Betrayal | Spy Wednesday 2019

To be betrayed by those we love, to be let down by those in whom we have placed our trust, is agonizing. It is also agonizing to know that we have betrayed others, let them down, been the cause of their suffering. For Judas, as for Jesus, there was a price to pay for what followed after he went out into the night.

Judas is such an equivocal figure but there is something of Judas in all of us. We see in him the type of everyman (or woman); and his fate and ours are bound up together. On the one hand he has been demonised as the arch-betrayer; on the other he is seen as playing a necessary role in redemption. Holy Week, and Spy Wednesday in particular, bring this ambiguity into sharp focus. Once again we must decide where we stand.

I must admit to worrying about Judas and his ultimate fate, mainly because of all that bad press he has had through the centuries. I like best the answer the Lord gave Catherine of Siena in the Dialogues: she was told that mercy was possible even for Judas. Which means that mercy is possible even for you and me and those we find difficult to love. Wonderful thought!

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Betrayal | Spy Wednesday 2014

Judas Receiving the Thirty Pieces of Silver; by Simon Bening, Flemish, about 1483 – 1561; Bruges; painted c. 1525–1530;
Judas Receiving the Thirty Pieces of Silver; by Simon Bening, Flemish, about 1483 – 1561; Bruges; painted c. 1525–1530

Spy Wednesday is sometimes treated with an almost frivolous disregard of the betrayal it signifies. We don’t like remembering that Judas played an essential part in our redemption, that sin and betrayal are at the heart of the Christian story every bit as much as grace and forgiveness. We should think again, for we all have something of Judas in us. We all share in his shabbiness — or rather, we all share in his capacity for getting things wrong.

One of the striking things about Judas’s betrayal of Jesus is that I think he thought he was doing the right thing. He was hoping for a Messiah who would free Israel from Rome and usher in a Jewish kingdom of righteousness and peace. He wanted to force the issue and make Jesus take a stand. We know he was wrong, but good people are often seduced by apparently good things. Judas failed to take account of the fact that Jesus wasn’t interested in political power, and therein lies his tragedy. Catherine of Siena worried about Judas’s fate but was reassured by the Lord that there was the prospect of mercy even for him. Perhaps today we might pray for all who have betrayed or been betrayed, for ourselves and for others. We might pray also for Judas, and for mercy on his soul.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Wednesday of Holy Week 2013: Spy Wednesday

Today we read Matthew’s account of Judas’s betrayal (you can read the text in both Greek and English here). We sense the shiver down the spine of Jesus as he looked at his friend and knew him for what he was. If you read what some people say about about that moment, you could be forgiven for thinking Jesus was prohesying eternal punishment — ‘better for that man if he had never been born!’ — but I wonder whether that is true. Does it square with what we know of him in other circumstances, what we know of him from our own experience? Isn’t it more likely that when Jesus looked at Judas he saw the depths of despair and misery into which he would fall? My own, possibly heretical, reading of this gospel is that Jesus’ heart ached for Judas. He longed to spare him the suffering he knew would be his.

That presents us with a problem. God is infinitely just and does not condone sin; he is also infinitely merciful and forgives readily. So, is Judas eternally damned or among the redeemed? We do not know, and the fact that we do not know should give us pause. Sometimes Christians speak of Judas with a fury which tells us much more about them than it does about him. There is no place in Holy Week for that kind of vicarious anger. We do not need to look very deep into our own lives to see the sins that mar us. Today would be a good day for repenting of hasty judgements and hardness of heart, and allowing God to forgive us.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail