A sermon for the Season of Lent
In 1939 Winston Churchill, while talking on the radio about Russia, said: “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” This is also a good description of Judas. Judas is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.
First, what about his name? We know the name Judas is a common name in the Hebrew tradition. Another one of the Twelve is also named Judas. What does “Iscariot” mean? You can take the first part of the word, “Is” means “man,” and then from “cariot,” which would mean Judas is from Judea, would be the only one of the Twelve from Judea. Then we can take Iscariot and translate it back into Aramaic, and the word means “liar,” or “the crooked one,” “the wrong one.” Or we could take what Iscariot sounds like in Latin, sicarius, a short sword. And the people who were Zealots, that is the Jews who were rebelling against Rome, carried short swords, and they were called Zealots. We really don’t know. Judas was one of the Twelve, and the first part of the riddle, if we may go with that quote from Churchill, is how could Jesus have chosen him. When you think of it, it makes no sense. This man Judas betrayed him! And there are those therefore who have said Judas never existed. Such a wild story; it’s just a fantasy made up of legend. But really it’s the opposite. This kind of story of someone who betrayed his own master like this is too radical to be invented. It has to be true. And we have to think about in what sense its true because the story has problems.
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