In today’s Gospel reading we see Jesus going up a mountain and spending the entire night in prayer. When He came down He chose the twelve Apostles and the reading ends ‘and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor (a treacherous, basely faithless person)’. We know very little about Judas. Various interpretations of Iscariot have been made, one even claiming it to be a version of the latin word sicarius meaning assassin. The most likely however, taken from early translations of Scripture in Hebrew means ‘ a man of Kerioth-Hezron’ a town just South of Hebron in Judea.
Now, this was at or near to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and Jesus knew he would have to spend a considerable amount of time, almost three years, with the man who would ultimately betray him. This demonstrates, for me, the endless love and care that God has for us. He knew that Judas would betray Him if given the chance, yet still, God gave him that chance; the chance to repent or to fall. Judas probably tried very hard to follow Jesus but, from the evidence could not divorce himself from this world.
We know what it is to follow Jesus because He told us in Matthew 10: 34-39. This is a hard teaching. Jesus must be placed before all others in our lives; we must become as like Jesus in our thoughts and actions as we possibly can; whoever puts his earthly life before his spiritual life will lose both. I believe though that we must remember our God is love and will not judge us by how successful we are in this endeavor, but in how long and how hard we try. Let us not forget that all the disciples eventually failed this test. When the teachings of Jesus turned from the beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-11 to the coming cross in John 6:66 many of his followers gave up and returned to their homes. On the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested every one of the twelve deserted Him. Even Peter denied Christ three times. Even so, the resurrected Christ forgave them all completely.
We are justified by our faith and judged by our works. Stay firm in your faith to the best of your ability and to the end of your days and you will see the Kingdom of God. Judas chose his own fate eventually and ‘went to his own place’. Jesus gave him every chance with repeated appeals to him; it was never inevitable that he would betray the Christ so the decision to do so was Judas’ own; Judas never really entered into a real relationship with Jesus always calling Jesus rabbi and never Lord.
Judas failed because he spent more time reading the accounts than reading the Scriptures; more time watching the crowd than watching the Christ. Judas worried more about the money than about what they could do with the money. As we can see from the passion story it was after Mary had poured Nard, an expensive perfume, upon the feet of the Christ that he went to the Sanhedrin and arranged to betray the Christ, the inference being that this was the ‘final straw’. Judas will forever be the one disciple who never really committed his life to Christ; who shared His company but never shared His spirit (Romans 8:9); Judas chose his path, not God; God merely confirmed him in his dreadful choice.