The Compassion of Judas Iscariot

Last Supper, by Carl Heinrich Bloch

The name of Judas Iscariot went down to the pages of history as the man who betrayed Jesus. Luke attributes this to Satan.  Matthew and Mark say it was because of greed.  John points to both, and also adds theft as a motivation (John 12:1-8).  I think if we could travel back in time to the first century and actually see Jesus and His disciples, we wouldn’t see Judas Iscariot as the sinister man we would suspect. In fact, he might even appear to be compassionate.

For example, when Mary began to wipe Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume Jesus was deeply touched, but it was Judas who pointed out that this costly perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor (John 12:1-8). Those listening may have thought, “That’s a good point.  You know, Judas is a good steward, and he has his priorities straight.”

John, of course, reminds us that people are not always as they appear.  As Jesus would say, people will eventually know us by the fruit we bear (Matthew 7:16, 12:33; Luke 6:43-44).

About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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8 Responses to The Compassion of Judas Iscariot

  1. Ann Denbow Simmons says:

    I believe that Judas was necessary in order for God to carry out this important and highly historical event in the life of Jesus and the life of al Christians. Was not the Christian church actually formed because of Jesus resurrection? Without Judas than God would have had to use one of the other disciples to betray Jesus. Judas revealed how we as Christians can be faithful followers of Jesus and in the realm of our lives betray him in our fears or greed. The resurrection brought the Christian church into existence and the resurrection of all the dead was taught by Jesus.
    Jesus resurrection showed that the Messiah was more than just David’s decendent!
    Good evening, I have been a member of Chapel since I was 12 years old and served as a Sunday School and Bible School teacher for years, sang in the Choir, was a member of the Youth group for years and have many beautiful memories of my life at Chapel. I attended Sunday School and Bible School at Chapel for many years. I am the daughter of the late Russel and Myrtle Denbow and the sister of Wanda Ruth. I was always known as the nerd and the intellect in my family.

    How different our lives might be without the hope that we will be resurrected!
    Have a fantastic day and may God Bless and be with you in your work at Chapel!
    Ann Denbow Simmons

  2. Janice says:

    Hi Ann, I like your commjent and I agree, to meet God’s plan one of the disciples would betray Jesus. I believe Judas really did love Jesus but he couldn’t accept what Jesus was saying about the kingdom in heaven. Judas was looking for a king on earth so he and the other disciples would be powerful. This is so far from what Jesus was teaching for the past three years. Judas could have been forgiven — all he needed to do was ask. Sadly he took the cowards way out.

  3. Birdie Cutair says:

    I think Judas made the comment about giving the money to the poor not out of an altruistic view but the fact that he was the collector of those monies. And, he liked to help himself to a bit of that money instead of giving it all to the poor.

  4. Carol Childers says:

    Judas was guilty of pride in that he wanted what he wanted, not what The Master had taught. When he “didn’t get his way” (the earthly King) he showed his sisnister nature and betrayed our Lord.
    The money man in any organization has to keep an eye on the bottom line, doesn’t he? Doesn’t a church have to do that? We don’t give, give, give, until there is no money in the treasury, do we? Is that wise? We don’t rely on the Lord to provide, as He teaches us to do, do we? Do we do that in our own family? No, we try to budget wisely. We are all guilty.
    Someone had to betray Jesus in order to fulfill scripture; might as well have been Judas, who does seem least likable of all the disciples.
    I don’t think that I would have perceived him to be compassionate had I overheard his comment, but… practical…yes.

  5. Ann Denbow Simmons says:

    Good evening:

    Did Jesus die so that we could have a religion or did he die so that we could come to know him and have a personal relationship with Him?
    Sorry for the break in time but I have been very ill and am now able to use my computer for a short period of time.
    May God bless you!

    • Pastor Corey says:

      Sorry to hear about your illness, but glad you are able to post. The answer to your question depends on how you define ‘religion’, which is a catch all term (so is relationship for that matter). Christ did not die for a religion which takes the form of empty formality, superficial labels and shallow beliefs. However, Christ did die to redeem sinful humanity. Salvation is not just individual, but it takes the form of a community (the church). Such a community learns and embodies a set of beliefs and practices. You could call that a religion. Peace and health to you.

  6. Ann Denbow Simmons says:

    Thank you for your kind words. I am alive today only by the grace of God.
    Yes, I agree with your kind response to my question. Jesus in all of his teachings never asked his followers to form a church, develope elaborate rituals, nor to form different denominations he did ask them to :love one another as I have loved you” and to “know me is to know my Father (God).”

  7. Pat Nathan says:

    Judas’ sin was not betraying Jesus, as this was already foretold in the Old Testament, but in not asking Jesus for forgiveness and in killing himself. Peter denied Christ three times, but most likely asked for Jesus ‘ forgiveness when the latter resurrected. Judas was probably more educated than the rest of the apostles, who were but a bunch of illiterate fishermen and such. Being so he rationalised many of the things Jesus from the viewpoint of a rational human being. He also must have been greatly disappointed that Jesus was establishing a spiritual Kingdom and not a secular one where he ( Judas ) could have been an important minister. He would certainly not have been able to suffer the persecution the other apostles were subjected to. There are many useful lessons that we can learn from the life of Judas. Firstly, on the spiritual path, we have to trust God explicitly. Then we have to work on our lower natures, so that our actions are motivated by hatred, jealousy etc. Finally, when we stumble, we have to feel remorse and ask God for forgiveness.

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