The Paradox of Judas

Matthew 26: 14-25
Is 50: 4-9a / Psa 69

What are you willing to give me if I hand Him over to you?
(Matthew 26:15)

In darkest night we cannot hide
The shameful sins we can’t deny:
Dishonesty, avarice, pride. . .
Who betrayed You, Lord? “It was I.”

Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand Him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand Him over. On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.'” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, He said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” They were very sad and began to say to Him one after the other, “Surely it is not I, Lord?” Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” Then Judas, the one who would betray Him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.” (Matthew 26:14-25)

Reflection

Perhaps the most controversial character among the twelve apostles of Jesus was the man called Judas Iscariot. He was always named at the last of the list, to signify his betrayal of the Savior (Mt.10:4, Mk 3:19, Lk 6:16). The controversy in the life of this doomed apostle begs for answers to several questions: Was it just avarice that drove him to betray his Master, or was it his great disappointment that Jesus did not turn out to be the political savior that he had hoped would liberate his country? Why did God allow this man to kill himself if he was part of the Father’s salvation plan? Is the concept of free will not applicable in the case of Judas, since he was destined to play the role of the betrayer? Why did Jesus appoint him as the group’s treasurer if He knew that he could not be trusted with money? (… he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. – acc. to Jn 12:6)

The answer to the first question, I believe is both. In the course of his service as the treasurer of the apostles, Judas had developed this lust for money, “helping himself to the contents of the money bag.” His selling out Jesus for thirty pieces of silver simply provided an opportunity for turning a “lost cause” into a profitable transaction. Satan had already influenced him when he made the crucial decision to negotiate with the chief priests in “handing Jesus over to them.” God will never stop anyone from exercising his free will even if He knows this will cause his damnation, but neither will He prevent some greater good to come out of evil in the end. As St. Paul said, “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28). So, in the case of Judas, who was also called for a purpose, we can never make any judgment about his eternal destiny. Only the final words of Jesus makes us wonder about the fate of Judas, when He said, “But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

Let us not try to discern the paradox of Judas in God’s divine plan. Instead, let us be assured in the hope that God knows everything, and we hardly know anything; it is to our great advantage to put our full trust in Him, as He has put His trust in us by loving us to the point of sacrificing Himself on the cross. Let us honor His passion and death by pledging our complete loyalty, never to betray Him by disobedience or yielding to the temptations of Satan. Even if we should fall, human as we are, still we have the hope of salvation, as long as we repent and surrender our will to Him.

Heavenly Father, as we reflect on the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, we acknowledge our common guilt of nailing Him to the cross because of our sins. May His blood on the cross wash away all our betrayals, deceptions, greed and lusts, and transform us into His worthy disciples, worthy of Your love. Amen.

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