Wednesday of Holy Week is sometimes referred to as Spy Wednesday as Judas comes into the picture:
(Image credit: whatshotn)
On March 15, 2016, I was appalled to read of two Anglicans — a bishop and an priest — coming forward to defend Judas. Even worse, on Good Friday morning — Good Friday, at 9 a.m., when children are watching! — BBC One will broadcast a programme about him: In the Footsteps of Judas.
The BBC should be broadcasting about Jesus’s suffering and dying so brutally for our sins — and how Judas fulfilled Old Testament prophecy in this regard.
The BBC, the programme makers and these two Anglicans are out of bounds.
The Telegraph has the full story. The Revd Kate Bottley says:
“This is not to say ‘Oh Judas, he’s all right really’, what we are saying is perhaps there is something else to this character than that kiss and that betrayal,” she said.
“I don’t think any of the other disciples were whiter than white – we just probably didn’t hear about it – because they were all human and we are all a bit messed up.”
The Rt Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds:
feels “a bit sorry” for Judas.
He said that the lost apostle, viewed by many Christians as a figure beyond redemption, has, he said had a “lousy press” for the last 2,000 years.
Apparently, clergy do not need to know the Bible anymore. Jesus knew early on that Judas would betray Him. He said that Judas was a devil (John 6:70-71, emphases mine):
70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.
He said that after He fed the Five Thousand, long before the final week of His ministry.
I suppose the aforementioned clergy would simply say they would discount that as John might have just put that in there and that we have no way of knowing whether Jesus ever said that.
And there are many ‘Christians’ who say that John’s gospel is an allegory.
Hatred for Judas was so deep in the years following the closing of the New Testament that several incredible legends about him evolved. They describe bizarre occurrences, characterizing Judas as ugly, evil, and totally repugnant. One, in the apocryphal Coptic Narrative, said that Judas, having betrayed Christ, was infested with maggots. Consequently, his body became so bloated that on one occasion he was trying to ride on a cart through a gate, and being too large to fit through it, he hit the gate, his body exploded, and maggots spewed all over the wall. Obviously, that story is not true, but it shows the high level of contempt for Judas in the early centuries.
When I was in seminary, I wrote my dissertation on Judas Iscariot. During the year that I spent working on it, and since then, I have found it extremely difficult to write or speak on. Sin is never more grotesque than it is in the life of Judas. When we study Judas and his motivations, we are prying very close to the activity of Satan. But there are valuable reasons for examining Judas and his sin. For one thing, to understand Jesus’ love in its fullness, it helps to look at the life of Judas, because despite the awfulness of Judas’ sin, Jesus reached out to him in love.
My links at the top of this post discuss Judas’s life in more detail. He was a bad man. A tragic, sin-filled human being. Look at the image at the top of the post. Jesus said it would have been good for Judas not to have been born.
How anyone — especially a bishop and a priest — can have sympathy for him is astounding. If I were the Archbishop of Canterbury I’d want to meet with each separately to discuss their future in the Church.
The gospel reading for Spy Wednesday in Year C of the three-year Lectionary is John 13:21-32:
13:21 After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
13:22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking.
13:23 One of his disciples–the one whom Jesus loved–was reclining next to him;
13:24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking.
13:25 So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
13:26 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.
13:27 After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.”
13:28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him.
13:29 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.
13:30 So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
13:31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.
13:32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.
What Jesus had just said before becoming troubled in spirit (verse 21) was (John 13:18-20):
18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled,[d] ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
When He announced that one of the apostles would betray Him, all (but one) were stunned to the point where Peter asked John to enquire of Jesus who it was (verses 22 – 24). John was the logical apostle to ask, because he was close to Jesus’s heart and was reclining next to Him at the Last Supper. People stretched out on the floor to eat in ancient times.
John duly whispered the question to our Lord, who whispered back that they would know when He gave one apostle a morsel of moistened bread (verses 25, 26). With that, he handed it to Judas.
Matthew Henry’s commentary has this analysis of what could have been going through Judas’s mind at that moment and Jesus’s continuing generosity:
[1.] That Christ sometimes gives sops to traitors worldly riches, honours, and pleasures are sops (if I may so speak), which Providence sometimes gives into the hands of wicked men. Judas perhaps thought himself a favourite because he had the sop, like Benjamin at Joseph’s table, a mess by himself thus the prosperity of fools, like a stupifying sop, helps to destroy them. [2.] That we must not be outrageous against those whom we know to be very malicious against us. Christ carved to Judas as kindly as to any at the table, though he knew he was then plotting his death. If thine enemy hunger, feed him this is to do as Christ does.
Once Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him (verse 27). In light of John 6:70, Henry explains:
now Satan gained a more full possession of him, had a more abundant entrance into him. His purpose to betray his Master was now ripened into a fixed resolution now he returned with seven other spirits more wicked than himself, Luke 11:26. Note, [1.] Though the devil is in every wicked man that does his works (Ephesians 2:2), yet sometimes he enters more manifestly and more powerfully than at other times, when he puts them upon some enormous wickedness, which humanity and natural conscience startle at. [2.] Betrayers of Christ have much of the devil in them. Christ speaks of the sin of Judas as greater than that of any of his persecutors.
Please, never think that Judas was a sympathetic character or that he deserves a hearing. If Jesus considered His betrayal worse than His persecution, Judas’s heart and soul were rotten.
Jesus dismissed Judas from the Last Supper (verse 28), but in a way that the apostles did not understand (verse 29).
Christ hereupon dismissed him, and delivered him up to his own heart’s lusts: Then said Jesus unto him, What thou doest, do quickly. This is not to be understood as either advising him to his wickedness or warranting him in it but either, (1.) As abandoning him to the conduct and power of Satan. Christ knew that Satan had entered into him, and had peaceable possession and now he gives him up as hopeless. The various methods Christ had used for his conviction were ineffectual and therefore, “What thou doest thou wilt do quickly if thou art resolved to ruin thyself, go on, and take what comes.” Note, When the evil spirit is willingly admitted, the good Spirit justly withdraws. Or, (2.) As challenging him to do his worst: “Thou art plotting against me, put thy plot in execution and welcome, the sooner the better, I do not fear thee, I am ready for thee.” Note, our Lord Jesus was very forward to suffer and die for us, and was impatient of delay in the perfecting of his undertaking.
Henry wrote that the apostles were too guileless to see the very worst sin was about to be committed:
Note, It is an excusable dulness in the disciples of Christ not to be quick-sighted in their censures. Most are ready enough to say, when they hear harsh things spoken in general, Now such a one is meant, and now such a one but Christ’s disciples were so well taught to love one another that they could not easily learn to suspect one another charity thinks no evil.
Judas left in the night (verse 30). Henry explains:
[1.] Though it was night, an unseasonable time for business, yet, Satan having entered into him, he made no difficulty of the coldness and darkness of the night. This should shame us out of our slothfulness and cowardice in the service of Christ, that the devil’s servants are so earnest and venturous in his service. [2.] Because it was night, and this gave him advantage of privacy and concealment. He was not willing to be seen treating with the chief priests, and therefore chose the dark night as the fittest time for such works of darkness. Those whose deeds are evil love darkness rather than light. See Job 24:13, &c.
After Judas left, Jesus announced that He was now glorified (verse 31), indicating His crucifixion to come:
The presence of wicked people is often a hindrance to good discourse. When Judas was gone out, Christ said, now is the Son of man glorified now that Judas is discovered and discarded, who was a spot in their love-feast and a scandal to their family, now is the Son of man glorified. Note, Christ is glorified by the purifying of Christian societies: corruptions in his church are a reproach to him the purging out of those corruptions rolls away the reproach. Or, rather, now Judas was gone to set the wheels a-going, in order to his being put to death, and the thing was likely to be effected shortly: Now is the Son of man glorified, meaning, Now he is crucified.
MacArthur explains that Jesus purposely chose Judas:
He chose Judas because Judas was necessary to bring about His death, which was necessary to bring about the redemption of the world.
Prophecy was clear that Christ would be betrayed by a close friend. Why did Jesus choose Judas, then? He chose him to fulfill prophecy–not only the prophecy specifically about Judas, but also the prophecies of His own death. Somebody had to bring it to pass, and Judas was more than willing. God used the wrath of Judas to praise Him, and through the deed that Judas did, He brought salvation. Judas meant it for evil, but God used it for good (cf. Genesis 50:20).
You see, Judas fit right into the divine master plan. Judas’ betrayal was predicted in detail in the Old Testament. Psalm 41:9 says, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”
… The picture of David and Ahithophel in Psalm 41 is fulfilled in a greater sense in Jesus and Judas. The phrase “lifted up his heel” portrays brutal violence, the lifting of a heel and driving the heel into the neck of the victim. That is the picture of Judas. Having wounded his enemy, who is lying on the ground, he takes the giant heel and crushes his neck.
Psalm 55 contains another clear prophecy of Judas and his betrayal. Imagine Jesus speaking these words:
For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, then I could bear it; nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me. Then I could hide myself from him. But it is you, a man my equal, my companion and my familiar friend. We who had sweet fellowship together, walked in the house of God in the throng.
He has put forth his hands against those who were at peace with him; he has violated his covenant. His speech was smoother than butter, but his heart was war; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords. (vv. 12-14; 20-21).
Zechariah contains a prophecy about the betrayal of Christ by Judas in even more detail. It gives the exact price he was paid for his treachery, just as it is recorded in the New Testament. Zechariah 11:12-13 prophetically gives the words of Judas, talking to the Jewish leaders:
I said to them, “If it is good in your sight, give me my wages; but if not, never mind!” So they weighed out thirty shekels of silver as my wages. Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.” So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the Lord.
That describes to the letter what Judas did after the death of Jesus Christ. He took the thirty pieces right back to the house of the Lord and threw them down. Matthew 27 says that the thirty pieces were picked up and used to buy a potter’s field, exactly fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 11.
It is important for children and those new to the faith to understand Judas’s story and his betrayal of Christ. Knowing that all was prophesied in the Old Testament will help them to understand why Jesus had to choose him as an apostle.
Now, wouldn’t such an explanation have made a much better television programme? Clearly, to borrow Martin Luther’s words to Zwingli — ‘another spirit’ — moves through Judas’s defenders.