Christians certainly have no sympathy for Judas Iscariot. Considered among the vilest humans in all of human history, Judas betrayed his Lord and master after nearly three years of missionary work, after witnessing virtually every “miracle,” Jesus is said to have performed, and even after being taught “secret knowledge” not even found in the gospels. So what caused Judas to betray Jesus? Money? Resentment? Or was it something else? Something Scripture fails to make clear? And does Judas really deserve the loathing Christians have towards him?
THE CREATION OF JUDAS
We must remember that it was God’s “Divine Plan for Man” that led to the crucifixion of Jesus for the atonement of mankind’s sins. Jesus, therefore, had to be betrayed because that was precisely what God’s plan neccisitated to be done to . All that was needed was a “betrayer.” Enter Judas of Iscariot.
John 1:3 tells us that the God Jesus (as the “Word”) created everything in existence. John even goes so far as to emphasize that there was nothing in existence that the Lord Jesus didn’t create. And so we know who created Judas as well as for what purpose.
When the God Jesus created Judas, He “wired” him to do precisely what Judas would eventually do. Judas had no say-so in the matter. So doom faced Judas from the very moment of his creation. There was to be no “free will” for Judas. He was, for all practical purposes, a human automaton “programmed” to betray Jesus.
Christain apologists, however, will point to Luke 22:3 where it states “Satan entered Judas.” In other words, Judas had become possessed. That’s why he went on to betray Jesus. But even if one were to believe the claim true, it would have been an event foreseen by an omniscient God and, therefore, Judas innocent of any wrongdoing. He was in no way in control over his behavior at that point any more than the Gersasene Demonic of Mark 1-13 was over his.
THE DEATH OF JUDAS
Judas, it is said, was to identify Jesus by a kiss on his cheek. For this, Judas was paid thirty pieces of silver. But are we to believe that none of Jesus’ enemies could recognize Him and, therefore, were in need of someone to betray Him? Jesus himself says, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” (Mark 14:48-49) So the betrayal story seems a tad suspicious. And knowing the penchant of the gospel writers to see Old Testament “prophecy” pointing to Jesus at every turn, it wouldn’t be surprising to learn the story of Judas’ betrayal was concocted to fulfill Scripture.” But be that as it may, once Judas became aware of Jesus condemnation he felt the pangs of utter remorse, told the chief priests and elders he had “betrayed innocent blood,” threw the thirty pieces of silver into the Temple, and then went and hung himself. (Mathew 27:3-5))
That, however, is a far cry from Luke’s “Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open, and all his intestines spilled out.” (Acts 1:18.) Isn’t it?
As you can guess, such a contrary account sent Christian apologists scrambling to come up with some way of harmonizing Luke with Matthew. And the explanation accepted most widely by the Christian community today is that Judas hung himself as stated by Matthew. But Luke, however, concentrated on what happened to Judas’ body after being left for days in the hot Judean sun to bloat and putrefy to the point that either the rope or the tree branch broke. Upon hitting the ground, the fall caused Judas’ innards to burst asunder. So there is no real contradiction here—at least not according to Christian apologists.
But there are some serious problems with this explanation. First of all, Luke never mentions what preceded the body bursting, and the innards of Judas come gushing out. He gives no hint whatever that Judas had hung himself. And Luke makes no mention of any body decomposition. That, we find strange for a “physician” to fail to mention. Second, Luke states that Judas fell “headlong,” meaning head-first. If Judas had, indeed, hung himself in Luke’s account, how could he have possibly fallen “head-first”? If Judas had been cut down, or the rope or tree branch had somehow snapped, Judas would have landed feet-first, not head-first.
Christian apologists who have recognized this fact counter by claiming that Judas hung himself on a tree overlooking a cliff and that suffering such a great fall after the snapping of either the rope or tree branch would readily explain how the body came to burst open so.
But why would Judas choose to hang himself overlooking a cliff? Wouldn’t climbing out onto the branch to secure the rope and then hang himself from there be a rather ridiculous way of committing suicide? Moreover, such a clumsy hanging does nothing to change the fact that Luke states Judas fell head-first. Lastly, if a cliff were conveniently located nearby, all Judas would need do is to just dive headlong off of it. That would come into line with Luke’s account. But, then again, it would contradict Matthew’s version as to how Judas died. Wouldn’t it?
No. It seems rather clear that Luke set down what he perceived to be a more fitting end to the betrayer. In Luke’s concocted account, God willed Judas’ body to burst asunder to highlight just how dastardly Judas’ “crime” was. It merited a death that would leave no doubt whatsoever that it was a punishment that came directly from the hand of God. And I believe proof of this is the fact that no one’s intestines are going to burst out of one’s body by falling head-first onto the ground in an empty field. It, in no way, passes the reality test.
So what is to become of Judas? Sadly, Matthew 26:24 is the first indication He is to endure eternal suffering. The God Jesus says of Judas:
“The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
But is it still possible Judas somehow gets exonerated? Wouldn’t a truly loving and forgiving God forgive Judas for doing precisely what he was created to do?
Unfortunately not. For Jesus, in referring to the Apostles, later states:
”While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.” (John 17:12)
So much for Christ’s love, magnificent mercy, and forgiveness, eh?
Next Time: More in regards to Judas. What “fulfilled Scriptures”?