Wednesday 14 May 2014

Bible Book:

“Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus— for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” (vv. 16-17)

Acts 1:15-26 Wednesday 14 May 2014


It's difficult to imagine the emotions thatlie behind these words. Peter often seems to be the closest of thedisciples to Jesus - it's Peter who first declares him to be theMessiah, and whom Jesus chooses as the rock on which he plans tobuild his Church (Matthew 16:13-20). Peter knows that Jesus'death was all part of God's plan (Acts2:23) and that by his resurrection, we are saved. And yet it'snearly impossible to imagine his feelings towards Judas, who "wasnumbered among us and allotted his share in this ministry", whospent three years walking and talking with Jesus, Peter and theother disciples, but who betrayed Jesus to the authorities whowanted him dead.

There have been many fascinatingexplorations of Judas' motives over the years (Jesus ChristSuperstar, for one). Those people wishing to exonerate him havesuggested that he could have been acting in accordance with Jesus'instructions, or acting to save the disciples, as he feared thatJesus' increasingly controversial statements were becoming toodangerous for them all. We cannot know his motives, but it is clearfrom this passage and Matthew 27:3-10 that Judas was filled withregret after his actions - that he returned the 30 pieces of silver(the amount paid in the Old Testament as a fine by the owner of abull who gored a slave to death) and hung himself in a field. Thereligious leaders felt the money couldn't be added back to thetreasury, as it was blood money, and so bought the field in whichJudas had died as a place to bury foreigners.

Matthew's Gospel and this passage from Actsboth suggest that Judas hung himself rather than face up to what hehad done, and that although he was filled with regret("metamelomai", in Greek) this does not add up to repentance("metanoia", in Greek).

The disciples pray and cast lots betweentwo men, Barsabbas and Matthias, to find a replacement for Judas,in accordance with prophesy. Never again in the early Church do wehear an account of a leader being chosen by casting lots; however,the other apostles (including Judas) were chosen directly by Jesus,and so to replace one of them was a unique situation, demanding anunusual response.

To Ponder

  • Do you think Judas betrayed Jesus because it was prophesied? Orwas it prophesied because that's what he would choose to do of hisown free will? Why?
  • Judas was clearly filled with remorse about what he had done.How do you feel (and how do you think Peter would have felt) aboutthe notion that Judas would have been forgiven if he had indeedrepented?
  • How much truth can be attributed to accounts of Judas' feelingsby the writers of Matthew's Gospel and Acts?
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