Seeing the world through a theological lens...
Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people.
Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.
Judas called Iscariot is one of the most disliked and simultaneously pitied figures in all of history. He's the one who from the beginning of the gospels is named as the one who would deliver Jesus into the hands of the authorities, leading to his crucifixion. I used to wonder what would have happened if Jesus had chose someone else to be his 12th disciples instead of Judas... say, Jerry of Iscariot or something like that. Would Jesus still have been arrested had he chosen someone who would have been more loyal to the cause; to Jesus himself? Would Jesus have still been crucified if 'Jerry' had been there to protect Jesus instead?
Another question has always haunted me about Judas... well, actually about the other disciples. When Jesus tells them, as a group, that one of them will betray him, they ask him one by one, "is it I?" Really??? I would hope that if I am actively engaged in a radical revolutionary movement and the leader announces they will be betrayed, I wouldn't have to ask them if I am the one who will do it! I would hope that I'd know the level of my own loyalty. Especially if I'd "left everything to follow" Jesus as the disciples had done.
So... Not to be too heretical here, but is it possible that the other disciples had also been approached by the religious leaders to see if they would do what Judas did? Could they have flirted with the idea of betraying their leader?
And... following that train of thought- here's another question. Why, when Jesus named Judas to be the one to betray him, didn't the other disciples stop Judas from doing it? Why didn't they restrain him, or argue with him about it? Why let him just slip out of the room to carry out his plan?
The story does lend itself to these and other questions. Yet, Jesus had told the disciples over and over that the road he was on would to lead to his death- that he would be handed over to the authorities, and be killed, and in three days rise. The disciples knew it was coming. Was it part of Jesus's plan all along that Judas would be the one to do it? Did the others also know in advance?
Looking deeper for possible answers, there are two important words in this passage that need mention, which may help shed some light for us.
The first is Satan. The text says (even in Greek) that Satan entered into Judas and that's what enabled Judas to carry this out. The word satan, is translated, adversary, accuser, and both of these words work. Conversely, the word devil, the one we picture with red suit and horns, does not. (That's a different word)
In Judas's mind, adversarial or accusatory thoughts entered, took root, and grew. He is portrayed repeatedly in the gospel as not really understanding Jesus's mission, and perhaps things had, in his mind, gone far enough- and it was time to put a stop to it. Except, if that were true, then, as I mentioned already, the other disciples surely would have tried to stop him, right?
The other troublesome word in the passage is Betray. I'll spare you the Greek geekiness and cut to the chase. The root of the word betray simply means "to give or offer." The full word means to "hand over, give, deliver, entrust" something or someone to another. It is the word that was often used for passing down traditions and even documents. When used in reference to a person, it means to "hand or turn that person over, give up (as in hand over into the custody of)."
This is the same word Jesus uses when he tells his disciples that he will be "betrayed" to the authorities.
There are a couple of well thought out theories you should know about:
1. Jesus and Judas had planned almost from the beginning that Judas would be the one to turn Jesus over to the authorities. (This is depicted in the recently discovered, Gospel of Judas)
2. Judas was impatient- he was in fact 'all in,' a zealot by some accounts, and wanted to get the revolution started.
You can look both of these theories up right on Google, and no doubt you will find a host of information and misinformation about both of them. I'll leave them for you to ponder as to their validity.
I do know that in the end, despite the questions I hold or the holes in the story, Judas bore the brunt of what he did. Judas alone carried the guilt and shame, and when it finally became too much, he ended it with a noose and a tree...
History (and honestly, most of us) despise Judas. Yet, should we follow the thread of our disdain for him, or even our pity for him, that thread will eventually lead us right back to the depths of ourselves; it will shine a mirror on our own lives and our own accusatory, adversarial thoughts, feelings, and actions.
As disciples of Christ, it is difficult to reconcile all of that. The good news is that we don't have to. Jesus reconciled it for us. Christ reconciles it even today. There are some questions in scripture that we may never fully understand, and despite the theories and the "proof" we seek, in the end, we need to hand it over to Christ; in fact to hand ourselves over to Christ, to allow ourselves forgiveness and mercy through Christ. Believe the good in people. Believe the good in ourselves. Believe the good Christ says the world can be. It is and always will be the only reconciliation we need.