I happened to be in a Year 5 classroom the other day as they were discussing the events of the Easter story. The class were having a fascinating discussion over who was responsible for the death of Jesus. Was it Pilate? The Sanhedrin? The Crowds? Jesus himself? Among the possible answers was Judas. I think it would be fair to say that Judas certainly had his share of the guilt regarding the crucifixion, but a far more important question arose from one of the children:
“What happened to Judas?”
Among adults, we know from the Bible that Judas committed suicide. Depending on whether you read Mark or Acts, there is some debate over how he did this, or what happened, but that isn’t actually how I thought about the question.
While in the physical, we can be firm in the knowledge that Judas made his decision that he would rather be dead than carry his weight of guilt, in the spiritual, there could be some debate over Judas’ fate. It is my firm belief that within the Easter story, Judas can be used as a tool to show us God’s mercy, and redemptive plan for us.
So let’s begin this blog with some facts about Judas:
- Judas was a friend of Jesus.
- Judas followed Jesus, and believed Him to be the Messiah.
- Judas’ role within the group of disciples was to be treasurer.
- Judas betrayed Jesus, by leading the Roman’s to Jesus to capture Him.
- Judas betrayed Jesus for money (30 pieces of silver).
The name Judas in modern culture is synonymous with someone who betrays a person they love. In the context of sport, or more accurately, football, a player who leaves a team for a rival is often known as Judas.
Some messages for Sol Campbell, following his move from Tottenham to Arsenal.
If we consider some of the hatred that football players get for moving from one club to another, from people who have never met them, nor truly loved them, it could perhaps help us to understand how any person may feel when betrayed by someone they really love, honestly trust, and have a close personal relationship with.
If we consider that Jesus was fully man (as well as fully God), who experienced all the feelings and emotions that we feel, we must understand that the way that Judas treated Him must have hurt Him massively. It must have made Him angry, bereft, and utterly disappointed. How could a man’s close friend, give Him away to die, for a measly sum of money? The ultimate, history defining betrayal.
In our society, we often consider the idea of Heaven, and salvation, as weighed up against Earthly good deeds. We often also struggle with the fact that bad people could attain Heaven, and a relationship with God. I don’t want to make assumptions for anyone (but perhaps I’m challenging you to try this), but I dare say that if we asked a sample of people “Do you believe that Judas is in Heaven?”, I think a large proportion would most probably reply “No”, among both Christian, and non-Christian demographics.
But actually, this is why the Easter story is so powerful, so liberating, and ultimately, why it is so important for both myself, and for you, the reader. Because it is my firm and solid belief, that Judas resides in Heaven with Jesus. Let me unpack a few reasons why.
One of my favourite verses in the Bible is Romans 10:9, because I feel it is the clearest instruction of what a person must do to come into a relationship with God:
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Whenever I discuss with anyone what it means to be a Christian, this is the verse I always refer back to. In my opinion, Judas declared Jesus as the Messiah, both with his mouth, and in his heart. Despite betraying Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, there is no account of Judas denying Jesus. In fact, if we are to go down that line, we must also call into account the mistakes of Peter! And yet, Jesus forgave Peter, and built the church upon Him. Had Jesus had the chance, would He not have forgiven Judas in exactly the same way?
Now if we begin to consider Judas’ betrayal, I think we need to refer to Jesus’ teaching on the mistakes we make against the mistakes other people make:
“ “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Before I can start pointing out Judas’ fault of the ultimate betrayal, I must first consider that I am not perfect. That in my life, I too have treated friends badly, lied to them, betrayed them for my own selfish interests. Sure, nobody died because of it, but that’s just a difference of outcome! The mistake was made all the same, and no doubt people were hurt because of it! As I am not perfect, I must be careful how I talk about Judas.
And that is actually the entire basis of the Easter story. All of mankind is fallen, all of mankind is wrong, all of mankind make mistakes. But in God’s Salvation Plan, He sent an all-sufficient substitute, to take our place on the cross, and to then rise again to show we can have a new life in Him.
Going back to the original discussion, was Pilate responsible for Jesus’ death? Yes. Were the Sanhedrin responsible for Jesus’ death? Yes. Were the beying crowds responsible for Jesus’ death? Yes.Was Judas responsible for Jesus’ death? Yes.
Was I responsible for Jesus death?
Here is a final quote, which allows us to understand why Judas is in Heaven:
“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” and we must answer, ‘Yes, we were there, not as spectators only, but as participants, guilty participants, plotting, scheming, betraying, denying, and handing him over to be crucified.’
We may try to wash our hands of responsibility like Pilate, but our attempt would be futile. Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us, leading us to faith and worship, we have to see it as something done by us, leading us to repentance.
Only the man or woman who is prepared to own his share in the guilt of the cross may claim his share in its grace.”
“What happened to Judas?”
He’s loved and forgiven by Jesus, and sitting in Heaven with Him.
Senior Sports Coach