Friday, April 07, 2006

The Gospel of Judas

The media is all agog about the publication of the "Gospel of Judas," wondering what this will mean for Christianity, our beliefs,the world, yada, yada, yada. According to reports on the radio and TV today, Judas is portrayed as the 'hero' of the story, the only one to recognize Jesus for who he really is, and willing to sacrifice himself so that this revelation could be made to the entire world.

Judas intrigues a lot of us. Was he really just a mercenary of money, stealing from the group's common purse, and willing to sell his teacher for a few bucks? Was he as callous towards the poor, the oppressed, the outcast, as some of the gospels portray him? Was he the willing,or unwitting, pawn of the religious and political authorities of his day (or even the Evil One) to bring about the death of Jesus?

I'm not sure; I can't figure him out. Yet, I know that in John's gospel, he is included in the Last Supper, and that says something to me about Jesus' inclusion of Judas right up to the last moments of his life. In fact, when Jesus dips the 'morsel' and hands it to Judas, it is a traditional way of honoring the person. And an interesting way to treat the person who is about to betray you!

Of course, I can't figure Judas out, because I can't figure out my own relationship with Jesus.

After all, if Jesus is in the poor of the world, and I refuse to see them as sisters and brothers in Christ, what makes me different from Judas?

And if I think we should spend money on our own 'kind', whether they are in my church, my community, my country before helping any one else out, is my attitude that different from Judas?

And if Jesus hungers with the children on the garbage dumps of Rio de Janiero, and I am unwilling to share from the abundance I have; if Jesus is with those who have to drink polluted water while the good water is diverted to the resorts in their countries, and I don't say something about it; if Jesus is with the people dying in Darfur, and I am not beating down the doors of my government to get them to stop this genocide - if I am not willing to do any thing and everything I can for the lost, the last, the little, the least in our world, then aren't I betraying the very One who I say I want to live in my heart?

The disturbing news of the Passion story is how much I resemble Judas.

The good news is that, like Judas, Jesus will honor me by feeding me at his Table on Maundy Thursday, and then, as he did for Judas, he will go out and die for me so that, like Judas, I might be saved.

(c) 2006 Thom M. Shuman

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