By Dons Eze, PhD
Today, the entire Christendom is in a sober mood, reflecting what happened over 2,000 years ago in the Jewish City of Jerusalem, concerning the crucifixtion and death of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary. As we reflect on Christ’s death, one character that played a major role in the fate that awaited Jesus Christ, was a man named Judas Iscariot.
Judas was one of the twelve trusted friends of Jesus Christ, called Apostles, who he recruited to help him spread the Kingdom of God on Earth. Judas came from the Southern Kingdom of Israel, unlike most of the other Apostles, who came from the Northern Kingdom, where Jesus Christ himself equally came from.
Probably because he was segregated by the other Apostles and the need to have him integrated into the fold, or because he was trustworthy, Jesus decided to make Judas the Treasurer of the group.
Even though Evangelist John had prejudged Judas and painted him black by calling him a “thief”, in every organization, it is somebody who is trustworthy that is usually made the Treasurer. That was why Jesus found Judas capable of occupying that important position within the group.
At any rate, let us not forget that everything about Jesus Christ’s betrayal, crucifixtion and death on the Cross, was preordained or had divine plan. While revealing the identity of the person who was to betray him, Jesus made reference to Psalm 49:1, where it was written: “Even my trusted friend, with whom I shared my food, has lifted his foot against me”. In other words, Judas’ role was divinely ordained, and if he did not play that role, the Jews would probably not have arrested Jesus, and Jesus would not have died for our salvation.
The Jews had tried several times to arrest Jesus, but did not succeed. It was either because if they did it in public, they would be stoned, or that Jesus would slip from their midst. But Jesus was destined to die for the salvation of man, and it was destined that somebody must deliver Him into the hands of His enemies. That was the role Judas played, and perhaps, the reason why Jesus recruited him as a disciple.
Judas went and negotiated with the Jews leaders on how he would betray Jesus, but did not set out to do it immediately. He was still ruminating whether or not to go ahead with the plan until he ate that “morsel” which Jesus gave him, and”immediately satan entered into him. And Jesus said to him, ‘What you are going to do, do quickly”. (Jn. 13: 27). So, Judas was simply an instrument, who played the role destined for him.
Judas was a zealot. He was one of those who wanted the immediate overthrow of the Roman government in order to “restore the Kingdom to Israel”. Probably, that was why he got enlisted into Jesus’ Arny, into His disciples. Judas believed Jesus to be Divine and as the one who would liberate Israel from the oppressive rule of the Romans.
Judas had followed Jesus for three years and waited for Him to act, but the man was not forthcoming. He then decided to deliver Jesus to the authorities, with the aim to provoke Him so that He would descend on them with His Divine powers and “restore the Kingdom to Israel”.
Peter equally looked forward for Jesus to act. That was why he drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of the soldiers who came to arrest Jesus. But Jesus restrained him, because His kingdom was not an earthly one.
Judas was disappointed that Jesus did not act when the Roman soldiers arrested him. Instead, he saw his Master being tortured and subjected to all sorts of human indignity and humiliation. He was worried. He sought to return the thirty pieces of silver given to him so that Jesus would be released. But the people refused. Out of frustration, he went and committed suicide!
Perhaps, if Jesus had prayed for Judas the way He prayed for Peter, the man would not have ended his life that way. But that was still a divine plan. As the Scripture said: “The Son of Man will go as it is written about Him. But alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed, it would have been better for him if he had not been born”. (John 14:21).
Many of us are like Judas Iscariot, slaves to what they call fate, or destiny. God gave each of us free will to enable us make informed choices. Even if the Scripture had said that Jesus would be betrayed, it did not mention Judas by name. The man just fell to it in the name of destiny. It is therefore a wake up call for each and everyone of us to work for our progess and not become slaves to what they call destiny.
What about the disciples of Jesus Christ? They were like many of us: fair whether friends, bundle of disappointments. For three years, Jesus had been with them, mentoring them, performing all sorts of miracles, yet, at the most crucial period when He needed them most, they all deserted Him, including the young man who ran away naked.
Where was the Rock upon which Jesus would build His Church, who saw His Divinity at Transfiguration? For three times, the man denied ever knowing Jesus. Through our actions and inactions, we do exactly what they did, deny Jesus at the slightest temptation.
Where were the 5,000 people Jesus fed with five loaves of bread? Where were the 4,000 he also fed? Where was the Roman Centurion He healed his son? Where was the father of Jairus, the young girl He raised from the dead? Where were the ten lepers He healed? Where was blind Bartimus? Where was Zacheous? They were nowhere to be found. Only some few women of Jerusalem that showed Him sympathy. If all these people had gathered in solidarity with Jesus, no doubt, their voices would have drowned those of the Jerusalem crowd upon whose testimony Pilate cowardly condemned Jesus to death.
Today, when we denounce Judas for betraying his Master, when we condemn Peter for denying his Saviour, when we frown at the attitude of many of those who benefited from Jesus, but deserted Him at His hour of need, we should equally think about our own failings, our own betrayals, our own inability to stand firm at the hour of trial. Like Jesus Himself has said: “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone”.
Therefore, before you raise your voice to condemn Judas Iscariot about what he did, first examine your own self. Socrates urged his fellow Athenians: “Man know thyself,” stressing that “no unexamined life is worth living”. In other words, we should try to look inwards and ask ourselves whether we had in anyway, like Judas, betrayed Jesus, in our actions and inactions. If we had, we should not despair or give up like Judas and condemn ourselves, but remorseful like Peter and ask for forgiveness. May the Crucified Jesus save us.