New Church Life March/April 2017 - Page 46

new church life: march/april 2017 possibilities. They imply that it was greed that drove his actions. (Matthew 26:14-16; John 12:6) They also include an even more troubling possibility – demonic possession. (Luke 22:3; John 13:27) But also, Jesus opens the door to something more puzzling – a kind of predestination in the form of fulfillment of prophesy. (John 13:17-18) Jesus’ pronouncement of prophesy is punctuated by His foreknowledge that Judas would eventually betray Him. (Matthew 26:24-25; Mark 14:18-21; Luke 22:21-23; John 13:21-30) All of these options, biblically founded and confirmed, create a four-way tension between Judas’ personal failing, the overpowering nature of hell, ancient narrative, and divine permission. Regardless of his motivation, Judas did do something terrible, and he lived to regret it. From Matthew’s account: Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:4-5) This is arguably the most human account of Judas Iscariot in the entire Gospel anthology. Whereas Judas had been so single-minded before – intent on thieving and betraying, he is here depicted as a man full of regret, as one so moved with guilt and remorse that he cast to the ground the very 30 coins that are purported to have sealed his betrayal in the first place. But even this gesture was not enough to assuage Judas’ guilt. Hastening from the presence of the chief priests and elders, Judas gave over the last thing that he had to his name – his own life. The Conscience of Judas Without Matthew’s tragic account of the torment and end of Judas’ life, posterity would be left with the image of Judas as a two-timing, unrepentant, good-for-nothing devil of a man. But this last scene of Judas reveals that he had one thing that people do not often afford the man: a conscience. Think of Judas Iscariot when you read the following selections on conscience from New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine: A person’s spiritual life really consists in having a true conscience, for there his faith is combined with charity. Acting in accordance with one’s conscience is therefore for such people the same as acting in accordance with the prompting of one’s own spiritual life; and acting against one’s conscience is for them acting against their own spiritual life. Consequently they enjoy the tranquility of peace and inner blessedness, when they act in accordance with their conscience; but they experience disturbance and pain when they act against it. This pain is what is called remorse. 112