Today we have Matthew’s account of the betrayal (Matthew 26.14–25), and how different it is from John’s! Here Jesus is utterly in control of the situation; it is the disciples who are distressed and thrown into confusion, and how dark is the colouring given to Judas. We are meant to shudder, and we do.
Is there any of us who does not know what it is, in some measure, to betray a friend or get things so badly wrong that we end up bringing about the very thing we most want to avoid? Can we find in Judas’s betrayal something that enables us both to forgive and ourselves accept forgiveness? It isn’t an easy question, and it doesn’t have an easy answer; but I think it is worth thinking and praying about because it gets to the heart of what we are celebrating this week: God’s infinite love and mercy, and his total forgiveness of human sin. We can’t earn his forgiveness; there are times when we are too stupid or stubborn to ask his forgiveness; yet he forgives! And he expects us to forgive, too. That doesn’t mean God approves of what we do when we sin. Forgiveness isn’t a quick-fix to restore a feel-good factor to our lives. It is meant to lead to conversion, to change, and it provides the energy and direction we need to make such a change.
I think we could usefully spend a few minutes today thinking about the people we don’t forgive — those we accuse of acting badly or dishonestly or in some way that we disapprove of — and then ask ourselves whether we are so sea-green incorruptible that we have the right to accuse others. I doubt whether any of us will come through such a period of reflection without becoming shame-faced. It will remind us to pray for Judas, and for the Judas we have discovered inside ourselves. All of us need the grace of conversion.