The episode begins with the same introductory comments. Again, as with previous episodes we will be asking “Where’s the Gospel?” again and hoping to see/hear a clear message that Jesus died for the sins of men. There will again be a few italicized personal comments. And off we go again.
This new episode’s introduction begins with a commentator telling us that Judas’ betrayal of Jesus is “one of the great mysteries of the New Testament” Then we are taken back to the scene in the Garden where Peter cut off Malchus ear and Jesus healed him. Judas is watching and we are told that Judas is probably asking himself “Is this the kind of Messiah I want to follow?” Judas had been looking for another “David”. Another commentator says “Every story needs a bad guy and Judas is it”.
The actual episode begins in Bethany and Jesus’ whispering for Lazarus to come out, which he does. Mary hugs Lazarus. Judas is watching and thinking “Each of us grows up hoping we can make our mark, becoming something special. Until Jesus came into my life I was a nobody, but not now. Now the world will remember the name ‘Judas Iscariot’- forever.” (I guess that’s because he was one of the disciples of the man who brought a dead man to life.
We are told that “The raising of Lazarus from the dead was the greatest miracle of Jesus’ ministry, bar none” and would both astonished and scared people. We are also reminded that why Judas betrayed is the greatest mystery in the Bible. It’s not a ‘who done it, but a “why did he do it”
Commentators speculate about Judas, since the Bible doesn’t tell us much about him. He wasn’t mentioned all of the time but we know he spent a lot of time with Jesus. We see Judas and Jesus in a crowd and Judas cautioning Jesus, “Be careful Lord, these crowds are dangerous.” “Jesus was very close to Jesus, in his inner circle, yet he betrayed Jesus for reasons we don’t understand. That makes him a compelling and mysterious character (Joel Osteen).
Judas was different from the other disciples. He didn’t come from Galilee, where Jesus called the others. “Iscariot” is probably a Judean name. He might have been named after a town called ‘Kerioth’. Maybe he’s even from a group of trained assassins called the Sicarii, who were Jewish zealots.
We do know he sort of the ‘treasurer’ for the disciples. With that in mind, we head to Bethany again, to the home of Mary,
Martha and Lazarus and the story we are so familiar with of Mary anointing Jesus feet with expensive ointment and Judas objects, scolding Mary: “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?” Jesus tells Judas to leave Mary alone and that while the poor will always be available to care for, he (Jesus) would not.
The incident is kind of a turning point for Judas. Jesus had rebuked and embarrassed him in front of the entire household. Judas is convinced that Jesus could not see just how much he cared. (Really? For the poor? He was always a thief [John 12:2])
Fast forward to the triumphant entry into Jerusalem at Passover.
One commentator tells us that that Jesus knows exactly what he is doing, that he is orchestrating everything.’ coming to Jerusalem was to say “The status quo is corrupt, the current world is wrong, and we need to change it, NOW! We See Jesus riding through the streets with Judas alongside proclaiming “This is the coming kingdom of or ancestor David.” Judas muses that he was convinced that his destine was to sit at the right hand of the king! Jesus is riding along, arms wide open and smiling. By riding in on a donkey he is in effect claiming to be the king of Israel. We are told that Jesus has become both a religious and political agitator to the Romans and religious leaders.
Jesus goes to the temple and sees the money changers there to sell animals for sacrifices, a practice everyone is making money off of, and Jesus is angry, turning over tables and scattering money all over the place. We are told that Jesus’ anger is really an expression of his disgust at Caiaphas becoming rich from Roman favor and the money of honest Jewish pilgrims.
We are told that when Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers, Judas might well have thought that this picture of a violent Jesus, and not the loving, ministering, miracle working Jesus, was NOT the Jesus he wanted to see. This would mark Jesus as ‘public enemy #1 for the establishment.
Judas is then seen approaching the temple (or home) and asking to see Caiaphas. Judas was deeply disappointed that Jesus wasn’t the Messiah he had expected, which might have been the reason for the betrayal. We are told that many fail to see the human side of Judas, that he was wrestling with a huge decision. Judas tells Caiaphas that Jesus must be stopped. Caiaphas tells him to look for an opportunity to hand him over, somewhere quiet, and hands him a bag of money, the thirty pieces of silver, which amounted to either one month’s wages or four month’s wages, depending on if the silver was in Roman denarii or Israeli shekels.
We are given some useful information about the history and meaning of the Passover meal in Jewish culture, looking back a the Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
Now to the Passover meal with Jesus and the disciples. Judas is concerned whether or not Jesus knows he just betrayed him.
At the table, Jesus speaks to his disciples about his coming death, confusing the disciples again. Jesus shares the bread “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” “This is the blood of my covenant, which is poured out for many.” (Neither Jesus or the commentator say that Jesus blood was poured out “for the remission of sin. This is a huge omission, consistent with previous episodes omitting the thought that Jesus died for the sins of men. We are given to believe that Jesus’ impending death and resurrection is about saving the world system!)
At supper, Jesus also announced “One of you will betray me, one who is eating here.” Judas, sitting next to Jesus asks him “Which of us in the traitor, Lord.” Jesus says “It is the one who to whom I give this piece of bread, when I have dipped it in this dish,” and breaking off a piece of bread, dipping it and handing it to Judas. And of course, Jesus also whispers to Judas “Do what you have to do, but do it quickly.” The other disciples think perhaps Jesus has sent Judas on some sort of an errand.
The Jesuit Priest who commented on the other Jesus episodes offers that Jesus was either demonstrating his omniscience in knowing Judas would actually betray him, or he was just using human intuition, having known Judas so well. (The either/or is interesting, coming from someone who supposedly knows the attributes of God.)
Judas leaves, still struggling mightily, knowing he is betraying everything he once believed in.
Now to the Garden of Gethsemane (probably a vineyard, per a commentator). Jesus is praying, doesn’t want to die, but has accepted his fate, if it’s God’s will.
The Roman soldiers, Malchus & company from the Temple, and Judas arrive. Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss.
Peter separates Malchus from one of his ears and Jesus miraculously heals him. Judas is thinking again: “Jesus IS committed to a ministry of non-violence, and certainly doesn’t it marred by a violent act.” . . . “With that kiss I tore down everything he (Jesus) gave his all to do!”
Jesus is dragged off to see Caiaphas (for the first time) Judas realizes that he has played right into the High Priest’s hands, asking himself “What have I done?”
Jesus is being judged in Caiaphas’ mansion by the Sanhedrin in the middle of the night, against the rules for such affairs. Jesus is confronted with “So you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus is silent except to say “You have said so. But I say to all of you, from now on, you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One, on the clouds of heaven.
The Sanhedrin, except for Joseph of Arimathea (who offered a tomb for the burial) and Nicodemus (who visited Jesus at night in the gospel of John), agree that Jesus must die The two men cave to pressure, however, and the verdict of the Sanhedrin is unanimous.
Judas is distraught because this was NOT the end he was hoping for. He had wanted Caiaphas to toss Jesus “into the deep end” to see what he would do. Perhaps if Jesus had performed another great miracle, they would have been convinced he was who he said he was and let him go. Jesus was actually horrified by the verdict.
A commentator (the Jesuit Priest) adds that the ‘illegal’ trial would make the Jews look like bad people and wonders of the accounts of Judas in the New Testament fed into ‘antisemitism’. The Jewish people, as a whole, were not then, and are not now responsible for the death of Jesus.
Judas, thinking again, finally understands his legacy. He was the man who handed Jesus over to his executioners. “Lord, what have I done? I never thought it would end like this! There was a time when I thought nothing could stop us – until an evil seed entered my mind and made me doubt his (Jesus’) every word.”
Judas angrily returns the thirty pieces of silver. Overwhelmed by guilt he wonders if he was born to betray Jesus, or if the Devil made him do it.
Another commentator (Obama’s faith advisor) asks “What it Judas’ fault he did what he did? The reality is that we all have free will. Our Jesuit Priest says that the Judas story demonstrates the great battle between good and evil. That Judas was ‘chosen’ to do what he did means that there is some good in it. In fact, there is a huge battle between good and evil within Judas throughout the story.
Professor Nicola Lewis’ gives us her opinion of the Judas story:” I think what’s fascinating is that we will never get a handle on his (Judas) motivation.”
Then we see Judas, alone in the desert, slowly walking toward a lone, scraggly tree, and sitting down at the foot of the tree. “I wish I could go back, but I sense that God will never forgive me.” The camera zooms out and we see the silhouette of the tree and Judas hanging from one of the branches.
A final commentator tells us: “Our conundrum is that without the betrayal, Jesus doesn’t get handed over to the Romans to be executed. If Judas hadn’t done what he did and we wouldn’t have the story of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, which is the centerpiece of Christian history.”
Dan’s final thoughts: WHAT conundrum? Is all of this REALLY such a great mystery? Haven’t some of these commentators read Peter’s sermon at Pentecost? To the assembled Jews he proclaimed:
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” Acts 2:22-23
Is there a great conundrum, or unfathomable mystery in the story of Judas? I would say possibly, but only a small one. While we might not know Judas’ exact personal motives, there was a very definite plan of God afoot; one that could NOT be thwarted. The fact of the complete sovereignty of God in the story should put us at complete rest concerning the minute details and this ‘great mystery’.
There is much in the film I left out, some accurate things and some not so accurate. Feel free to watch it for yourself, Bible at the ready!
Next up: Pilate: The Trial