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Conscious betrayal - Judas Iscariot was Christ's most advanced disciple?

Updated: Nov 20, 2023

What would it take to consciously betray everything you love for the sake of that love?

Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus's disciples, is portrayed in the Bible (and by most of Christendom) as the ultimate betrayer, a blight and a blasphemy, as he was responsible for leading Christ to his suffering death. Or was he?

The key scene depicted in John's Gospel (Chapter 13, verses 21-32) in much greater detail than the other Gospels (Matthew 26, Mark 14 and Luke 22) is normally interpreted as Jesus predicting his betrayal by Judas. But this belies the serious questions as to how Jesus could so misjudge the character of the betraying Judas or, conversely, knowing the betrayal, to let it happen? These questions become irrelevant if John 13:21-32 is taken not as Jesus predicting his betrayal, but tasking his betrayal to one of his most advanced disciples, Judas.

Let's look at John 13:21-32 (NIV) a little more closely:

Verse 21: ...Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”

This verse doesn't say why Jesus was troubled, only that he was, followed by the statement (which is taken as a prediction, but could be equally taken as a command) that ' of you is going to betray me...'

Tasking betrayal to one of the disciples would be the most difficult thing a loving student could undertake for his Master if that betrayal would lead to his Master's death. Is it any wonder that Jesus was troubled?

Verses 22-25: His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”

These verses are normally interpreted as the disciples enquiring as to who Jesus predicted to betray him. They could be equally interpreted as the disciples enquiring who Jesus would 'choose' to betray him - that is, who was worthy to be given such a task?

Verses 26-27: Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.”

Here, it could be interpreted that Jesus chooses which of the disciples would betray him by giving (Judas) a piece of bread - noticing that '...Judas took the bread...' There was no protest by Judas or the other disciples. The bread was accepted by Judas, and the disciples apparently accepted Jesus' choice. No protest? No rebuking? No one trying to stop the betrayal of the Son of God? How odd?

What happens next must be the most terrifying words of the gospel, '...Satan entered into him...' Jesus could've stopped this (as he had a pretty good track record of exorcism) but didn't.

Why would Judas allow Satan to enter into him? After all, he was Jesus's disciple, proven in casting out demons and healing the sick. Moreover, Why would Jesus leave one of his beloved disciples in the grip of Satan if Judas was unable to prevent Satan from entering as Jesus did intervene on the disciples' behalf before when they were unable to heal or cast out demons themselves (Mark 9:28-29)?

From Jesus giving bread and Judas accepting it, there seems to be implied a mutual reciprocation between Jesus and Judas of what had to be done. This is affirmed by Jesus giving Judas the command '...What you are about to do, do quickly...' Even in the grip of Satan, Judas or Satan or both, obey Jesus?

Why would Jesus need Judas to betray him? Simply, from one aspect, time was not on Jesus's side. From the Passover festival and Last Supper to his own prediction on rising on the third day, Jesus had to ensure that he was captured by the Jewish Leaders to proclaim what was to come and fulfil prophesy, and not the Romans.

The anxiety of Jesus riding into Jerusalem and the confronting scenes in the Temple had put the Romans on high alert. They certainly would want to squash any potential trouble, and locking up Jesus until things settled down would be a way to achieve that. Jesus could not afford to be found by the Romans first (as mentioned above) and there were still preparations to be done (i.e., the Garden of Gethsemane). So, What to do?

A plan to send someone to the Jewish leadership to persuade them to go to Jesus and bring him to the Sanhedrin (Jewish Council for trial) would need to be convincing. It couldn't be anybody. A disciple it had to be, but the Jewish leaders would need to be convinced it wasn't bogus. A disciple genuinely appearing to betray Jesus for a sum of money (30 pieces of silver perhaps) might do the trick?

But how could Judas consciously betray Jesus, his beloved Master, the Son of God? This would have been excruciating. Judas would have to have had to summon within himself (and possibly helped by Jesus) the opposite of the love he felt...What better ally than Satan? And this wasn't the first time that God enlisted Satan's help to test the faith of the faithful (just look at the Book of Job).

What a task! After everything Judas went through for Jesus, even bearing Satan in himself to play the role that had to be played, is it any wonder it may have been all too much, and that he eventually hanged himself (Matthew 27:5) to be with his Lord?

Verses 28-32: But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him,[c] God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

The other disciples clearly had no idea what had happened, but they didn't stop it or protest, or even question Judas or Jesus either. And Judas heeded Jesus's command and left promptly.

But here is the key statement that connects with the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:1-11), that after this 'act' was 'enabled', only then could Jesus say that '....Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once...'

Judas's action may have been the second most important sacrifice made for humankind to allow the redemptive act of Christ to come to full completion, and usher in the Gospel of Love. Judas, perhaps, rather than being remembered as a villain, might, in future, be remembered as the first true Christian.**

**Remarkably, John Bennett (1995). The Masters of Wisdom: An Esoteric History of the Spiritual Unfolding of Life on This Planet (Bennett Books) in the chapter: ‘The Time of Christ’ (pages 51-71), even suggests that Judas was the person who took upon himself the 'sins of the world' to enable the 'energy of Divine Love' that Jesus brought, that was transformed through him at the Transfiguration, to fuel the spread of the Gospel and empower the Apostles (and eventually humanity) with a completely different form of relationship with God and each other.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 KJV


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