Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him. Matthew 26:14-16 NRSV
(This drama was inspired by Faith, a woman in one of my churches who “Wondered what it must have felt like, to be the mother of Judas.”)
I remember the day Judas was born. So much joy! Finally, a strong and healthy son. We gave him a name that reflected our joy. It meant, “Thanksgiving – praise unto God.” We did have much to praise God for. Our son was intelligent, gifted, from the beginning. He was a bright little boy. We marveled at his cleverness. We knew that some day, the world would remember our son. We were proud parents, his father, Simon and I. We wondered what the future held for him and what kind of difference he would make in our community.
You ask, “Do I love my son?” Of course, I love my son. How can a mother not love the child she has borne, the one she has carried next to her heart? Or not love the child she has agonized over with each problem, each illness, each disappointment? I remember the time he was sick with a terrible fever. We didn’t know what was wrong and we were so afraid of losing him. Day and night we stayed with him until the day his fever broke and he looked up and smiled at us.
There was that time when he slipped away on a journey to a neighboring village. Hours later we found him crying for him mama. Our son did well at the temple school. His teachers praised him. We were so very proud of our boy.
Years passed quickly. He wasn’t a little boy anymore. He became interested in politics. Often he would tell us about the Messiah who would come and reclaim Israel. No longer would we live under Roman rule, but we would once again be a Kingdom ourselves. His face would shine when he told us that the days of King David would return. We would be a great and mighty nation. There was a fire in him, a zealousness. He was intent upon changing the world.
I began to worry. He was saying things that could get him into trouble with the Romans. I wasn’t at all certain of the friends he had chosen. I prayed for him, to find new friends, a new cause to move beyond the people who were intent upon armed conflict with the Romans.
When he started to mix with Jesus, I didn’t know what to think. Oh at first I was afraid that he’d come across some eccentric who thought he was the Messiah, but after a time I saw some of what my boy did in Jesus. If God was sending us a Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth was the type of person I hoped that Messiah would be. In the early days of following Jesus, he would stop by and tell us the exciting things he had seen: A blind man actually regaining his sight; A lame woman who began to walk; Lepers, freed of their illnesses; people who were deaf for years, hearing again; Demons cast out of those possessed.
I think that is what first attracted him to Jesus, the miracles. All the wonderful things that Jesus was doing. My Judas was among those brought into the inner circle of Jesus’s close friends. The ones who he trusted the most.
And I, I was relieved. I thought that Jesus was a good influence on my son. He had a knack of controlling some of Judas’s zealousness. Not that Jesus lacked any himself, but his was more directed, more focused. Judas was changing. He would tell me, “I’m sure mama. I’m sure that Jesus is the Messiah. How else could he heal those people?” By then there were crowds who would swarm around Jesus and his disciples. They couldn’t go anywhere without being spotted. My boy was thrilled. “Now,” he would say, “Israel will be restored. Jesus will sit on the throne of David. There will be prosperity and peace and justice in our land.” He would tell me these things, sure that Jesus would soon make his move. Judas was absolutely certain that the time was right.
I think what excited Judas the most were the confrontations with our leaders. I raised my son to care for the poor. Jesus did the same. Often, the arguments Jesus got into were about the heavy burdens our leaders had forced on us.
My son was convinced Jesus was the messiah, but he couldn’t understand why Jesus didn’t make his move. “Why doesn’t he do something? What is he waiting for? The people are on his side?” The last week came. Jesus riding into Jerusalem, people shouting “Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord!” Judas thought, right then, Jesus should have made his move. “The Roman’s wouldn’t have been prepared for him. He could have taken possession of the throne of David, set himself up in the temple. With all the miracles he’s done, certainly he could have protected the people.”
But Jesus didn’t make his move. Nothing he did that week indicated he would. Judas became disillusioned. If Jesus was the Messiah, he wasn’t the one my son expected.
There are times my son would act before he thought. You tell me that my son betrayed Jesus. Would you have acted so differently? My son believed he was forcing Jesus to act like the Messiah he was. Judas decided, he would put him in a situation where Jesus would be forced to show his power. Yes, he took 30 pieces of silver, in exchange for telling the temple priests where Jesus was.
But you! You’ve never betrayed Jesus for a few pieces of money? Tell me that you are free of sin! Tell me that you have never betrayed a friend! Are you so innocent of evil? Do you really think that Judas . . . my son is worse than you?
My son believed in great causes and he worked for them. But you, do you care enough to get involved? Do you care enough to work for anyone but yourself? Do you love the people that Jesus loves? Do you care for the people that Jesus cares for?
You . . . and You . . . and You, who sit in judgement on my son . . . You who know who Jesus is . . . You who know how he asks you to live . . . You who know the salvation that he brings . . . Have you never betrayed him?
In one terrifying moment, my son realized his mistake. Nothing he had planned turned out the way he had expected. He went to the temple hoping to undo the wrong. He threw the 30 pieces of silver at them. But it was too late. I grieve his dying. I grieve my little boy. I grieve for my son.
Oh how I wish he had gone to Jesus instead. How I wish, he had stood before him once more. For surely, there he would have found forgiveness. There he would have found another chance . . . and I . . . I would have known peace.
*This is one of a series of monologues I wrote and used in the churches I served, prior to retirement.
Devotions for Ash Wednesday through Easter came be found here.