What has happened to Judas, one of the Twelve, who was there when Jesus healed the sick, expelled demons, Judas who heard his words and teachings? Judas, who was also sent forward in one of the groups of two, who also performed such deeds trusting Jesus! And when they all came back from their first missionary journey and related full of joy what they had experienced, also Judas felt Jesus’ caring concern for all of them when Jesus took them apart a little so that they could have a rest.
And while they were eating, he said: „Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” (Matthew 26,21)
What has happened, at this very moment, so that Judas is willing to go to the Chief Priest in order to betray Jesus? Betrayal is always also a sort of violence, for you destroy a trusting relation and you turn someone over to harm him.
And then: how Judas betrays Jesus by perverting the symbol of the kiss! For a kiss expresses a relation of love, a relation of friendship! This expression now becomes the kiss of the traitor. And this also shows the full extent of what takes place: there is not only obvious human action happening between Jesus, Judas, and the priests of the temple, but also a fight between Jesus and the forces of darkness. The forces of the devil who is also called the prince of lies: indeed, Judas denies having a relation to Jesus.
The festive dinner is ended, and they start to sing the psalms, the praise of God, and they retire to a garden called Gethsemane, where they had already stayed several times. And on the way, Jesus tells his disciples: “You will all become deserters because of me this night” (Matthew 26, 31).
This is where Peter enters. He who has always been a bit cheeky and who seems to have been quite self-confident says: “Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you!” (Matthew 26,33)
Peter is so sure of himself, and now he sits in the court of the Chief Priest. This is what he says:
A servant-girl came to him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus the Galilean.’ But he denied it before all of them, saying, ‘I do not know what you are talking about.’ (Matthew 26, 69-70)
Peter is ready to get away to escape the disturbing questions which accuse him of being a traitor, but he is recognized again at the gate:
When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, ‘This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ Again he denied it with an oath, ‘I do not know the man.’ After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.’ Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know the man!’ (Matthew 26, 71-74)
Peter who swears never to have seen or known this man and who starts to curse himself, should he know him: in this way he places himself outside of the community of the disciples. And at that very moment, a cock crows!
And then what does Peter do? He goes out and weeps bitterly. Those tears show his repentance, they show that he dares to make a new start. Now that Peter has realized what he just did, he finds his way back, he remembers all the deeds and words of Jesus, and he starts to believe that also this treason is being kept and forgiven in Jesus’ love. In the forgiveness with which Jesus has started his mission: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26 ,28)
Judas also realizes what he has done was wrong, but why does his end look different?
When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ But they said, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself.’ (Matthew 27, 3-4)
Judas wants to undo what he did, and he confesses that he has sinned. But he cannot believe that even this sin will find forgiveness with Jesus, so he goes and hangs himself. He condemns himself, he excludes God as the sole judge. For him, the words of the priests of the temple – who used and supported him in his deed – are the final judges: ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself.’
Don’t we know that situation too: persons who use us for their purposes, and who then show no pity or mercy for what we did!
Do I put my trust in humans or in the Lord, as David did?
Then David said to Gad, ‘I am in great distress; let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is very great; but let me not fall into human hands.’ (1 Chronicle 21, 13)
Had Judas forgotten this story, did he trust more in the judgment of the priests of the temple – who now leave him alone with his burden – than in the judgment of God, the merciful father, of whom Jesus had spoken again and again?
Sr. Juliana Baldinger NDS