Humanizing Judas Iscariot

I woke up this morning thinking about Judas Iscariot, you know, the guy history remembers as the “son of hell”? The one who betrayed Jesus to the Pharisees for 30 pieces of silver (roughly $250 in today’s money, but that number varies depending on which scholar you ask). Most of us know the story: Jesus is eating the Last Supper with the disciples, and he and Judas share the last piece of bread dipped in sop. Judas leaves Jesus with the other Eleven to betray him to the religious leaders for thirty pieces of silver, meets up with Jesus later with his round of Pharisees, and sends Jesus to his death with that infamous holy kiss. (Does betrayal get any worse than that?!) Later, somewhere between Jesus being interrogated and him being crowned with thorns, Judas is filled with remorse, tries to return the silver but is unsuccessful, and then goes away to commit suicide. That’s the end of his story.

It is implied by Jesus himself and the Scriptures that Judas, though he felt remorse after his betrayal, was unrepentant. It makes me wonder though, if he could have repented, would he? Maybe he could have received mercy and grace from Jesus too, like Peter did after denying him three times.

I wonder what his last moments were like, if he felt anything other than remorse as he lugged rope to the tree in the potter’s field? I wonder if could he see Calvary from the tree he hung himself on? As he climbed, assuming he’d have to climb a ways before tying the noose that would be his demise, and as his body struggled to die once he stepped off the branch, could he see, in the distance, Jesus dying for the sins of the world, for his sins, both the ones he had committed and the one that was currently taking place? Did memories of the past three years with Jesus and the other disciples go through his head?

According to Scripture, we know that Judas’ last words, at least to the scribes and Pharisees, were “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4a). As the religious leaders abruptly and immediately dismissed him, I could only imagine he felt the fullness of despair and hopelessness. Here was a man broken and distraught by his actions, desperate to make it right again, and those in the church carelessly dismiss him with a wave of their hands. “What is that to us?” they say, picking up the money he threw at them. “See to it yourself!” (Matthew 27:4b)

Would he have accepted the scarred hand of a Saviour? Or, after regret and remorse had all but consumed him, would he think himself too unworthy and leave to die anyway?

I imagine, other than Jesus’ cry of “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”, that Judas’ suicide was one of the loneliest times recorded in Biblical history.

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