The Mystery of the Betrayer
From his new book, 'Jesus of Nazareth', Pope Benedict XVI discusses the role of Judas Iscariot in crucifixion of Christ.
John does not offer any psychological interpretation of Judas' conduct. The only clue he gives is a hint that Judas had helped himself to the contents of the disciples' money box, of which he had charge (12:6). In the context of chapter 13, the evangelist merely says laconically: "Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him" (13:27).
For John, what happened to Judas is beyond psychological explanation. He has come under the dominion of another. Anyone who breaks off friendship with Jesus, casting off his "easy yoke", does not attain liberty, does not become free, but succumbs to other powers. To put it another way, he betrays this friendship because he is in the grip of another power to which he has opened himself. True, the light shed by Jesus into Judas' soul was not completely extinguished. He does take a step toward conversion: "I have sinned", he says to those who commissioned him. He tries to save Jesus, and he gives the money back (Mt 27:3–5). Everything pure and great that he had received from Jesus remained inscribed on his soul—he could not forget it.
His second tragedy—after the betrayal—is that he can no longer believe in forgiveness. His remorse turns into despair. Now he sees only himself and his darkness; he no longer sees the light of Jesus, which can illumine and overcome the darkness. He shows us the wrong type of remorse: the type that is unable to hope, that sees only its own darkness, the type that is destructive and in no way authentic. Genuine remorse is marked by the certainty of hope born of faith in the superior power of the light that was made flesh in Jesus.
John concludes the passage about Judas with these dramatic words: "After receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night" (13:30). Judas goes out—in a deeper sense. He goes into the night; he moves out of light into darkness: the “power of darkness” has taken hold of him (cf. Jn 3:19; Lk 22:53).
Excerpted from Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection
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