After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’* So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.* After he received the piece of bread,* Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’ Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival’; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.I've always been intrigued by the portrayed villainy of Judas Iscariot. The Christian message has always centered on the necessity and goodness and divinely ordained nature of Jesus' death and resurrection. The person who gets the ball rolling, however, is portrayed as a scoundrel; the Fourth Gospel in particular goes out of its way to show him as a lying, hypocritical thief. Reviled and despised through the centuries, the matter of Judas Iscariot is not easily settled in my own mind, particularly if we are serious about the central reality of the Gospel - that Jesus came to die and rise again for our sins. Judas, while certainly not an innocent lamb in the contingent act of getting the ball rolling as it were, hardly stands alone as one accused of betraying Jesus.
When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him,* God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.
Isn't part of the whole Passion story our role in Jesus' death? Are we not those who share bread with Jesus at a table set for us by God? St. Paul wrote, "Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. That proves God's love for us." This simple pair of sentences, containing as it does the entirety of the Gospel message, Christian theology, the very heart of our faith, also makes clear that the Passion was a freely chosen act on Jesus' part. However it was to be accomplished, it was to be accomplished not by the contingent reality of Judas betraying Jesus. It was to be accomplished by the freely chosen obedience, glorifying God in and through that obedience, in which Jesus goes from the Garden to the trial and tribulation to the Place of the Skull to a tomb then back to a Garden as the sun rises on the first day of new creation.
We are Judas Iscariot. Lying. Hypocritical. Thieving. Whatever the contingent reasons for being such - and so much more - it not Judas who put Jesus on through what follows; it is all of us. When we confess our sins, we are confessing our role in the betrayal that leads to Jesus suffering, death, and resurrection.
We are Judas.