A good manager looks at the people in their employ, determines their strengths and gives them tasks that benefit the group in order to get the best results from the group. Different people are good at different things. Sometimes that means you have to do a sucky task because you’re the best person to do it.
So, picture this: You’re the Son of God, and people are starting to more widely believe that you are, in fact, the Messiah. You have thousands of people showing up to see you, whatever town you go to as you wander around the Middle East. You need a team. You could pick from any of the thousands of people who show up to hear you talk. You narrow it down to 13 people. Team Disciple. On purpose, you choose a known thief as one of those 13. You even give him the purse containing Team Disciple’s money to care for, knowing that he would likely dip into it for his own purposes. You could kick him off the team, but you don’t. Why would that be?
Sure, there’s that “let the first without blame cast the first stone” thing. But still, you didn’t have to choose this fellow to be one of your inner circle, your closest confidantes, your trusted friends. There are tons of choices. Lots of folks following you around the desert that you can pull up to the starting lineup. JC had dinner with tax collectors (who were widely regarded as greedy and dishonest), he let a prostitute wash his feet. But save for 1 disciple (Matthew, quit being a tax collector and repented his ways to follow JC), everyone’s references check out, except for Judas. He got to be on the team anyway.
Why do that? Because JC needed him to serve a purpose. Judas had a starring, terrible role in Ghod’s Plan. I mean, sure, Peter and some of the others said they didn’t know JC which was a betrayal in it’s own right. But Ghod’s plan needed someone who could go to the supreme council of the Jewish faith and sell his friend 30 silver – the price of a slave. Peter wasn’t the guy for that – he had a different task to do after JC ascended. But Judas… his morality already had some questionable traits.
So if you’re written into a role that makes you do something terrible, so that other events can fall into place, does that make you the villain in the story, or does it mean that you had a terrible job to do, so you did it?
Depending on the bible source (and translation) you’re looking at, there’s testimony that the devil entered Judas at the Last Supper. But JC cast out all kinds of demons in his 3 years of public service. He could have saved his friend, but he didn’t. JC let Judas serve his terrible purpose. I would imagine that would just add to JC’s grief at what he knew was coming at him.
When some people are ordered to take the shot, we (some of us, anyway) regard them as heroes. Chris Kyle (American Sniper) was tasked to kill people and he followed his orders through 4 tours of duty. For his trouble, he got several commendations for acts of bravery and for meritorious service in combat. Chris Kyle was a good soldier. The thing is that history is written by the winners. Judas was tasked to turn in JC. He spent 3 years as JC’s friend and confidante, and then, one Wednesday afternoon 2000 years ago, he said “Nope, I’mma sell him to the Sanhedrin”. Judas followed his orders (whether he knew that or not) and the other 12 are horrified. Maybe they didn’t know the directives Judas had. In any case, Judas was never regarded as the good soldier. This isn’t a perfect analogy, of course, but it’s not that much of a stretch, in my mind.
Judas’ remorse was immediate and crushing. He tried to return the silver. He struggled, and unable to reconcile what he’d done, he committed suicide. After spending 3 years with JC and Team Disciple, Judas would have known that having faith and seeking forgiveness is at the root of everything, but he couldn’t get there. In current psychology parlance, Judas would have had PTSD, perhaps. And so, when it came time to write their gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John spoke of the horror of what they experienced. When you hear hooves, you think horses, not zebras. So they saw a traitor, not someone with a mission different than theirs.
I could be wrong. Maybe Judas was just some asshole who turned on his friends and changed the course of history. But what if I’m not?
This Lent, may I consider that everyone has their own journeys and their own missions. May I resist the mob mentality that comes from distressing news, and may I be careful not to judge unfairly.