Midweek Faith Lift
September 25, 2019
What About Judas?
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
We don’t often talk about Judas in church on Sunday morning, and it was really interesting to me that Butterworth devoted a whole chapter to the story of Judas. What that said to me is that it has metaphysical significance and that it is worthy of a new understanding and a much broader, metaphysical interpretation. It is a story of temptation, betrayal, and ultimately in the course of Christian history, one of “scapegoating” on a grand scale, because the Jews have long been blamed for the death of Jesus.
It is truly awful to see that blame of Judas for “killing Jesus” was used to justify mistreatment and anti-Semitism on the part of Christianity for millennia. It is only in recent history that the Pope and the Catholic Church have apologized for that and acknowledged the harm done during the Holocaust by clinging to the story of Judas, forgetting that Jesus was also a Jew! It is and has been a powerful story in human history, worthy of our deeper understanding.
But here’s the deal, the story of Judas and Jesus, the struggle between our human ego-driven desires and our divine nature is very personal to each of us. It is the story of our own struggle, and when we engage the story as our own, it becomes more real, more powerful and transformative. And that is after all, the point! We are all each of the characters in each of these stories in Scripture, like it or not! How so?
We have all experienced temptation, the temptation to not speak up or own up to our part in something that was not too savory and that did not end well.
We have participated in the energy of betrayal on one side or the other, betrayer or betrayed. And for sure we have all blamed others, or circumstances such that if we could just explain our thinking, our rationale, then we were off the hook for taking responsibility for our poor choices and wrong actions! Not so much, eh? How’s that workin’ for you, Deb? It is kind of like what Joseph said to his brothers who sold him into slavery in the Hebrew bible story: “You meant it for evil, God meant it for good.” Gen 50:20
So how is it that what we, in our human journey, mean for evil, God means for Good? Those places in us that are the most immature (evil) are the places where the most spiritual growth is possible! That is truly the story of the whole ministry of Jesus: that we begin to see beyond the human experience and embrace the possibility that the painful human experiences are there to transform us at depth. Butterworth describes the blindness of all of the disciples who, like us, did not really get what the Master was trying to teach. Here is what he says on p. 193 of Discover the Power Within You:
It is important here to recognize that all the disciples had a little different shade of understanding of Jesus and what he was about. None of them at this point (the crucifixion) really understood. Even Peter who had that great flash of insight when he saw the Christ, the Divine in Jesus, did not understand that Jesus’ real mission was to bring the message of the Divinity of Man to all the world--that He was building a kingdom, or a new order, in the mind and affairs of man, but that it was not a political kingdom that would involve the overthrow of the government.
The whole Jesus story, the Jesus mission is one of the transforming power of the Divine Energy of love within each of us. It is not about making our human life better; it is about expanding it into a bigger reality. So how does the Judas story figure into this consciousness expansion process?
In the history of Christianity, Judas is much maligned, as the Jew who betrayed Jesus and caused his death by crucifixion. There is that whole piece of the history of Christianity that shifted the emphasis of the story away from the actual mission of Jesus to a story that was much easier to sell, the story of a sacrificial “lamb that takes away the sins of the world,” whereby we get the interpretation of the crucifixion that Jesus died for our sins. And then the shift of the story is to how awful his death was because it shows humanity how sinful we must be. It was recorded in great detail in all of the gospels, largely because it scared the “bejeezus” out of all his followers, and writing and recording it in detail is one way to cope with the horror of it. But letting Jesus be our sacrificial lamb and Judas be our chief scapegoat is the easy way out; it is not that easy!
Butterworth notes that Judas was well educated and from a wealthy background, who was trusted by Jesus and the whole group of disciples. We know this because he was the designated treasurer for the group. He handled the money and made all the arrangements for them as they traveled together with Jesus. He had a vision that Jesus could be the new King of the Jews in the line of Solomon and David. This was not an unrealistic vision, although it was not the mission of Jesus, it was something Jesus was tempted to do and which the disciples wondered if he would do. Jesus’ response to this temptation was to say “get thee behind me Satan.” Butterworth describes Satan as the “ruling force of human consciousness.” Judas was not quite able to do that and gave in to the ego-driven desire to push Jesus into doing what was His to do as recorded in John.
18 No one takes it (life) from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.” (NRSV)
But here’s the deal, Judas thought Jesus would be able to save himself if the Romans came after him. Judas’ intention, according to Butterworth, was to push Jesus into doing what Judas wanted him to do. He sold information on the whereabouts of Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, which Jesus had predicted. Judas did not need that money; he did not do this for money. He wanted Jesus to take charge and form an earthly kingdom and overthrow the Romans and he thought he could force Jesus into doing this by betraying him. Whew! Talk about overzealous and misguided!
But that was never the mission of Jesus. Instead, this betrayal propelled Jesus into demonstrating through his physical death and the transformation of the resurrection, the incredible power of the spiritual kingdom of God, which is everlasting and cannot be destroyed. We have the human Judas and the fully realized spiritual Power of Jesus. When Judas realized that the Romans meant to kill Jesus he became distraught, heartbroken and killed himself. He had unwittingly played his part in this great cosmic drama of human/Divine energy.
If we take this story metaphysically we have a number of really powerful components. We have Judas who represents our human ego that wants its way, that doesn’t want to see the ugly side of what we might do from our sense of righteousness. When we climb on the horse of “self-righteousness” we want to see only the outcome we desire. We believe the story we are telling ourselves to be the only one true story and we forget that there are other verses or versions, as this Episcopalian Church Meme reminds us. Thank you, Clark for sending this to me!
Well, it makes it into the Jesus hymnal, because the story of Jesus is to love and integrate all of our humanity, all of our Judas behaviors that want to push things, to control things, to make it happen and then to just see it as pretty! Thank you Jesus for loving all of us, both human and Divine! Jesus the man died to demonstrate that we are only fully alive in the in the Christ energy of us, the God-ness of us. Judas died to demonstrate that when our ego serves only itself, that is a dead end, and that use of our ego must die for us to move into the full essence of our Christ Consciousness. And finally there are the 30 pieces of silver, which represents the energy of Trinity-mind, body and Spirit, which was the catalyst for this process of death and resurrection to unfold. The number 3 represents the Trinity and 30 is the power of the divine ten-fold!
Metaphysically, this story represents the power of Spirit to transform the worst of our human suffering into a regenerated, fully alive energy of love that is the resurrected Jesus. That is the message of the Infinite Potential of the Judas/Jesus betrayal story that moves into redemption. And we live that story every day. What is clear in the message of this story is that we will act out and live our humanness. Our ego that wants its way will say and do things that we later cannot believe we said or did. What is Truth is that every time this happens, it is also an opportunity for huge spiritual awakening and growth.
How does this look in real time? In real life? Well, when my first husband and I married, he was betraying himself to please me and to please his minister father. He was gay and while he believed he could live as a straight man, eventually, he could no longer betray himself. He came out by having a gay relationship, which was a betrayal of our marriage, a vow he really could never keep. I have to admit that I played along with this story, too, even though I intuitively felt something was not quite right. There was much suffering and anguish in this whole process for both of us. Ultimately, however, there was forgiveness and regeneration into new life for both of us.
When we can finally own the whole truth of our human selves, we can then own the whole TRUTH of our Divine selves. Every “crucifixion experience” no matter how painful, opens us to our Infinite Potential and Unlimited joy.
May we each find our way!
Blessings on the Path,