Summary: We have to take responsibility for the ways we deny and betray Jesus. Judas can’t say, "The Devil Made Me Do It." The responsibility was his.
The Responsibility is Mine
April 5, 2007
Most of you, I am sure, remember the comic Flip Wilson from the late sixties. He is remembered most of all for his character Geraldine and her penchant for hollering out when she committed some breach of social etiquette, “The Devil made me do it.”
What if, when we are caught in the act of creating some sort of mess, we were to yell out, “Jesus made me do it?” Now, I have a mother and I know that there is no mom anywhere who would buy that excuse. But that is exactly the thing that Judas said, if we are to believe the Gospel of Judas.
We have had some interesting news lately from the field of biblical archeology. Not too long ago, some guys told us that they had discovered a bone box with the bones of Jesus in it; along side the bones of his wife, Mary Magdalene, and his son. About a year ago, we were introduced to a recently discovered gospel, The Gospel of Judas, which makes Judas out to be the hero of the story. Never mind that these findings are fanciful, they have certainly gotten everyone talking, haven’t they?
One pastor said this: “It would be the same as if 2,000 years from now someone dug up a copy of “The DaVinci Code” and said, ‘Oh, my, here’s an alternative Christianity found in the year 2006…this is what many of them believed.”
Here’s a little history – as I understand it – on the Gospel of Judas. There is indeed a manuscript with that title. Despite its name however, we have no idea who wrote it. The copy we have is believed to be somewhere in the vicinity of 1,700 years old, and is also thought to be a copy of an even older document. An ancient church father named, Irenaeus, mentioned this gospel in some of his writings about 180 AD., only about 150 years after the resurrection. He wrote at that time that this document was heresy.
We have no Gospel of Judas in our Bible because the church has determined that the doctrines contained therein do not follow the tenants of orthodox Christianity. The writer was a follower of an early Christian movement called Gnosticism. The Gnostics believed in a strict duality of flesh and spirit. The spirit world is good, and the world of the flesh is evil. Therefore, they believed that Jesus was a divine spirit trapped in a physical body, because God could not possibly inhabit such an imperfect form as the human body.
In the Gospel of Judas, the errant disciple becomes the hero of the story. He is portrayed as still giving Jesus over to the authorities. The purpose for the crucifixion would thereby separate Christ’s Spirit from his body, so that he could assume his natural state. He says that he acts on the orders of Jesus himself. In fact, he has these words on the lips of Jesus. “You will exceed all of the other disciples for you will sacrifice the man who clothes me.” In other words, Judas will have a part in the killing of the body, but this will enable the soul of Jesus to escape. In this scenario, Judas comes out smelling like a rose. To put a twist on the story: “Jesus made me do it.”
The problem is that, the biblical gospels contradict this story, and these are documents that predate the Gospel of Judas by a hundred years or so. In the lesson for this evening, it is clear that Jesus had nothing to do with the betrayal. As they sat at the dinner table, Jesus announced that one of the gathered disciples would betray him. Shortly thereafter, he gave a piece of bread to Judas as a sign that it was he who would become the betrayer. The text says that, at that point, Satan entered into Judas. So it was not Jesus, but was indeed the Devil that made him do it.
All of this makes it clear that the struggle going on here is not between Jesus and Judas. The real struggle is a cosmic one, between Jesus and Satan, between light and darkness, between good and evil, between the Ruler of Heaven and the Prince of the Underworld.
It is interesting when you look at the other gospels. Matthew and Mark indicate that Judas agreed to betray Jesus for a sum of money. There is no reporting of satanic activity in that decision; rather it seems to be just an outgrowth of greed on the part of this disciple. Luke, on the other hand, reports that Satan entered into Judas, but he was also given a sum of money, which again points to greed as the overriding motive.