My last blog (The Judas Question) dealt with the issue of Judas Iscariot and his betrayal of Jesus. I postulated that Judas might not have made up his mind to turn Jesus over to the authorities until the moment he was sent out from the Seder meal that fateful night (John 13:18-30). We’ll never know for sure (at least, not in this lifetime), but there’s no question Judas is one of the tragic figures in history.
I ended the blog by saying, “Maybe he really meant it when he asked Jesus, ‘Is it I, Master?’ I sometimes painfully wonder if I could have done the same.” I felt like I should follow up on those words lest they be misconstrued.
The Cesspool of manipulation
It’s not that I think I’m such a bad guy. It’s that, somewhere along the way, I realized I can be very manipulative if I’m not careful. I’ve caught myself manipulating situations, facts, and even people without even thinking about it. The goal is always to get things to turn out in my favor. I suspect I’m not alone in that cesspool.
I’ve worked hard to mend my ways over the years, but I still catch myself doing it from time to time. I sometimes wonder if it’s engrained in me. Maybe it’s a part of my fallen human nature. Wherever that problem stems from, I have to consciously deal with it.
That leads me back to Judas. I think one of the reasons Judas betrayed Jesus was to manipulate the situation (and Jesus). I’m guessing he wanted Jesus to step up, publically announce his role as Messiah, and deliver Israel from the hated Romans. Since Jesus didn’t seem to be moving very quickly in that direction, Judas may have felt a little push from him might be in order. If that was the case, he was being manipulative.
A Common Malady?
It’s a common malady, especially in our day. We’re quick to arrange and rearrange things to get the results we want. There are instances where that’s okay—even desirable. But when we’re dealing with the lives of others…not so much.
This may have been exactly where Judas found himself. He manipulated Jesus into a position where Jesus would either take control or die. It may have never occurred to Judas that Jesus would be so passive in such a situation. After all, he had seen the Lord raise the dead, heal the blind, and walk on water. Why would he stand by and allow his life to be cruelly and unjustly taken from him?
We now know why, and so does Judas. It’s little wonder that Judas took his own life shortly after Jesus lost his. He couldn’t live with what he had done. If only he had stuck around a couple more days.
My final line from last week pointed to the fact that I may have done the same thing of which Judas was guilty. I may have been my manipulative self. God help me. God help us all.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]