Even my own familiar friend

A repost of a 2019 blog.

Michael Burrows (Bishop of Cashel, Ferns & Ossory) inspired this reflection and Michael Ipgrave (Bishop of Lichfield) directed me to Mynheer’s painting. Thank you.

Do you know this picture by Nicholas Mynheer? (used with his permission).

Two women embracing. Look at the background. The artist names the women as the mother of Jesus and the mother of Judas. Such sadness at the death of their sons.

I have a soft spot for Judas, bravado and posturing imploding to catastrophe. I’ve been there. Telling fibs to wiggle out of trouble. I’ve been there too. What was in his mind?

Was Judas disappointed with Jesus? Did they hatch a plot to have Jesus arrested deliberately in order to increase the profile of the “Jesus movement”? Is this why Jesus told Judas at the Last Supper to “get on with it”? If so, it went horribly wrong.

Was Judas angry with Jesus? Perhaps Jesus didn’t live up to Judas’s expectations of being enough of a revolutionary? The truth is that we never live up to the expectations of others because they’re not ours. And anyway I find it hard enough to live up to my own expectations.

Was Judas Jesus’ special friend – a second disciple whom Jesus loved? There is no doubt about it, they were friends. And when Judas realised the enormity of his actions he couldn’t live with the shame and guilt. Just think how much hatred resulted from the way in which the Judas story was written up in the Gospels – as if deliberately to foment antisemitism. I don’t know how the church can live with that shame.

Whatever was in Judas’s mind, his actions liberated Jesus. He started the process that allowed the Christ-imago to break free from the earthed cocoon.

I’d like to give Judas a cuddle. There’s a lot of him in me. I think about the distraught and desolate mothers. I wonder about the fathers, for they grieve too as well I know.

Here’s a well known story, but it’s no less moving and profound for that. The Vicar visits the school and tells the Easter story. He asks “why did Jesus descend into hell?” After a few seconds’ silence, a small voice pipes up “to rescue his friend Judas”.

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