire mission of Jesus was to forgive and save sinners, sinners like him. Rather than have his sin lead him to the One who was about to die to save him from that sin, Judas, despairing of that forgiveness, went to the field and took his own life.
Do we get bogged down by guilt and shame when we sin? Or do we believe in the merciful and healing power of the Sacrament of Confession?
Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrew 4:16)
- Judas was tempted by his own desires and greed
Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests and said,
“What will you give me if I betray Him to you?” (Matthew 26:15)
The scriptures clearly tell us that Judas took the initiative to sin. He wasn’t tempted by the priests but approached them of his own accord.
But one is tempted by one’s own desires, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:14-15)
Temptation is part and parcel of any Christian’s life. Yet, we are called to resist the devil at all times (James 4:7) and pray so that we may not fall into temptation (c.f. Lk22:40)
What are the temptations that we most frequently succumb to? What have we done to overcome them?
Satisfaction consists in the cutting off of the causes of the sin. Thus, fasting is the proper antidote to lust; prayer to pride, envy, anger and sloth; almsgiving to covetousness. (St. Richard of Chichester)
Was Judas the worst man to ever live?
We remember Judas as the man who betrayed Jesus. Even the scriptures make sure we never forget this.
Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet, one of you is a devil.” He was speaking of Judas Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him. (John 6:71)
However, we must ask ourselves: How many times have we betrayed Jesus by our sins, by failing to love, by failing to forgive, by failing to help the needy etc?
When we look at others and are quick to judge and condemn them, we must remind ourselves of the words of St. Jose Maria Escriva:
“It’s true that he was a sinner. But don’t pass so final a judgement on him. Have pity in your heart, and don’t forget that he may yet be an Augustine, while you remain just another mediocrity.”
The examples of the saints are lost on us if we think of them as being individuals without human weaknesses. In the same way, it is a grave mistake to think of Judas as a demon without any elements of goodness and grace. In his fall is left a warning that even the great grace and the familiar friendship of Jesus may be of no avail to one who is unfaithful. (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Is there any good news in the tragedy of Judas?
Only God knows if there is. For us, however, there is a lot of good news. The example of Judas illustrates just how essential it is to remain rooted in Christ at all times and to trust in His love and mercy despite all our faults and failings.
No matter how grave our sin or how bad our past, we can always turn back to the Father’s mercy just like the prodigal son did; just like Peter or the thief on the cross did.
God’s mercy will always exceed his judgement. Nothing can keep us from God’s merciful love, not even our sins against the Lord, unless we let them-by refusing to come to receive God’s mercy!