Judas & Peter: Fraud and Self Delusion

Tuesday 22nd March 2005
Tuesday of Easter Week
Holy Trinity, Hurstpierpoint
John 13:21-32

(Written after impromptu delivery)

Today, in our survey of Holy Week characters, we are taking our first look at Judas. What he is best known for was his betrayal of Jesus which I will talk about tomorrow.

I doubt that we would be guilty of such betrayal - except, perhaps, staying quiet in a situation where we should bear witness to Christ - but we live in a world where Judas's other supposed sin is rife. From the Enron and World.com scandals down to filching pencils and making private phone calls in the office, we live in a world of financial dishonesty. It is a practice that it is so easy to slip into and it tends to operate on the slippery slope model; you start with something small that the boss won't supposedly mind and, of course, not notice; and then the scale of operations increases. Judas was supposed to have put his hand in the bag now and again but what we don't know is whether he betrayed Jesus for the 30 pieces of silver or whether these were incidental, the product of Matthew's need to square the story with Jeremiah.

The other character in our Gospel today is St. Peter who had a completely different temperament to Judas. Peter's problem was that he rashly made promises he could not keep. He did not know himself. This was most notable in his denial of Jesus. He could not imagine himself into the situation where he would deny Jesus; he did not understand what his promise meant.

So here we have two kinds of fault; the slippery slope of fraud and the failure to know ourselves.

The only way to understand ourselves is to grasp that what good we do stems from God and what ill we do stems from not sticking firmly to God. When we do a good act, of course we are pleased and we smile to ourselves, as we should, but we must remember that the good that we do comes through us from God; we are His agents. And when we do wrong it is because we think we can manage ourselves effectively without God; we think we are in control and we forget God.

So in this Holy Week we need to make sure that we are properly grounded in our relationship with God and this is easier at this time because we have before us the figure of Jesus who was so in touch with The Father and so obedient to Him that He died as an act of obedience.

We who, as I said yesterday, live in the post Resurrection era have a completely different perspective on the human relationship with God than the protagonists in the Holy Week drama; Judas and Peter did not understand the significance of what was going on - how should they? - but we know; and, therefore, we have more reason to ground ourselves in a relationship with God through the intercession of His Son whose final days are being played out this week.