Judas: Betrayer or Friend of Jesus?

Judas: Betrayer or Friend of Jesus?

Judas: Betrayer or Friend of Jesus?

Judas: Betrayer or Friend of Jesus?

Excerpt

Judas has not been a marginal figure in Christendom. He presents us with a
central human and Christian problem: how to deal with the enemy, the for
eigner, and our understanding of evil.

—Bernhard Dieckmann

One of the most noteworthy aspects of the life of Jesus of Nazareth was the way in which he gathered a community of undistinguished people around him. These followers, known as his disciples, became responsible for keeping his memory alive by retelling his story and putting it in written form. Among the followers were twelve men who represented continuity with the twelve tribes of Israel. Of These twelve, Peter and Judas Iscariot receive the most attention as the Gospel writers tell the story of Jesus. It is generally agreed that the Passion narratives, the story of Jesus' last days and his death on the cross, form the heart of the first Gospels. In those accounts, Judas is a dominant figure. In subsequent times, he has been almost universally condemned for his role in the arrest of Jesus.

The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) first introduce Judas to the reader as a disciple but always list him last among the Twelve. It is nevertheless significant that he was among those of the disciples whom Jesus selected to be named an “apostle.” Together with the other eleven, Judas was called “to be with Jesus,” sent forth to preach, empowered to cast out demons and to heal all kinds of sickness.

In the Gospel of John we hear nothing about Judas until, in chapter 6:59–71, an incident is recorded as taking place at Capernaum early in Jesus' ministry after Jesus preached in the synagogue. Upon hearing his words, specifically that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you can have no life in you” (6:53, NEB), many of Jesus' disciples turn against him, exclaiming: “This is more than we can stomach! Why listen to such talk?” (6:60, NEB). In this small village on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee where Peter, and perhaps even Jesus, made his home . . .

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