Tonight I have just returned from a Maundy Thursday church service which took me back to the first last supper when Jesus instituted the meal we now know as Holy Communion or Eucharist. The meal had its origins in the passover meal instituted in Exodus to commemorate how God spared the children of Israel through the blood of the sacrificial lamb and this is symbolic of the role Jesus as sacrificial Messiah was to play to redeem his people.
Jesus is the central figure of the crucifixion story but the role of Judas is second only to that of Jesus- the passion begins with him. In Wesley Carr’s book Tested by the Cross he writes; ” throughout history Judas has been maligned as the one who betrayed Jesus. Christians have forever damned him..But they rarely, if ever, asked why what Judas did actually mattered. ..He has a vision of what might be and what ought to be. He tries to bring it about. His is an independent mind. When he acts he is effective…As Judas kisses Jesus he draws him to himself. He embraces all that he wishes himself to be and has found he cannot be….Someone always has to bear the impact of our concern with ourselves and our image…..Judas became the damned disciple. “
The poet Edwin Muirdidn’t leave Judas there as damned, he imagines more. He describes a world transformed where the mystery of the hidden order of the universe was disclosed. One secret concerns Judas:
“And Judas damned take his long journey backward from darkness into light and be a child beside his mother’s knee, and the betrayal be quite undone and never more be done.”
Carr suggests that instead of Muir going back to the Garden of Gethsemane to undo his evil deed and claim forgiveness or repentance, the poet takes us with Judas all the way back to his mother’s knee . “We discover that when Judas is forgiven for betraying Jesus, whatever went wrong in his past before that moment is also reordered, all the wrongs prior to the betrayal are dealth with… all his life has changed…we can be changed.”