“There is a way that seems right to a man, and appears straight before him, but at the end of it is the way of death.” Proverbs 16:25 (AMP)
It’s easy to malign Judas. After all, he betrayed Jesus to the high priests for what would (roughly) be about $42.97 in today’s money.
The Author of the Universe, sold for less than fifty bucks.
It’s no wonder there are no pretty stained glass windows with “St. Judas” in them. Nobody is naming their kids “Judas” either – it would be as bad as naming them “Pontius Pilate,” or “Hitler” or “Stalin.” The name Judas equates to evil and treachery because of the deed he committed.
But before I’m too critical of Judas, I need to listen to what Jesus said to the Pharisees and others who were itching to stone a woman caught in adultery:
“When they kept on questioning him, (Jesus) he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.” John 8:7-8 (NRSV)
Some scholars and theologians speculate that Jesus might have been writing names and deeds on the ground- calling out the would be stone-throwers to be mindful of their own sins. Others suggest that Jesus might have been simply doodling on the ground.
If Jesus was naming names and deeds, perhaps He was saying something to the effect of, “Hey, Jack- I know what you did in Vegas,” or “Hey, Cindy, what about that money you embezzled from your employer,” or “I know every single sin you’ve committed since you first drew breath!”
If most of us were confronted with a frank and all-encompassing assessment of our sins, (known and unknown) we would be dropping the stones too.
As far as Judas goes, it’s hard to say what his motivation was in selling Jesus down the river for less than what a full tank of gasoline costs most people today. Perhaps he feared the power of Rome, as the high priest and Pharisees did. Maybe Judas disagreed with Jesus’ methods. Or maybe his motive was more self-serving than that? Perhaps he needed money to support a gambling addiction, or to satisfy a taste for fine wine. Scripture doesn’t spell out Judas’ reasons, although it does tell us that Judas did occasionally pilfer a bit from the treasury box.
Maybe Judas thought that surrendering Jesus was the right thing to do, which is even more troubling. Maybe it was poor judgment rather than malicious intent or a love of money that motivated Judas.
How many times have we done what we thought was the right thing at the time only to find out later that it was a dreadful mistake? How many times have we rationalized a wrong choice, and told ourselves that the end justified the means?
The sad thing about history is that it tends to repeat itself.
Millions of people thought following Hitler- and going along with mass genocide- was the “right thing to do.”
Like Judas, and like all the people in the world remembered for their evil deeds, we make decisions that cause harm to ourselves and others. Sadly, many times those who are remembered for their evil deeds thought that they were doing the right thing.
It is guaranteed if the only thing we do is “look out for number one” that we are going to make bad choices. It is guaranteed that if the only thing we do is follow “common” wisdom and just do what everyone else is doing that we are going to make bad choices.
Even if we try to do the right thing, there are times when our judgment is going to prove dreadfully wrong. There are times when following the crowd turns out to be a fatal mistake. There is not always strength in numbers.
The only way that we can make good decisions and have good judgment is by submitting our heart and minds to God’s will.
I pray that the Holy Spirit would guide us when we have difficult decisions, and keep us on God’s path.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105 (NRSV)