Judas gets a bad rap.

We think of him as the betrayer, as the bad guy. We paint him to be one of the villains in the Passion of Christ. He’s the sellout, giving up his soul for just thirty pieces of silver.

I think we need to reevaluate how we see Judas. We forget that he was chosen by Christ to follow; he was loyal to Jesus for three years. He ate, slept, drank, and heard the teaching of Christ for those three years. Those experiences and lessons didn’t merely fall on deaf ears. Judas was counted as a disciple. Judas was a complex human, not just a pawn in some cosmic chess game.

Judas was just trying to see Jesus become king. He was trying to force (what he thought was) Jesus’ hand and get a revolt started. The disciples expected a Messiah to come and overthrow Rome. Judas wasn’t exempt. I believe he saw Jesus as this Messiah and wanted desperately to see the Kingdom of God come. He had good intentions. He wasn’t just a dick to Jesus. He just misunderstood the Son of Man.

Don’t we do that too? Don’t we try and get Jesus to do what we want, even selling him out for fame, for fortune, for church growth? Don’t we paint Jesus as the Savior we want rather than the Messiah he is? We expect Jesus to do these volatile things for us, to establish us in positions of power, influence, recognition. We expect Jesus to overthrow the Empire and establish the Kingdom so that we may finally get our due, our place.

I think we are more Judas than Peter.

Judas moved on his own initiative trying to force Jesus into moving against his enemy. Judas didn’t understand that the Son of Man was come to die. Judas didn’t listen to Jesus’ announcement of his death. Judas painted in his mind what Jesus should be and when Jesus failed to meet that expectation, Judas lost hope and began plotting for himself how to force Jesus to do what he wanted.

That should make us stop and think about who Jesus truly is. Otherwise, we might lose hope and hang ourselves. When our hope is in a Savior that looks like the world’s power, we lose hope when the violence isn’t done by our hero, but rather to him. Jesus isn’t in the business of meeting our expectations. He is come to suffer, to die, and to bring resurrection.

Judas wanted what all the other disciples wanted: a place of power in the Kingdom. For that, he was willing to cheat and steal and betray. What are we willing to do for our place of power in the Kingdom? What violence and betrayal have we already done to assert our place of prestige, fame, and wealth? And all of it done in the name of the Kingdom of God.

We forget the last shall be first and the first shall be last. We forget the foot-washing master, who said, “Follow me.”

So we must choose between our 30 pieces of silver that enslave us to the world’s power or humbly taking up our cross to be like Jesus and moving to be with the outcast, with the powerless, with the needy, with those who have nothing to give us. We must choose: to embrace Jesus as he is and to learn to be shaped like him or to be proud and set ourselves against God in favor of our version of Jesus, our idol.

We worship the Christ, who came to lay down his life as a ransom. We are called to love as he did, by laying down our lives and serving, washing feet, dying to ourselves, and standing with the powerless. Judas betrayed all that. Will we?

Originally published at https://culturalsavage.com on April 10, 2020.

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