The Judas in us

The Judas in us

By Dr. Robert R. Kopp

By Dr. Robert R. Kopp

I’ve never baptized a baby named Judas; and I’ve never heard anyone say, “I want to be just like Judas when I grow up.”

Lots of people say they want to pattern their lives after Jesus, except for the cross stuff and His inclusively unconditional love ethic.

Maybe that’s why there’s that haunting question shadowing our recollections and forecasts: “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Maybe that’s why we hear in the distance, “You have said so” (Matthew 26:25).

Is there some Judas in us?

Would we sell out Jesus for a price?

Have we sold out Jesus for a price?

Except for suggestions he came from the South which helps explain how he could smile in the face of Jesus and then stab Him in the back, there’s not much to say about Judas.

Apparently, background checks on poor potty training possibilities precipitating bad behaviors weren’t as important back then as now in tagging culpabilities. The synoptic writers were more interested in his actions than origins. They probably got it from Jesus: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father” (Matthew 7:21).

Aside from being a part of the big providential plan, it’s hard to figure out why Judas betrayed Jesus.

Maybe he couldn’t handle criticism from Jesus after criticizing Jesus for Mary’s anointing act of affection and allegiance at Bethany (John 12:1-8). Some people try to hurt people who try to help people with constructively theocentric criticism.

Maybe he was trying to force Jesus’ hand against the supposedly sacred and secular oppressors, thinking a contrived confrontation would incite Him to forsake the strategy of overcoming evil through love with something more militantly messianic. Some people will use any means to achieve their ends.

Maybe he was just a navel-gazing greedy little creep who copped a quick buck by betraying a friend to his foes. Some people hawk their principles to the highest bidder; and some, like Judas, sell their souls for even small sums for immediate carnal gratification without regard to consequences.

Maybe the devil made him do it, which, apart from total possession, doesn’t wash because everybody is oppressed by darkness and chooses sides. Some people invoke that devil-made-me-do-it defense because it’s a lot more personally placating than admitting evil can be embraced without encouragement.

While we’re not sure why he did it, what he did ranks right down there with the most disgusting betrayals of history.

One can imagine Jesus’ heart breaking as Judas leads the bad guys to His hideout, says hello, and kisses Him.

What horror!

The existential execution of Jesus was sealed with a kiss—the traditional act of fraternity.

Judas remains a warning to every person who gets close to God through faith in Jesus that someone or something at sometime will try to entice betrayal in the assumption that everybody has a price.

Actually, I think I know why Judas did it.

Jesus wasn’t Judas’ Lord. Judas called Him Rabbi.

If Jesus is just your teacher or master-superior on a very human level, then it’s easy to ignore Him. Anyone who has spent any time in any kind of school knows that tune. It’s like a classmate said in seminary after a particularly annoying lecture, “Just take the best and discard the rest.”

But if Jesus is your Lord, it’s impossible to pick and choose; and anyone who knows Jesus as Lord and Savior knows that tune, too.

Of course, the most compelling reason to exorcise the Judas in us is to avoid the ultimate consequence of betraying Jesus.

Judas killed himself by separating himself from Jesus (Matthew 27:3-10).

It’s hard to live with yourself after betraying a friend.

Who is in us—whom we relate to the most—determines the quality and disposition of our lives.

Ultimately, it’s all in the name.

Dr. Robert Kopp is the pastor of Bethany Presbyterian Church, Loves Park.

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