Reading: Psalm 41.
In Julius Caesar, of the most famed plays by William Shakespeare, he embellishes the treacherous killing of Caesar by his senators. The last words to come from Caesar’s mouth, according to Shakespeare, were “Et tu, Brute?” translated as “You also, Brutus?” or “You too, Brutus?” Brutus had come close to the Roman leader, becoming his trusted confidant, only to stab him in the back, quite literally. The phrase has been adopted by western culture, used to depict betrayal, even the utmost and unexpected betrayal by a close friend.
Along with this play, many of the greatest plot lines in renowned literature also include such a concept, of a close friend that turns against the ‘good’ character(s). In the Lord of the Rings, our mind can turn to where Boromir, intent on having the one ring for himself, betrays Frodo when alone with him, as he is almost able to take the ring. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Edmund slips out of the Beavers’ home to give his alliance to the White Witch, only to find her the master betrayer and liar. With the stories has grown an expansive vocabulary to refer to is, such as double-crossing, treachery, double-dealing, and treason.
Yet perhaps the oldest and most well-known of betrayals is known as the “Judas Kiss”.
In the Gospels, using a combination of all the angles available, we see how the treacherous Judas, one of the twelve, turns against Jesus, and secretly handing Him over to the Jewish leaders. We know the story well, and Judas is always seen in a dark and terrible light, similar to the way in which we might see the disgusting and despicable Gríma Wormtongue in the Lord of the Rings.
I believe this is wrong, Judas may be interpreted by us today as the great betrayer, but surely none of the other twelve saw him saw him as that before the “kiss of death” on Gethsemane. Let us consider how the disciples might have seen Judas prior to this event. He was their friend, their fellow disciple, one close to the inner circle of Jesus, and one who was highly trusted above others. We may have often misunderstood this reality because we already knew the end of the story, and thus we have read into the previous events with all of our presuppositions in mind.
Try to remember the first time you read (or watched) the Lord of the Rings – did you ever think Boromir would try and steal the one ring from Frodo before that fateful day by the river? You probably didn’t, and although the author had left a few crumbs previous to this, they had seemed uninteresting and indistinct prior to the crystallization of Boromir’s betrayal. The author’s point was to try and have Boromir look like an honest, dependable, and outstanding soldier for the cause, and even if he didn’t always agree with the fixed plan, he dutifully followed the orders.
The case of Judas is shockingly similar. He was a trusted friend to Jesus and to the others. The Gospel’s state that Judas was the one who was trusted to carry the money (John 13:29, ESV), a job only bestowed on the most dependable. That fact alone is surprising to say the least, and it is highly likely that he stood-out as mature and honest.
(more to come in Part 2)