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Longer study: Judas – an ugly steward “Stewards are both a ruler and servant; they exist to please their master.” Luke 9 begins with these words:

“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” Those twelve included one name that seems out of place for a bunch of preachers, healers and demon-chasers: Judas. Yet it’s true, Judas was once a good and pleasing steward. What happened? How did Judas turn to bad and finally the iconic ugly steward? How did he become the man whose name would forever be associated with betrayal and deceit? To see the seed of Judas’ change we have to move from Luke 9 to Luke 12. There we read that Jesus and the twelve were surrounded by a crowd of ‘many thousands’. Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying:

“Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy…I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body…Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you fear him.” Jesus is not speaking to one individual here, but to all his disciples. He is reminding his stewards to watch the core, the yeast, and the smallest seed from which sin can grow. In the Biblical Greek the word hupokrinomai means pretending to be something while actually being something else. It is a word that indicates a betrayer of others and self. In Luke 22 Judas prepares to betray Jesus:


“And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.” Judas has new masters now - two of them - and his first master is greed. John 12 opens with this narrative:

“Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to …where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour…Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages”.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” Judas desired and was captivated by material wealth. He knew the exact value of the perfume used to anoint Jesus (a year’s wages) and even sitting and eating with the risen Lazarus did not divert his focus from money. He had smelt the stink from the dead Lazarus, but even that wild miracle was not enough to knock him off course. Immediately after this dinner he visited the Pharisees to betray Jesus, driven by his desire for money. But love of money is not his only master. The second master lies beneath this surface. In Matthew 27 Judas is seized with ‘remorse’ after Jesus’ death and tries to return the money. He states “I have sinned.” The Greek word for remorse here is ‘metamellomai’. It means a regret coming from emotions and it tells us that if money was Judas’ complete master, he would have kept it and treasured it, no matter what he was feeling. But he is “seized” and controlled by fear. This is Judas’ second and deepest master. Judas is fearful: he had a fear of not having money and now he is fearful of judgement on his betrayal of an innocent. He tries to confess his sin to the chief priests and elders. They tell him pointedly, “ What’s that to us… That’s your responsibility.” Judas’s story parallels that of another man dominated by emotions and fear: Peter. At another dinner - the Passover meal - Jesus tells the disciples that, “one of you will betray me. They were all very sad and began to say to him one after the other, ‘Surely not I, Lord?” (Matt. 26) As they leave Peter tells Jesus, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered “this very night, before the cock


crows, you will disown me three times.” But Peter declared “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same. All the disciples disown Jesus that night. All of them betray him. All move from being good miracle preforming stewards to bad stewards that give in to fear. Jesus’ warning is for them and us: fear God, not others. If we let fear, lust, anger, rage (or pretty much anything else, even including good things like family and relationships) enter and master us, we all can become betrayers of Jesus. The simple truth is that anything we love too much can control us. In fear, Peter disowns Jesus. Like Judas, he weeps bitterly and repents. But Peter’s repentance differs from Judas’. The Greek word that describes his repentance is ‘metanoeo’, and the ‘noeo’ means ‘to perceive with the mind’. Peter repents from his mind and his heart, while Judas’ remorse is solely emotional (‘metamallomai’). Peter turns his sorrow to Jesus and is healed (John 21). Judas, however, turns to Pharisees, and then to himself. He dies. Perhaps it is bad form to quote Harry Potter in a Christian teaching article like this, but bear with me. In The Deathly Hallows - the seventh and last instalment of J. K. Rowling’s series - Hermione, Harry and Ron have a discussion before they set out to destroy the artefacts (called horcruxes) that their enemy (Lord Voldemort) is using to achieve eternal life. When asked if there is any way to undo this dark magic, Hermione states that if the horcrux creator is truly remorseful the magic may be undone. How remorseful? Enough to die for their actions. They must commit mind and heart to their sorrow. In their final duel, Harry urges Voldemort to ‘try’ for remorse. Voldemort doesn’t; he is too fearful of death. That is why he made horcuxes in the first place, to live eternally. His spell to kill Harry backfires on him, and his form is destroyed forever. Eventually, his fear leads him to what he feared the most all along: death. When we are our own stewards, both we and our stewardship are ugly. Only when we serve Jesus as our master can we truly live. Stewardship PO Box 99, Loughton, Essex IG10 3QJ t 020 8502 5600 e: enquiries@stewardship.org.uk w: www.stewardship.org.uk Stewardship is the operating name of Stewardship Services (UKET) Limited, a registered charity no. 234714, and a company limited by guarantee no. 90305, registered in England © Copyright Stewardship 2013


Stewards: the good, the bad & the ugly -Judas  

Stewards series

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