After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.
In our house, a highly theologically educated house, Lady Gaga and Judas are both highly debated topics. Singer, dancer, songwriter and fashion icon Gaga tells the story of a misunderstood, culturally abused Judas in a motorcycle gang of disciples in her controversial music video. As Mary Magdalene seated behind Jesus in a crown of thorns, Gaga sympathizes with the darkness, betrayal and understanding of forgiveness portrayed in the literary elements of the character Judas. She qualifies that her video is not a religious statement but an attempt to understand those who feel outcast and demonized much like the biblical character.
I am a Judas sympathizer. Perhaps it is my love/fascination with Gaga or my reading of the play “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” but I have witnessed the cultural message of a negative, demonized Judas. Everyone wants a villain. Our stories are wrought with a protagonists and antagonists from childhood. Underneath it all, we have come to believe real life, stories of good and evil, and Jesus’ life story, are all similar. There will always be right and wrong. The good will always win out over evil.
In all actuality, real life is much muddier. There is good and bad within the human being, much like the biblical message testifies. However, in our attempt to dramatize good and bad we have created impossible standards for our selves and society. In reality, forgiveness intermingles with betrayal. And light penetrates darkness.
Judas’ rejection of the Messiah and submission to corrupt religious leaders played the necessary role in Jesus’ sacrificial forgiveness on the cross. In a sense, we owe Judas a bit of gratitude for making forgiveness possible. What was once deemed purely evil (a Judas kiss), seems almost hopeful in another light.
Maybe I’m too sympathetic. I’m not in love with Judas. But I do feel sorry for him… and Jesus. Just as I pray that God’s grace be extended to me, I pray that grace is extended to Judas as well.
Lady Gaga’s "Judas" music video
Christian Post on the “Judas” music video
Other Holy Week readings: