It is Holy Tuesday, when the Gospel tells of conversations between Jesus and Judas, and Jesus and Simon-Peter, at supper on the evening before Jesus was arrested. Father Henry Charles comments:
…We see ourselves easily in Peter. We’ve all given God our word, made heartfelt promises to change, and have all tasted the ashes of betrayal and failure. The good thief is everyone’s favourite felon. His last minute pardon and entry into paradise brings tears to the eyes. We don’t see ourselves in the crowd – too fickle, too swayed by hysteria and other people. We have little feeling for the chief priests and the Scribes, too persecutory, too proud, too envious. And of course, Judas – who could identify with him, the ultimate scoundrel, the traitor?And yet, Judas is in all of us as well, in some way, and at some time. I don’t mean when we sin and betray the Lord. Not in that sense only. In other senses too…
…We can plausibly imagine Judas as someone with restoration fervour, just like the people generally. At the centre of this feeling was the figure of Jesus, the one whom the crowds loved. In Jerusalem that week, the conditions for igniting the spark of liberation were ideal. You had masses of people, nationalist emotion and a burning desire to see the back of the Romans. When the soldiers came to take Jesus, the moment when Jesus by refusing to go with them, could have set the revolt in motion and be sure of an enthusiastic following, what Judas sees when he gives the signal (the kiss), is that Jesus allows himself instead to be meekly led away. All that Judas had lived and hoped for, all that he had spent his life dreaming about and longing for, everything comes suddenly crashing down…History has it that Judas betrayed Jesus. It’s equally plausible from another point of view to think that it was Judas who considered himself betrayed.
Where did Judas go wrong? Not in terms of motivation. He wanted a national restoration, a new dispensation of freedom and self-rule. There’s nothing wrong with that. All colonials want independence. Judas wanted it in the way that he did, and he assumed that Jesus wanted the same thing. In other words, it was not so much Judas following and being a disciple of Jesus as Jesus following Judas and being his disciple.
We are often no different. Sometimes we talk about God being for this or that, but the truth of the matter is that we are for it, and we rope in God to back up the position we take or the side we’re on. And often, as happened with Judas, things take a sudden turn, quite differently from how we imagined or wished. It’s God’s way of saying to us: “Your ways are not my ways; my ways are not yours.”
We are all the disciples and all of the participants in the Passion; we are each at different times and in different ways: we wash our hands of situations and people, like Pilate; we are envious like the Pharisees, we want Barabbas because we get tired sometimes of all the God talk, the Jesus talk, and all the pious hoop-la; and we are all Judas too. With the best of intentions what we call following Jesus is really Jesus following us. In other words, as has often been said, the Biblical story is our story. The Passion is only different in that it allows us to see this up close and in a more dramatic and intensive manner.