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What about Judas?

Did you know…

. . .that only two of the gospels include stories about what happened to Judas after Jesus was arrested? (More accurately, only two of the gospel authors have post-arrest stories about Judas, seeing as one of them is from the first chapter of Acts, which was likely written by the same author that wrote Luke, but is technically not a gospel.) These two stories can be found in the 27th chapter of Matthew and in the first chapter of Acts:

Matthew 27:4-8 (NRSV)

When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.” After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.

Acts 1:15-19 (NRSV)

In those days Peter stood up among the brothers and sisters (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said, “Brothers and sisters, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus, for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle, and all his bowels gushed out. This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their language Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)

It appears that the authors of Matthew and Luke/Acts both received a similar tradition about what happened to Judas, and both seem to connect his death to the naming of a piece of land called the Field of Blood. The author of Marks gospel, likely written prior to Matthew and Luke/Acts, does not seem to know about this tradition, or at least didn't care to include it in the gospel. Which brings us to this week's reading and the gospel of John.

The gospel for this week begins with Judas leaving the last supper to go betray Jesus, but only after Jesus has washed his feet and shared the bread and wine with him. After Jesus leaves, he implores the remaining disciples to love one another. And while the authors of Matthew and Luke make a point to talk about the sorrowful end to Judas' life, John makes no mention of it. Maybe this was because, in the eyes of whoever wrote John, Judas' role had been fulfilled, or maybe it was an unintentional omission. In light, though, of the absence of an ending for Judas in John's gospel, this week we can imagine what an alternate ending might have been for Judas other than those in Matthew and Acts. What if the disciples had heard Jesus' words to 'love one another' as an invitation to love Judas after his betrayal? What if they never stopped seeing him as one of their fellow disciples? What might his story have been then?

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