Today is Spy Wednesday, when our attention is focussed on the hapless Judas Iscariot. How easy it is to use Judas as the scapegoat, the one on whom we can place all our own moments of unfaithfulness, cheating and betrayal. I have always felt a degree of sympathy for Judas – we know how his story ended: recognising the enormity of his mistake he takes his own life, described by St Luke, in particular, in pretty graphic terms, at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles. My response to Judas has partly been influenced by my own Godfather who as a drama teacher in a church school in Cardiff used to produce a Passion Play with his pupils each year which was often staged in Llandaff Cathedral; he would often explore the character of Judas in these productions offering sympathetic interpretations of his actions. Unsurprisingly, such musing caused local comment and discussion, but his treatment of Judas certainly made an impression on his Godson as a teenager, at a time when I was exploring my faith all the more deeply.
Against that background, I offer this Eucharist in memory of my Godfather and Uncle who has recently died and whose funeral, like some many others at this time, had to be carried out with only his children, my cousins present.
But back to Judas: moments of crisis evoke both great acts of self-sacrifice (of which more tomorrow, in the context of Maundy Thursday) but also the opportunity for misunderstanding and mistake. Against the background of the Passion narrative, none of those who were to become the apostles, come out of it very positively, save perhaps the one identified as the Beloved Disciple. Undoubtedly, Judas got things catastrophically wrong; he may have acted out of pure greed (have we never been greedy ourselves), he may have acted out of a complete failure to understand Jesus’s purpose and his true identity as Messiah (can any of us fully understand Jesus of Nazareth, the one we acclaim as Christ, Son of God, the one who is God incarnate, God with us?)
In our own time of crisis, together we are trying to do the right thing and find ways forward to support each other but there will be moments of disagreement and division in how to best achieve that. Mistakes have been and will continue to be made; but let us not “stand in judgement” or be too swift to criticise, adopting some self-identified “moral high ground”. The events of Holy Week remind us that we all hold some responsibility for that which we know to be sinful and disordered in the world, both individually and corporately: it is rightly an uncomfortable week, even if the early writers identified it as the Great Week.
They did so because, of course, out of the horror of the events of this week came the road to hope. In this morning’s Gospel, we read “after receiving the piece of bread, he, Judas, immediately went out. And it was night. When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.” As is so frequently the case in John’s Gospel, we are confronted once more with the battle between light and darkness…………”it was night…….now the Son of Man has been glorified”. God brings light out of darkness, hope out of despair, forgiveness in the face of terrible evil……..Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing……….life out of death. Our salvation is surely also Judas’ salvation………….St Paul reminds us the cross is a scandal and the depth of God’s love knows no bounds.