Monday, December 8, 2008

Luke's Depiction of Judas

Luke says that Satan entered Judas. That line made me stop and ponder. I know that this is a Biblical way of talking about how humans go astray, but I don't like the way that it takes agency away from Judas. It's as if Judas couldn't help himself; it recalls that old line, "The devil made me do it."

It detracts from one of the central lessons of Judas, which is that humans will betray each other for any number of petty reasons. Sometimes it's for a monetary pay off. Sometimes it's to satisfy our jealousy or our hatred or our envy. Some people just like to make mischief. I suspect that we often don't understand why we betray each other--and that may account for Judas better than anything else.

I think of the book by John Knowles, A Separate Peace, when the narrator bounces a tree limb, causing his best friend to fall out of the tree. Why does he do it? He doesn't know. That truth of the novel terrified me as a teenager, but it wasn't a surprise. Not really. We betray each other all the time, and perhaps we're more likely to betray the ones we love than the people we barely know. And why do we do it? We don't know.

And perhaps that should be one of the lessons of Judas. Judas had plenty of time to change his mind, or at least, it sounds like he did. He could have made the arrangements to betray Jesus and then not have shown up. He could have been more introspective: "Hmm. I want to betray Jesus. I wonder why I want to do that. Thirty pieces of silver really isn't that much money. How will I live with myself after I tear apart my community here?"

Most of us just aren't very introspective. We don't understand why we act the way that we do. And many of us go through life, sowing destruction, when we could be agents for peace.

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