Monday, April 18, 2011

Judas And Grace

With Holy Week upon us, I am venturing down a long-neglected road. As I speed through The Gospel According to Judas (a theological exploration of grace, not the novel of the same name or the spurious non-canonical text claimed to have been found) by Ray Anderson, I am confronted by a multitude of questions, most of which make me uneasy, and for which it seems there are no answers that leap to mind. It would be easy, I suppose, to rest with the traditional Biblical testimony that Judas was possessed by the devil, that Judas was a traitor all along, stealing money from the common funds, that Judas, consumed by guilt and remorse, cursed not only himself but the entire plot of land upon which he took his own life.

As Anderson makes clear, those easy answers are retrogressive justifications, the collective memory of the Apostles through the tradition making clear that Judas was, from the start, apart from the rest. Anderson also makes clear that these are half-self-justifications on the part of the rest of the Apostles for their own failures of nerve and abandonment of Jesus, as well as half-understandable reactions to betrayal that are a common occurrence in any such situation. Even taking these remarks - that Judas was acting through the impetus of demonic powers, or was a thief and not to be trusted from the get-go - at face value, we still confront the reality that grace, as worked out through a reflection upon the cross and resurrection of Jesus, never allows our choices, our actions, even death, to have the last word. We profess this to be true even for those chronologically out of synch with the history of redemption; does not, after all, the author of Hebrews insist that the patriarchs and matriarchs of the people of Israel are counted among the "great cloud of witnesses" to the faith embodied in Jesus?

As we Christians move through this week in which we remember the events from the triumphal entry to the ignominious death to the empty tomb, Judas' act of betrayal takes center stage, forcing us, should we so choose, to ask uncomfortable questions about ourselves, our relationships with one another and with God, and how we justify our own election and acceptance always with one eye on the one man who kissed Jesus to death. It isn't easy, and I have yet to rest comfortably with the implications. That, I suppose, is the mark of good theology, however. We should never rest comfortably with our own sense of theological truth, bound up as that is with the life of the Triune God.

Virtual Tin Cup

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