History is pretty harsh on Judas Iscariot and perhaps justifiably so. After all, it is pretty dastardly to sell out your mate to the authorities to be killed and for what? The equivalent of about $2000 today.
However, Judas' subsequent actions indicates that he must have felt a tremendous amount of guilt and this to me is perhaps one of the most tragic stories in all of scripture.
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”
“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”
So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.
The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”
- Matthew 27:3-10 (NIV)
After realising that he'd sold out his mate, he tries to return the ill-gotten 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and in their self-justifying-rules-before-common-sense-decency-and-people sort of way, they didn't accept their own payment; citing that it was blood money (that in itself seems to me to be the height of hypocrisy).
I don't know if through the repeated notes in the gospels that Judas was the betrayer, whether or not we're supposed to feel some sort of anger or something towards Judas but I can't help but feel really really sorry for him.
This is a man who knows that he's messed up really really badly and reaches a point in his mind where he thinks there is no hope at all. Suicide then opens itself as a way to cut through grief for a mind which clearly isn't functioning well at this point and he knows that he is due some sort of punishment. Suicide here is seen as an answer of someone suffering really deep remorse and anguish and not finding any way out of it.
Can you imagine for a second, what it must have been like to know that you were the one who sold out the Messiah? This is the one who the Jewish nation had been waiting for for hundreds of years and maybe thought would restore their kingdom and overthrow the Romans. If I'd been Judas, I'm sure I would have been filled with a sense of complete and utter abject terror.
The real tragedy of this particular aspect to this story is that had Judas not taken his own life, he would have been forgiven by the very man who he'd sold out. Jesus death and resurrection would have been sufficient to pay the outstanding penalty that sin demands however, Judas never saw any of that. Judas never even lived to see Jesus crucified.
Suppose Judas had seen that Monday. What sort of witness for the gospel would he have made? Remember, Paul who went about actively persecuting Christians, was pretty zealous when it later came to preaching and teaching the gospel. What sort of impact would have Judas have made? To have been the one who had sold out the Messiah and then been forgiven? Sadly, we'll never know.
Instead the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday had the effect of rendering two names which we'd never think of naming out children. One because it is too glorious; the other because it is stained through the whole of history. The truth is that both names at the time were actually pretty common; as common as Jack or Liam today.
Judas is one of the single most tragic figures in the whole bible. The tragedy extends from the results of his deliberate actions but also because he never ever got to appreciate what Jesus was about to do (which was also a result of his deliberate action).
Just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
- Romans 5:6-11
Even after being with Jesus for 3 years, he never got it. He never understood that forgiveness and reconciliation was there for the asking. The sad thing is that Judas was only a mere 3 days away from a story which would have been very very different.
3 days... which may as well have been an eternity.
I live on Pedant Corner which is just off of Persnickety Lane. I have a question with regards this:
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”
- Luke 24:33-34
If you read through the rest of Luke, he's also pretty pedantic and makes sure that he calls Simon Peter, just Peter. John's account in chapter 21 also takes deliberate pains to mention "Simon son of John" or Simon Peter.
So my question is... who is this Simon in Luke 24? Simon the Cyrenian, Simon the Pharisee, Simon the leper in Bethany, Simon Iscariot? Who?
What if it was Simon Iscariot? Would it have made sense that Jesus would visit the grieving father of someone who had committed suicide? I'm afraid that I just don't know the answer to this.