In this episode of Christian Mythbusters, Father Jared breaks the myth of the betrayal of Judas and the depths of God’s mercy. You can hear Christian Mythbusters in the Grand Haven area on 92.1 WGHN, on Wednesdays at 10:30am and Sundays at 8:50am. You can also subscribe to the podcast on Apple here.
The transcript of the episode is below, or you can listen to the audio at the bottom of the post.
This is Father Jared Cramer from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, here with today’s edition of Christian Mythbusters, a regular segment I offer to counter some common misconceptions about the Christian faith.
Today is Wednesday in Holy Week, which also has another name in the tradition of the church, “Spy Wednesday.” It is called this because it was on this day that Judas betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin. Judas snuck into the night, behind the backs of his Lord and his fellow disciples, and—just like a spy—crossed over into enemy lines. Only, by betraying Christ to the religious authorities, it was revealed that Judas was not working on the side of the kingdom of the Messiah but, instead, on the side of the religious and political forces that were conspiring to kill the Messiah.
And so, on this week, I thought it might be a good opportunity to break some of the myths around Judas, his betrayal of Christ, and the depths of God’s mercy.
What’s interesting is that when you look at all of John chapter 13, the chapter from which today’s Gospel comes, you see a larger story. The chapter tells of the disciples arriving in the upper room, of each of them walking by the basin for foot washing and waiting for a servant to come in and do that. No one does, though, and so Jesus himself rises from the table, takes off his outer garment, and washes everyone’s feet. Jesus said it was a symbol of how much he loved them, and he told them—and us—to go and do likewise.
After the foot washing there is some back-and-forth discourse between the disciples and Jesus, resulting in Judas abruptly leaving the table as he goes out into the night to betray Christ.
So, if you are paying attention to the order of things in this story, what you will realize is that Jesus would have washed Judas’ feet. One by one, Jesus washed the dusty and dirty feet of each one of his followers and at some point, he came to the feet of Judas.
Jesus knew what Judas had in his heart, that Judas had decided to betray Jesus to the religious leaders for thirty pieces of silver—and, as well, perhaps, for the satisfaction of knowing you are right and someone else is wrong (which is sometimes more valuable to us). And yet still Jesus took each one of Judas’ feet in his hands and lovingly washed the dust and the dirt off of them, probably longing to wash the fear and sin and mistrust from Judas’ heart as well, if only he could.
In the All Souls’ Chapel of our parish, there is an icon to the left of the altar called the Anastasis, or the “Raising Up.” It is the traditional Easter icon in the Orthodox church. You might think, looking at the Anastasis, that this is an icon of Jesus’s resurrection, but it’s not. It is actually an icon of Jesus breaking down the doors to hell itself to raise up those who died before he came. And so, in the icon, Jesus descends to the dead and he lifts Adam and Eve out of their graves to bring them to paradise. This is the doctrine of the “Harrowing of Hell” the day before Easter Sunday.
And I have no way really of knowing this really, but I wonder.
Because after Judas went out and betrayed Jesus, and after Jesus was arrested and tortured and killed, we are told that Judas regretted everything he’d done. He tried to give the money back to the religious leaders who paid him, and they simply insulted him and sent him on his way. So, Judas went and he hanged himself, sure that God’s love for him had reached its end.
And so, I wonder if, when our Lord descended into the dead, rescuing all those who had died before his resurrection changed everything, I wonder if Jesus also went to go find Judas, sitting somewhere alone. Because if he did, I imagine Judas would have looked at Jesus with eyes full of fear… and would have seen only eyes of love looking back. And I wonder if Jesus raised Judas up to, rescuing him from all of his failures, and bringing him to paradise with everyone else.
I mean, that’s the kind of thing that Jesus always seems to do, right? Always going after that one lost sheep.
There is never too far to go, no place you will ever go, to find yourself beyond the reach of Jesus’ love.
There is no failure too great, no betrayal too significant, where Jesus’ love cannot find you and rescue you.
And I really hope on this Wednesday of Holy Week, that you know that, that you know that God’s love for you, God’s mercy, is no myth.
Thanks for being with me. To find out more about my parish, you can go to sjegh.com. Until next time, remember, protest like Jesus, love recklessly, and live your faith out in a community that accepts you but also challenges you to be better tomorrow than you are today.