Speculating on Judas (part one)

The Complex Christ has a post that speculates on the motivation of Judas in betraying Jesus. Whether or not this is correct, the topic intrigues me to no end. While having some time to think over vacation last week, I began to realize that I really have no idea why Judas would betray Jesus, save to snatch up a little extra money. But is that really why he turned Jesus over?

Every student of scripture should note that the Gospels supply us with very little information about the motives of Judas, and therefore, we should not worry ourselves with what they do not tell us. The information left out was deemed as non-essential in communicating the Gospel and creating Christian community. Nevertheless, we do have a few clips in which Judas figures prominently, and these must be studied with care. With the death of Christ playing a significant role in the salvaiton of humanity, it is important to understand the betrayer of Christ form the written accounts we possess. Understanding why Judas would do what many regard as unthinkable may give us a clue into the expectations placed on Jesus, the controversial message he preached, and our own response to Jesus today. In addition, we should never distance ourselves so far from Judas that we consider betraying Jesus beyond our own capabilities.

I hope to spend a little time over the coming week wrestling through the Gospel narratives and providing some possible reasons why Judas would betray Jesus. My theory as of now, in a nutshell, is that Judas was after power and wealth. He quite rationally thought that Jesus, the long-anticipated Messiah who had God on his side, would be his ticket to this fame and fortune. Judas may not have been a zealous patriot who would sacrifice himself to throw off Roman rule, but he did expect a king, as did most everyone else at that time, who would rule the nation much like David. Once things began to unravel and Jesus’ final trip continued to move closer to death and tragedy, Judas opted out of Jesus’ group, sought to win the favor of the Jewish leaders, and tried to come out ahead financially.

There is much more to be said in the coming week, but provides a rough sketch of where I’m going. I am curious to hear what others have to say about my little theory. While I have an idea of why Judas committed suicide, I am also wondering if any one with experience in this area can shed some light as well. I would think that Judas’ knowledge of the OT law weighed heavily on his mind, not to mention that he had now alienated himself from both Jesus’ followers and the Jewish leaders, leaving himself with no allies.

Enough for now. Feel free to chime in if you think I’m out to lunch with all of this!

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