Face to Face with Judas
I ran into Judas a few days later. He was in a hurry. There was a crazy sort of intensity in his eyes. I had met him before and we had seen each other dozens of times. As keeper of the purse, he was always bustling about getting provisions and making arrangements for Jesus and his team.
So I thought Judas was shopping for supplies for the Passover. We exchanged a quick glance and brief nod and he was on his way. I went on my way too, which included a stop at the local inn for a bite to eat and a cup of wine.
It was a couple hours later when I emerged from the inn, full and slightly lightheaded. No sooner did I walk out the door than I ran into Judas again. The second time tonight! But now he seemed really disheveled and wild. I asked if he was okay. I have to admit I never really liked the guy, but I figured if he was in trouble the least I could do would be to offer to help.
I asked if he was hungry. The inn was still open and maybe that's what he needed. So I went back in with Judas at my side. The minute we sat down he buried his face in his hands and let out a pathetic groan. I had never seen a man so distraught. Some folks were beginning to look our way. I asked what was the matter.
"It's all his fault," he croaked. "It didn't have to be this way." I asked what he meant. Little did I know that I was opening the door to an immense world of frustration, anxiety and guilt. And it was all about Jesus. As best I can recall, this is what he had to say.
He said he was afraid that Jesus was a fraud. He was not going to become a real king. He was not going to lead Israel to greatness. He was not going to be another David. He was never going to assemble a mighty army. He was making strange statements, like his kingdom was not of this world. Not only that, but rather than being crowned king and worshipped by all his people, he was going to suffer and die a horrible death. "He told us all this," Judas said.
"I can't believe it," I said. "Judas, you have been with him from the beginning. You have seen him in action up close, standing right at his side. How can you even think this way?"
"I'm telling you what he said," he replied. "We were talking about it the other day. It started with James and John arguing about which of them would sit at the right hand of Jesus in his kingdom. Then we all started discussing what roles we might play in his realm. But, when Jesus heard us talking like that he just shook his head in frustration and brought us back down to earth."
I asked how he did that. Judas continued, "'Look,' Jesus said, 'I've been telling you from the very beginning that I am not here to establish an earthly kingdom, but rather to help the world heal its relationship with my Father in heaven through a new covenant, one that mankind will honor this time. I am tired of doing all the work while mankind still is hard-headed and will not believe. I'm tired of it and so is my Father. That's why he sent me. That's why I have to suffer and die. For you.'"
I didn't know what to make of this. Judas was clearly out of his mind. Whether it was due to his disappointment with Jesus or the responsibilities with which he was burdened, he was not thinking rationally. Had he misunderstood what Jesus said, or was Jesus talking in one of those parables of his, which no one ever understood without him explaining it?
I asked about the other apostles. "They believe in him!" he shouted. Now everyone was looking at us. Judas slinked down in his chair. When the noise level grew back to normal he sat up and continued: "He convinced Peter first of all, and then John and the rest of the guys."
"But what about you?" I asked. "I'm not going to be taken in by all this holy talk of covenants and resurrection and all that," he replied.
"Resurrection?" I asked. "That's where it really gets weird." Judas said.
(This article is adapted from The Jesus Diary, by Dave Mishur, which is available on Amazon and other online retailers and can be ordered at any bookstore. A sequel, called The Big Tent, will be published May 1 of this year.)