The following monologue is an experiment, a “devil’s advocate” exploration of what might have made Judas tick. I don’t claim any biblical authenticity for it. It is a work of creative nonfiction, …or something like that. It’s overblown, overwritten, and not completely thought through. Take it for what it’s worth.
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Maybe you know me, or at least you think you do. But you don’t, and I’ve been waiting a long time to say it, too. So hear me out, because there are at least two sides to every story.
First of all, stop demonizing me. I don’t get it. Why do you people call every traitor a ‘Judas’? Do you think I was the first guy to ever have confused priorities, to accidentally hurt someone I loved? Even if you want to call me a back-stabbing traitor, which I am not, do you think I was the first? Well, think again. It’s a story as old as time, people. Even families do it to each other. Cain & his brother Abel. Jacob & Esau. Even King David was betrayed by his own son Absalom.
And what about our half-breed king, Herod? He betrayed the entire nation to the Romans. Not just once, but regularly. So why label me as Public Enemy Number One, the worst of the bunch? I only betrayed one man. Do people go around nowadays calling traitors a Herod? No. If you betray a friend, or a country, you’re labeled a Judas. It’s not fair. I know what I did was wrong, but I had good intentions. Besides, I loved Jesus. I loved all the disciples, and the entire community. I made a poor choice to trust some of the high priests, and that’s it. Can we leave it at that?
Plus you gotta understand, I didn’t see it as a betrayal. I was just trying to move things along, stir things up. I didn’t think they would kill him, or even take him into custody. He didn’t do anything illegal, after all. To be honest, I got impatient. At one point, I even thought Jesus was the one betraying us! I don’t think that now, but things were pretty confusing at the time. When I first met him, I thought he was a patriot, a friend of the Jews. Then it got a little weird. He started spouting off about loving our enemies, or turning the other cheek when someone strikes you. He healed the son of a Roman soldier. Sometimes he practically spat in the other rabbis’ faces. Not that I’m any great fan of our other rabbis. They’re mostly a bunch of Roman collaborators. Which is why Israel needed true leadership, and we – I mean at least I thought the he was the One.
All along, I hoped and prayed that Jesus would be the Messiah, the one to deliver his people, my people, from the tyranny of the Romans and the wickedness of our own rulers. He was a natural-born Zealot, a great teacher with a ton of charisma, so my friends from before all understood why I was following him around. I just got tired of waiting for him to come around, to stop talking about what everyone else needed to do and start doing something himself. Look… he had the people of Jerusalem in the palm of his hand when he came to the city for Passover that last week. And as goes Jerusalem, so goes the nation, as they say. So I was excited! I thought ‘This is it! We’re going to start planning for the rebellion, on the holiest day of the year, and take back our once great nation from those pagan intruders.’
The way I saw it, Jesus was our last, best hope to build a new kingdom — a kingdom founded on the righteousness of Yahweh. We were going to give equal opportunities to all the people of Israel, and most importantly, NO interference from foreigners. Jesus wasn’t our first choice, of course. Just the best. Remember Barabbas? He looked good for awhile, too… to Zealots and reformers like me, at least. But eventually Barabbas let the power go to his head. Then he got sloppy, and excessively violent, and the Romans took him away. See, I knew Jesus wasn’t going to be that stupid. Jesus was a humble, godly man. Not ambitious, just compassionate and committed to the people of Israel. He would have made a great king, and he was MY man. I was the one who first started telling the other Zealots about him, and I was the main one managing our group’s affairs. Jesus trusted me with the common purse for our group of travelers, and I think I did pretty well with it. I gave alms to the beggars when it was appropriate, which made Jesus and our whole group look real good, very generous. I got us some good deals on food, fabric, shoes –whatever anyone needed. Peter, or my best buddy Nathanael – pretty much everyone knew I was the man to get it for them. I had connections, y’know?
By the way, as long as I’m coming clean: Yes, I did dip into the purse once or twice to make a little deal on the side for myself. So what?! A man’s gotta look out for himself, right? Plan for the future, put a little something aside. And I always put back what I took, so what was the harm?
But there was at least once when John figured out that the accounts were short, and that I had taken the money. He didn’t tell Jesus, I don’t think, but he did pull me aside and ask me about it. I didn’t want to get in trouble, so I told him I had given it away to a widow the day before. I’m not sure if he believed me or not, but things were never very good between us after that. And when he and those other guys sat down to write the gospels, man oh man, did I get the shaft! They made me look like a conniving, selfish, whiny sort of sniveling idiot.
The truth is, I had potential, too. I could have been a leader among men. I had a great deal of concern for my country, and I think some of the disciples were threatened by that passion. Peter practically came right out and said one time that I didn’t really believe Jesus was the Messiah, I was just using him for my own personal and political purposes– which is a lie! I really did believe in what Jesus was saying and doing. I still do. I just wanted him to do more. He was so full of potential, and all he did was waste it, trying to change people’s hearts instead of changing our situation for the better. You can’t change people’s hearts, at least not when their only concern is putting food on their table, or getting their poor son out of debtor’s prison. Instead, I felt that working for real justice in Israel was the only way to change people’s hearts, and that’s what I did.
So I know what you’re thinking. It’s the same question everyone asks me when they find out who I am, same one I ask myself a hundred times a day, every day: Why did you do it, Judas? Why did I do it? Why DID I do it? The simple answer, the one that a little child might give, is this: the Devil made me do it. You can laugh if you want to, but here’s what I mean: it was not big ol’ Satan, down in Hell, that had ‘entered into me’ like one of the gospel writers says. It was just those persistent little devils I was talking about earlier: pride, the idea that I could be a big man and force a national rebellion by turning Jesus in; ambition, the thought that I could be some big mucky-muck in the new government. Plus all the old standbys: impatience, revenge, racism, bloodlust, greed, jealousy. Heck, I’m the walking, talking poster-child for the true-believer gone wrong. My misplaced ideals and an all-consuming hatred for the Romans clouded my judgment, so that I betrayed the best friend I ever had.
So yes, I did betray Jesus. I admit it. Okay? Is that what you want to hear? Are we finished now? Can we move on? I know I was trying to make excuses before, but now I’m not. I betrayed the Son of Man, and I’m sorry.
Okay, God?! Are you listening? I confess. I betrayed innocent blood. Jesus said he didn’t want a bloody rebellion, and I didn’t believe him. I thought he would come around. I thought the people would pick up swords and come to his rescue. I guess I was wrong. I was wrong, Jesus! Okay?! Will you forgive me now? Will you ever forgive me? Oh God, forgive me. I want to be with you again. Oh, Jesus. Why did I do it? Why?