Monday, April 18, 2011

Satan, Judas, and the Cross

Yet another interesting conversation that emerged within one of our cohort gatherings and it is about Judas and the role he plays in the death of Jesus.

We all know that Judas has a very bad reputation among most religious sects because he is known for betraying Jesus and handing him over to the Roman government which ended up crucifying him. (However, you would think we would be grateful for Judas if he is responsible for the cross)

But my good friend Anthony Smith (@postmodernegro follow him) offered what i think to be some great insight on the intentions of Judas' actions viewed within the over all narrative of the texts.

I merely intend to offer this understanding of judas as a possibility, a conversation starter, and not as a concrete, dogmatic statement that can't be challenged by other ideas and interpretations. So join me in the conversation.

The conversation started with A discussion on Satan (which I wrote a little about my view of Satan here),what Satan's role is, and even questions about the nature or the metaphysics of his/her/it's existence.

First Satan.

Satan tempts Jesus In the desert (Matthew 4)and seems to go for Jesus' identity (If you are really the 'Son of God'...). There are layers to the actual temptations, but at least one element (and a main one in my opinion) is that Satan is attempting to make Jesus into a conquering Caesar instead of a slaughtered Lamb. The temptations are all about pride, power, and authority. Jesus refuses the temptations but they did seems to take a tole on him.

Then there's the disciples.

Now, Jesus' followers hoped that Jesus was soon going to become that mighty warrior that they had been waiting for and bring down the Roman Empire once and for all. For that's what the Messiah was suppose to do. But of course, Jesus never did that. Instead he said things like, "Love your enemies", "do good to those who persecute you", and "pray for those who hate you." Not vey appealing stuff to oppressed, Jewish zealots.

Enter Judas.

Judas was probably one of these hopeful Zealots. He probably believed more than any body that Jesus was indeed the messiah. So when Jesus kept refusing the way of the sword, the way of Caesar, Judas felt the need to jump in and try to force the hand so to speak.

It's interesting, in this understanding, that the text gives mention that Satan entered Judas when he went to betray Jesus. Satan had a part in it. Satan is still attempting to get Jesus to fall into the anti-god, violent, warrior role.

Now the garden.

Judas brings the soldiers to where Jesus is. Now what is Judas doing here?

Judas is trying to put Jesus in the position to where he HAS to fight, he is not trying to get him nailed to the cross! He actually believes Jesus is the messiah and he has longed for the day when the kingdom would be restored to Israel.

Satan is still at work here. Satan is still tempting Jesus to be anti-god, to take power into his own hands by picking up the sword.

And yet, Jesus tells one of his disciples, a passionate Peter (who is probably excited it's all finally about to go down), to put away his sword, and then he is willingly led off to his death.

Jesus refuses to enter the Empire of Caesar by submitting to the Kingdom of God.

Judas' plan back fires and Jesus, the Messiah, is eventually killed. This is not what Judas had in mind for he had devoted the last three years of his life to following this Jesus who he believed with his whole heart was the Messiah they had been waiting for.

Jesus is not always what we want him to be is he? He doesn't always do things the way we want him to, and he doesn't always hate the same people as we do. And so, maybe with good intentions, we nail him down in an attempt to make him something he is not, something more convenient, something more effective, something more safe and successful.

We make him in our own image.

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