Tuesday, April 4, 2006

The Judas Goat

The Judas Goat is a trained animal, who leads the other animals up the ramp to their deaths at the slaughterhouse. 

I have a big problem with Judas Iscariot, not the individual, but the way in which he's been portrayed in Christian dogma.  Supposedly, Judas committed the most unpardonable sin imaginable when he betrayed Jesus.  (I can't remember if it was to Pilate, the Sanhedrin, or Herod).  However, unless Jesus was crucified and rose again, His plan of expiating the sin of the world through his own suffering would not have come to pass.  So Judas performed a significant role in the salvation of mankind.  Yet most Christians are secure in the belief that Judas sits right between Adolf Hitler, Ted Bundy and Lee Harvey Oswald in Hell.

In The Greatest Story Ever Told, which I believe is the best cinematic depiction of the life of Christ--despite its many flaws--the relationship between Jesus and Judas is problematic.  Jesus is never explicit with Judas.  He allows Judas free will.  He knows that something is up with Judas, but as all things serve the Lord (i.e. Himself) then he can fully trust that Judas will take actions that benefit the glory of God even as the result of the most sinful conduct.

When Jesus says "my kingdom is not of this world" perhaps he meant Judas, too.  That Judas' struggle was internal: a problem of pride, a problem of misplaced idealism, and a problem of rebellion.  Perhaps Judas saw Jesus as a rival, someone who took control of an otherwise egalitarian sect.  Or perhaps Judas saw Jesus, in proclaiming his own divinity, as foresaking their earlier principles.  Or perhaps Judas saw some of the glory of God in Christ and recoiled from it--as its light exposed the most horrific sinful nature. 

But again, if it was God's will that Jesus suffer and die on the cross, is not Judas an agent of that same will?

I used to think so.  But not now.  We tend to accept that on face value because that's what happened in the story.  However, who is to say that if Judas had rejected temptation and in full humility accepted Christ and stayed by his side, Jesus wouldn't have fallen into Roman custody in some other way?  All Jerusalem was looking for him.  It was really only a matter of time. 

Judas was tempted and succumbed.  He heaped more sin on top of that by dying in despair by his ownhand.  However Jesus said, "Forgive them for they know not what they do."  That statement had to include Judas, too.  So I'm not sure.  I won't presume.  And if I find on the Day of Resurrection that Judas' name is written in the Book of Life, then I won't be astonished.

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