Ron continues his “I Was There” series with a look at a missed opportunity to experience love. Judas Iscariot is the “Man in the Moonlight.” Despite being remarkably close to Jesus, Judas Iscariot will always be remembered for his act of treachery. This series of posts recount the thoughts and actions of various individuals before and after the momentous happenings at Calvary.
Read the first post in the series; “Love Poured Out – Mary of Bethany” here.
Ron Hughes is the president of FBH International and has decades of experience in Christian mass communications. Recently Ron has overseen the launching of HopeStreamRadio, a Christian internet radio ministry. One of Ron’s passions is writing and he shares this passion with others on his program, “Author Interview.“
The brightness of the Passover moon lit the path of the silent man as he trudged through the field outside the city. Unconsciously, he shifted the weight of the coil of rope where it had begun to chafe his shoulder. It was probably longer than he needed, but he wasn’t concerned about that detail. The distance from the trunk of the scraggy juniper tree at the top of the drop-off to the rocks at the bottom would be far enough. The rope would be adequate. Nothing else mattered.
Leading Up To The Passover
So much happened on the days leading up to this Passover.
- The priests had signalled their intention to move against the Master, before the city swelled with the fervent rural underclass—a group easy to sway yet difficult to control.
- The Roman military presence on the street announced their interest in exhibiting Rome’s authority.
- The zealots had assembled an arsenal of home-made weapons, daggers, spears, nets, and cudgels.
- Jesus had begun to sprinkle his teaching with more and more references to his impending death.
It seemed that most of the 12 missed this combination of circumstances. Perhaps only the Master had a more complete awareness of the shift in social climate than Judas—Judas, the wily one, the complex one, the outlier.
Judas Iscariot’s Scheme
Trusted by the Master to take care of the group’s finances, Judas worked out a scheme to hasten the coming social upheaval and put a little extra silver into his own purse. Yet, on this night, there was no jingle of coins to lift his mood. The fine leather bag lay flat against his thigh as the rope lay heavy on his shoulder.
Judas’s stride was no longer furtive as it had been the evening when he had made his deal with the priests. Nor was it confident as it had been when he led the soldiers to Jesus’ place of prayer in the olive grove. Nor was it furious as it had been when he sent the thirty pieces of silver, spinning and ringing across the polished stone slabs of the temple floor.
A Common Opportunist?
On this night, while full of purpose, he was also pensive. How had everything gone wrong? Instead of rallying behind Jesus as they had a week earlier when he entered the city, the crowd sided with the priests in condemning Him. They cried for His blood. Now, instead of Judas looking like a hero for prompting the defeat of Rome by the powerful Master Jesus with the whole city at his back, Judas looked like a common opportunist, willing to sell his loyalty for a handful of coins.
No other disciple among the twelve prompted as much discussion as this man. Some thought he was a secret zealot with a dagger in the folds of his cloak. More than a few suspected he had infiltrated the disciples to get the Master on side with the cause. But arguing against this was the fact that Jesus chose the disciples, personally, and he had chosen Judas.
An Authentic Response?
Maybe Judas Iscariot had learned early in life that outward conformation could lead to social acceptance. When Jesus came along preaching a novel approach to spiritual life, Judas may have quickly recognized that by going along with it, he could gain a place for himself.
Some speculate that Judas confused going through outward rites with experiencing inner reality. Following Jesus and adopting a new set of behaviours was not so hard. Perhaps his lack of authentic spiritual response when he took sacrifices to the priests or bathed in the cleansing waters of the mikveh prepared him to “feel nothing” when he was baptized or when he heard Jesus teachings, which even the disciples found confusing, and watched His works which the religious authorities wrote off as tricks. Perhaps the person most confused about Judas was Judas, himself.
The Last Thoughts Of Judas Iscariot
He grunted a little with the effort of tying the knot securely around the slim trunk of the little desert tree. It must hold or his purpose would be thwarted. Taking a step back, he looped the rough rope around his neck and secured the noose. He faced a clear line produced by the light of the moon shining on the fine white soil and the blackness of the drop off where the clay had been mined away by the potters.
Though he had observed divine love in action, even experienced it personally in the Master’s favour and intimacy with the twelve, did he understand its authenticity, that this love-unto-death did not derive from self-interest on the part of Jesus but from His deep compassion for all—those who would reject it, and those who would not understand it, as well as those who would joyfully receive it?
The man in the moonlight took one last look around him. Full of confusion and regret, he sought for some way to orient himself, to discern some purpose, to make sense of what he had thought was happening, but clearly wasn’t. Everything had gone wrong, his life wasted. Lest his nerve fail him as he stood at the edge of the drop off, Judas took a few steps back and ran. The loose coil of rope suddenly straightened; the little tree shook. The silver light shone where the man had stood, but he had run into the darkness.
Follow the “I Was There” Series
- Love Poured Out – Mary of Bethany
- Loved To Death – John the Apostle
- The Man In The Moonlight – Judas Iscariot
- When Fear Cast Out Love – Pontius Pilate
- How To Treat Your Enemies – Caiaphas the High Priest
- When Love Cast Out Fear – The Repentant Thief
- He Had Seen It All – The Roman Centurion
- One Last Time – Nicodemus
- Cold And Empty – Mary Madgalene
- You Know That I Love You – Simon Peter
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Images Courtesy of:
Judas Iscariot Hangs Himself – Nguyenld
Judas Retires From The Last Supper – Carl Bloch
The Kiss – Giotto