The crucial scapegoat
We’re almost to Easter. I’ve been too busy to properly recognize the season this year, but it’s in my thoughts. My beliefs on Christianity and spirituality in general have also been evolving, so I don’t feel as compelled to “follow the rules” as I used to.
Something that hasn’t changed, however, are my feelings about Judas.
Yes, that Judas.
The one who stole money from the disciples’ stash that was supposed to feed the poor.
The one who betrayed Jesus.
The one who died by suicide.
Judas Iscariot is probably one of the most reviled characters in Christian history and he doesn’t deserve it.
In case you weren’t aware, Judas is best known for being the disciple who betrayed Jesus to the Jewish leaders of the time for thirty pieces of silver. When soldiers arrived in the Garden of Gethsemane to arrest him, Judas kissed him, effectively pointing him out as the one they wanted. Jesus was consequently arrested, tried, and crucified and Judas is blamed for his betrayal to this day.
Judas wasn’t known for being a great guy before the betrayal. Yes, he followed Jesus as a disciple, but he reportedly stole money from the disciples’ treasury that was supposed to go to the poor. That story is illustrated in John 12:1–8.
Six days before Passover, Mary, a dear friend of Jesus, used costly ointment to anoint Jesus’ feet as an act of love and devotion. It was also symbolic of his coming death, as dead bodies were anointed with precious oils before burial, although Mary wouldn’t have known that then.
Judas, upset at the cost of the oils, interjected that the money for such expensive ointment could have been used to give to the poor. In the next verse, John tells us that Judas said that not because he cared about the poor, but that he was keeper of the moneybag and often stole from it.
Jesus was quick to call him out, defending Mary, saying that the poor would always be there, but they would not always have him. Odds are that he knew what was going on behind the scenes. Judas’ reaction isn’t recorded, but he probably wasn’t terribly happy with that response.