Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Sunday School Lesson #26

Posted by Jim F. on July 15, 2007

Lesson 26: Matthew 26:47-27:66; Mark 14:43-15:39; Luke 22:47-23:56; John 18-19

I’m going to have to find a way for my PDA to remind me “You’re getting behind on your questions for Sunday School.” When I went to Sunday School today and realized that the teacher was teaching lesson 26, I knew I was in trouble. My apologies that, once again, I’m behind. I’ll try to catch up and even get ahead within a few days.

These study materials will focus on the verses from Matthew. I’ve not had time to do more than that for this lesson.
Matthew 26

Verse 47: This crowd came from the temple priests, so it may have been the temple police rather than a mere mob.

Verses 48-49: Just as it is today for many, a kiss on the cheek seems to have been a standard greeting, but it seems not merely to have been that. Ulrich Luz (Hermeneia commentary on Matthew, page 415-17) says that the in first-century Palestine, the kiss was a sign of solidarity and reconciliation and, so, “One would hardly be able to say that the kiss of greeting was a completely normal and thus meaningless ritual in the Jewish society of that day.” For two millenia writers have taken this kiss to be the symbol of betrayal. The only alternate voice seems t have been that of Origen, who recognized that Judas was neither fully good nor fully evil and, so, probably vacillated in his feelings for the Savior (Luz 412).

Verse 50: Does Jesus mean it when he refers to Judas as “friend”? Is he making a point by using a term of address that contrasts with “brother,” the usual form of address between the disciples? Instead, is he being ironic? Is he, perhaps, offering Judas an opportunity to repent? Is Jesus really asking Judas why he has come? What is the point of Jesus’ question? (Some translations take this as a statement—”Do what you’ve come for”—rather than a question.)

Verses 51-54: John tells us that Peter cut off the slave’s ear. (In Sunday School today, someone mentioned that this sounds like someone who doesn’t know how to use a sword in battle has attacked the servant, trying to hit him in the head, but only striking a glancing blow and cutting of the servant’s ear. I like that idea.) Why doesn’t Matthew tell us who cut off the ear? (John also tells us the name of the slave, Malchus.)

Why does Jesus reject the use of violence to protect himself? Compare what he says in verse 52 with what he say in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:39). In vese 53 we are told that, had he wanted to, Jesus could have summoned almost 70,000 angels to his defense (compare Matthew 4:5-7), but he refuses. What are we who wage war to make of Jesus’ pacificism?

Jesus’ explanation for why he doesn’t call on heavenly defenders seems strange to me: If I were to do so, scripture would not be fulfilled. For this to be a compelling reason, we also have to assume “All scripture must be fulfilled.” However, that assumption doesn’t seem to me to carry very much moral weight, so it doesn’t seem like a very good reason for doing something quite serious. Can you explain this puzzle?

Peter—as well, presumably, as the other disciples—was willing to use force to defend Jesus. How do you think he responded when Jesus rejected his use of force? If we put together Peter’s response to Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, his insistence that he will go where Jesus goes, and this incident, we have the picture of someone who seems not to understand what is happening, perhaps even someone who is confused. Might that lack of understanding or confusion help explain why Peter later betrays Jesus? Does that teach us anything about our own lives and situations?

Verses 55-56: Jesus asks why they have taken him at night rather than publicly when they could easily have taken him when he was in the Temple. What is the answer to Jesus’ question? Note: To say that he sat in the Temple is to say that he was a teacher there. We could translate the last part of verse 55 this way, “I taught daily in the temple—with you there—and you didn’t arrest me.”

Verses 57-58: Though the Pharisees had strong opinions about the law, they did not have the authority to enforce religious law since “Pharisee” designated a person who was a member of a particular sect and political party, not a person who necessarily had political power. Only the temple priests could enforce religious law. “Scribes and elders” probably refers the duties of particular temple priests. Why does Matthew tell us that Peter followed, but not tell us Peter’s story until later?

Verses 59-68: What does verse 61 mean when it says that many false witnesses came, but the officers found none? Remember that the Law of Moses required two witnesses for any charge. Finally two witnesses come who say that Jesus has said he will tear down the Temple and rebuild it in three days. (Compare Jeremiah 26:1-19.) The threat to destroy the Temple would be a serious crime, so this is a serious charge. Jesus initially doesn’t answer their charge, as we can tell by the high priests question in verse 62: “Don’t you have anything to say?” Why is Jesus silent? (Compare Matthew 12:19 and Isaiah 42:2.) In verse 63, the high priest challenges Jesus to take an oath regarding whether he is the Messiah. In verse 64 Jesus answers the high priest’s question: first, he as much as says that he is the Messiah, then he adds a prophecy (using the language of Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13) concerning the Messiah. It doesn’t seem to have been blasphemy to claim to be the Messiah. Indeed, a number of previous people had claimed to be the Messiah, and several would do so after Jesus’ crucifixion. So how can the high priest accuse Jesus of blasphemy? Tearing one’s clothing was prescribed by Jewish law as a judge’s sign that he has just witnessed blasphemy.

Verses 69-75: Why does each of the gospel writers tell this story about Peter, the chief apostle and first president of the early church? What lesson is there for us in his betrayal? Most interpreters have not seen this as a simple betrayal. Instead, they have seen Peter as an Everyman. Like us, he follows the Lord and shares the Lord’s suffering, though at a distance and though he is fearful and sometimes falls.

Chapter 27

Verses 3-10: Matthew deals with two betrayals, one after the other: first Peter’s and then Judas’s. It looks like he places one against the other so that we can compare them. What is the difference between them? How sincere do you think Judas’s grief was? What evidence do you find here for your opinion? Though Acts 1:17-19 deals with Judas’s death, Matthew is the only gospel writer who does. Why does he do so? Why do the other writers ignore it? In verses 6 and 7, there may be a word play on the Hebrew words for “treasury” (’ôşār) and for “potter” (yôşēr). Though verse 9 says that it is quoting from Jeremiah, it seems to be quoting from Zechariah (11:12-13). So what? Why is a scripture reference important to Matthew, whether it comes from Jeremiah or Zechariah? How does Matthew want us to see the temple priests in verses 6-7?

Verses 1-2, 11-14: What accusation does Pilate seem to be asking about? Is that the same charge that the high priest was dealing with or a new charge? If it is a new charge, what is going on? What does “You said it” mean in response to Pilate’s question? What accusation do you think the chief priests and elders made? Why does Jesus refuse to answer their charges? There is evidence that the high priest was in Pilate’s debt. The previous governor Judea had appointed four high priests during his tenure. (The Romans, like many kings, demanded the right to appoint the religious authority.) Pilate has appointed only one. Does this relation suggest anything about what happened at Jesus’ trial? What do you think was the real charge that the priests had against Jesus? Did it perhaps have to do with Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple?

It is important not to assume that Jesus trial and execution was something carried out by “the Jews” as we understand that term. Charges were brought against Jesus by some Jewish temple and community leaders of the first century, who appear to have conspired to deliver Jesus into Roman hands as a rebel. Jesus’ execution was ordered by the Roman governor, Pilate, and carried out by his soldiers. However, most Jews of the time, even most of those living in Jerusalem, probably knew little about the trial and execution, and few of those who knew about it were involved in bringing it about. A great deal of death and horror has resulted from the charge that “the Jews” crucified Christ. Christians used that charge as an excuse to kill and oppress Jews for centuries, but the charge makes no sense, not only because children are not responsible for the sins of their ancestors (a corollary of Article of Faith 2), but also because most of their ancestors had nothing to do with Christ’s death.

Verses 15-26: The name Barabbas means “son of the father,” and Barabbas’s given name was “Jesus”: Jesus Barabbas. Why is that name important to this story? Mark identifies Barabbas as a zealot, someone who believed that Palestine had to be purified of Gentile influence—and even of Gentile presence—and who believed that the Jews were justified in using violence to do so. Today we would call the zealots “terrorists.” Is there a parallel between what Barabbas was doing and what Jesus did? What does Matthew mean when he says that the priests had delivered Jesus to Pilate “for envy” (verse 18)? Jesus did nothing to prevent the high priest’s guards from taking him, knowing that he must be tried and executed in order to fulfill the scriptures and to work the Atonement. Why, then, did the Lord give Pilate’s wife a dream by which she learned that Jesus was innocent? (I am assuming that the dream came from the Lord.) How culpable for Jesus’ death was Pilate? Did he know that Jesus was innocent? If he did, why did he deliver him to be executed (verse 26)? If he did not, why did he wash his hands (verse 24)? Notice that Pilate does not really conduct a trial: he hears the accusation, asks Jesus about that accusation, offers to free either Jesus or Barabbas, and delivers Jesus for execution when the crowd chooses Barabbas. He questions no witnesses and delivers no verdict. Scourging (verse 26) was the first step in execution by crucifixion.

Verses 27-31: Roman soldiers wore a scarlet cloak, so it seems the guards have placed one of their robes on him. Long thorns seem to have been used as kindling for fires; they may have woven those thorns into a wreath to use as a mock crown. Why did the soldiers mock Jesus when it is unlikely that they knew him and probably knew little about him?

Verses 32-34: Roman soldiers had the right to impress anyone into temporary labor. The upright of the cross was permanently installed on the execution site and the condemned were required to carry the transverse beam to the site. We are not sure where Golgotha was; there are at least two possible sites. It seems that it was the custom for Jewish women to give condemned prisoners a narcotic drink to lessen their pain. Why does Jesus refuse the drink (verse 34)?

Verses 35-44: Roman citizens were forbidden by law from being executed by crucifixion; it was reserved for slaves, bandits, and rebels. What does that tell us about how Jesus was viewed by the Romans? How is that relevant to our understanding of what he did? One of the privileges of the execution squad was to divide the garments of the condemned among themselves. Those executed were entirely nude, part of the humiliation of the execution. Though no charge was specified by Pilate in the trial, some charge had to be made to justify the execution. Matthew tells us that the charge was placed on a placard over Jesus’ head (verse 37). What did the title on the placard mean to Pilate and to the executioners? What does the execution of Jesus between two thieves tell us about how they understood the placard? What does the title mean to us? Those in the crowd who taunt Christ do not hide their reasons for his execution (verses 39-40). What is their charge against him? How do the priests, scribes, and elders understand what it means to be the king of Israel (verses 42-43). As we have seen them do before, the priests say more than they know: “he saved others; himself he cannot save” (verse 42). In verse 43, the priests refer to Psalm 22:9.

Verses 45-50: The sixth hour was noon, and the ninth hour was mid-afternoon. Is the darkness referred to in verse 45 literal or figurative? (Compare to Luke 22:53.) The words that Jesus cries out in verse 46 are the first line Psalm 22. The last words of Jesus mentioned by John (John 19:30) may be from the last line of that Psalm (verse 31: “he hath done” can also be translated “it is done”). What do you make of that connection between Jesus’ words and the psalm? A common drink for the poor of Jesus’ time was vinegar mixed with water. This is probably what someone from the crowd is offering Jesus. (See Psalm 69:22.) “Yielded up the ghost” or “let go of the spirit” was an idiomatic expression meaning “died.”

Verses 51-56: What does tearing the veil of the temple signify? The dead of Israel recognized Jesus, and the Roman soldiers recognized Jesus. What point is Matthew making by telling us about these people who recognize that Jesus is the Son of God? Who might he be comparing them to?

Verses 57-61: Mark tells us that Joseph of Arimathaea was “an honourable counsellor.” “Respectable member of the city council” is another possible translation. Besides his concern as one of Jesus’ disciples, he probably wished to insure that the Mosaic law was followed, which forbad allowing the body of one executed to remain on the cross overnight (Deuteronomy 21:23).

Verses 62-66: On what day would the events of verses 62-66 have occurred? What is remarkable about the fact that the priests and Pharisees came to see Pilate on that day? They remember that Jesus has prophesied his resurrection. Do the disciples? What does this tell us about the priests and the Pharisees? Given what the priests say here, how do you think they explained the empty tomb?

17 Responses to “Sunday School Lesson #26”

  1. BrianJ said

    “These study materials will focus on the verses from Matthew. I’ve not had time to do more than that for this lesson.”

    The major differences I found between the accounts were regarding Pilate and the words spoken by Jesus on the cross (though these are certainly not all of the differences). The picture of Pilate is quite different depending on which account one reads. Matthew paints a rather disinterested Pilate, but according to John 19:12, “Pilate sought to release [Jesus].”
    Matthew 26

    “Tearing one’s clothing was prescribed by Jewish law as a judge’s sign that he has just witnessed blasphemy.”

    My understanding is that the high priest, however, was forbidden to do this because his robes were sacred priestly robes. Can you confirm this? It might be beside the point here, since the high priest in this “trial” was probably Annas, not Caiaphas, in which case he was high priest in title only (i.e. Caiaphas wore the clothes).

    “What do you think was the real charge that the priests had against Jesus? Did it perhaps have to do with Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple?”

    Could you expound a bit? I thought Luke 23:2 detailed at least some of their accusations: “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King.”

    “It is important not to assume that Jesus trial and execution was something carried out by “the Jews”…. most Jews of the time, even most of those living in Jerusalem, probably knew little about the trial and execution….”

    Well said, Jim.

    “Mark identifies Barabbas as a zealot….”

    Can you clarify how he is identified specifically as a zealot? Mark mentions an insurrection, but I wonder if that only applied to the zealots or could apply to others as well. I may also misunderstand the term “zealot” in NT times: was it a organized or semi-organized group (like a political party or like Hezbollah) or did it refer to many different groups of people whose only unifying feature was a hatred of Roman rule?

    Why I think it’s important—I want to understand who Pilate put Jesus up against: a robber or a local freedom-fighter (aka “hero”).

    “They remember that Jesus has prophesied his resurrection. Do the disciples? What does this tell us about the priests and the Pharisees?”

    Wow, great question! They really were very intelligent, understanding quite well what Jesus meant, as this illustrates. And, as you suggest, they understood much better than the disciples (who had a lot more information). It really highlights the difference between scholarly knowledge and faith.

    “Given what the priests say here, how do you think they explained the empty tomb?”

    Based on the answer to your previous question, I’d imagine they didn’t want to think about it.

  2. N.G. said

    Why does each of the gospel writers tell this story about Peter, the chief apostle and first president of the early church? What lesson is there for us in his betrayal? Most interpreters have not seen this as a simple betrayal. Instead, they have seen Peter as an Everyman. Like us, he follows the Lord and shares the Lord’s suffering, though at a distance and though he is fearful and sometimes falls.

    I’m curious to hear what those in this forum think of Spencer W. Kimball’s “Peter, My Brother” discourse, in which he makes the argument that Peter’s actions were not at all a betrayal or a failure, but a matter of prudent expediency. I’ve even heard some go further and look at Christ’s “thou shalt deny me” statements not as prophetic utterances of what would happen, but divine injunctions as to what Peter ought to do–it was a commandment to deny him.

    Without the biases of my own opinion, what might be some support and/or criticisms of such lines of argument?

  3. BrianJ said

    N.G.: it’s a good question. Kimball presents, as you say, a defense of Peter on the grounds that what Peter did was prudent in his denial, and Kimball also suggests that Peter may have been acting on a good understanding of what was about to happen (i.e. the atonement):

    “Could it be that in these last hours Peter realized that he should stop protecting his Lord, that the crucifixion was inevitable, and that regardless of all his acts, the Lord was moving toward his destiny? I do not know. I only know that this apostle was brave and fearless.”

    I have to admit that Kimball’s argument doesn’t make sense to me. For example, I think that much of Peter’s bravery before the day of Pentecosts could actually be seen as bravado—and is called as much by the Lord. After Pentecosts is when we see Peter show actual bravery, relying on the Spirit and on the Gospel to defend him, and not on the sword (as in the Garden).

    Kimball’s talk has the stated purpose of defending Peter against what Kimball perceived as an attack by a “sectarian minister,” so perhaps Kimball was overstating certain points in order to make his larger point:

    “Even in his moment of denial, he was a near to his Lord as he could be. Let him who would be critical of this apostle put himself in the same place—among the bitterest
    enemies, persecutors, and assassins—with a growing knowledge of the futility of defending his Lord, whose hour had come.”

    Kimball even shifts his wording at the end of his talk to actually say that what Peter did (deny Jesus) was worthy of being forgiven by Jesus (and therefore, a sin, no?):

    “He who had forgiven his crucifiers [see JST Luke 23:34c footnote] also forgave Peter who had denied him.”

    So, I guess I’m inclined to say that Kimball was making an apologetic defense of Peter as an Apostle, not an analysis of scripture per se.

    That being said, I think the accounts in the Gospels make it very difficult to believe that Peter knew what was happening to Jesus or that his denial was anything other than something Peter woefully regretted. (But I’m willing to be corrected)

  4. adrienne said

    Am I the only person in the church who is deeply troubled by the dichotomy of our view of Peter’s denial (we forgive him & we love and revere him) and our view of Judas’ betrayal (We revile him & think he’s probably a son of perdition)? I know that their actions were different, both in scope and in intent and I’m sure it is a character flaw of mine, but I fret and grieve about Judas. He was a beloved apostle. He had a terrible moment of weakness, for which he felt such shame and remorse that he killed himself. He had a part to play that absolutely had to be played in order for the plan of salvation to be put into motion. Someone had to play that part and to his eternal damnation, it was Judas. Honestly, I truly do grieve for him. It doesn’t, however, seem to be a very popular point of view.

  5. BrianJ said

    adrienne, I think the Lord himself was deeply troubled, as recorded in John 13:20-21:

    “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.

    When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.

    The second verse says that Jesus was troubled, and the first verse shows why: Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was a betrayal of the Father, and Jesus knew that Judas would suffer for it. You are not alone in thinking it was a tragedy.

  6. robf said

    Adrienne, of course there’s always the Gospel of Judas if you’re interested. Though perhaps we should leave this sentiment to Borges .

  7. Jim F. said

    N.G. (#2), I think BrianJ (#3) has responded better than I would have. I don’t think that President Kimball’s interpretation of Peter’s denial will stand up to close reading.

    Adrienne (#4): I think we don’t know enough about Judas to say that he has been condemned to eternal damnation. (I don’t even know what that phrase means in a Mormon context, making the judgment even more difficult.) Regardless of what Judas did, the fact that he didn’t have the Holy Ghost makes it difficult for us to think he is a Son of Perdition. However, also regardless of what Judas did, there is a definite difference between conspiring to kill someone and denying that someone is an acquaintance or friend. Not all betrayals are equally bad. Finally, there was also a great difference between the ways in which Judas and Peter responded to their respective betrayals.

    But all of that is just to say, “I don’t know what will happen to Judas in the hereafter.”

  8. Jim F. said

    adrienne: He had a part to play that absolutely had to be played in order for the plan of salvation to be put into motion. Someone had to play that part and to his eternal damnation, it was Judas.

    Though I agree that Judas’s story is a tragic one and though I think we don’t know what its outcome will be, I don’t believe this. That Christ needed to suffer for our sins doesn’t mean that any particular person had to bring that about. The Father put Jesus in a context where he was sure that Jesus would be condemned and killed. It doesn’t follow that any of the people who did that condemning and killing had to do what they did. I strongly doubt that there was an agreement in the pre-existence that Judas would do what he did. Each of the people involved could have done otherwise, but they didn’t.

  9. brianj said

    Jim F, #7: While I agree with both of your general points (“Not all betrayals are equally bad” and “I don’t know what will happen to Judas in the hereafter”), I’m uncertain about two particulars:

    1) “…the fact that he didn’t have the Holy Ghost….”

    I’m not sure what that means. We’ve discussed this on various posts on this blog—exactly how much (if that’s the right word) of the Holy Ghost did the Apostles enjoy during Jesus’ life—and I’m still uncertain. Perhaps your point is that Judas didn’t have that specific part of the Holy Ghost that makes one subject to the greatest condemnation, even though he must have enjoyed some of the aspects of the Holy Ghost.

    2) “…difference between conspiring to kill someone….”

    Is that what Judas did? It’s not clear to me, but maybe I missed something. No, I’m not making a “Gospel of Judas” argument, but is it possible that Judas never intended murder? Perhaps he thought Jesus would be punished publicly and then set free, or exiled, or jailed for some time. None of which justifies betrayal, but even Judas himself (in at least Matthew’s account) seems shocked by the outcome (namely, when Jesus is delivered to Pilate).

  10. Jim F. said

    brianj: Your second point is especially good. The text doesn’t tell us what Judas conspired to do other than to hand Jesus over to the authorities. Even then, however, that seems to me to be significantly different than denying that one is acquainted with Jesus, as Peter did.

    The first point is, of course, fraught with questions. I don’t have an answer to the primary question, “What was the relation of the disciples to the Holy Ghost during Jesus’ ministry?” I intended only to say something like, “Whatever degree of divine guidance Peter had, Judas had no more. Neither seems to have been fully confirmed, if confirmed at all. So both, it seems to me, are under less condemnation than they would have been after the Day of Pentecost.

  11. stewart said

    Many years ago, as a young seminary student, I was very troubled by the treatment both Judas and Peter had received in most of our reading material. I fasted and prayed to understand how Judas could have gone from being a trusted Apostle of the Lord to a son of perdition in a matter of hours or even days. Likewise, I have never been comfortable with the idea that Peter, the Lord’s most trusted disciple, was a coward.

    I wrestled with these issues for most of that year in seminary until on a youth temple trip, I took time to ask for an answer in the holiest place I could think of. The answer I received spoke comfort to my troubled heart. Simply that neither man was a coward and that neither man wished to betray Jesus.

    I have no doctrinal citations to quote, only the images that flashed through a 16 year old mind and the feelings that accompanied them. Consider the following scenarios that came to my mind when seeking answers to my questions regarding these two historical scapegoats.

    First, Judas, from my understanding, was impetuous and quite impatient in regards to the delivery of Israel – as he and most other Jews pictured it happening. Could his ‘delivery’ of Jesus have been more an act designed to push Jesus into a corner, where he would have to show his true power and authority to protect his ministry. It seemed to me that Judas believed that he could force Jesus through circumstance to take up the avenging and powerful messianic role that the Jews are still waiting for today. Whether remotely true or not this image helped me see him as a man caught up in his own understanding, rather than some satanic caricature ever to be synonymous with hatred and betrayal. In short, it isn’t my place to judge him one way or the other.

    The image and understanding I received of Peter was much kinder than as accepted by history, as well. As Peter professed that he would never betray the Lord, Jesus told him that he would deny him three times before morning. Given the vaguaries and ambiguities of the New Testament, how do we know that this wasn’t a command rather than a prophetic utterance? Peter clearly was no coward as he took up the sword to defend or die with Christ in the Garden. How then, does he become some pathetic cowardly figure who has completely lost his way in a matter of hours.

    Peter knew the feeling of the Holy Ghost as he had received a witness that Christ was indeed the Messiah and Son of God. Peter knew Jesus as well as any mortal man ever did. What if he was only following the Savior’s directions. What if Jesus knew how important it would be to the future of mankind that Peter survive this horrible night? After all, it was his calling to take up the cross after Christ and continue the work.

    While it is clear that Peter is generally portrayed as one who weakly denied Christ. But what if he was only being obedient and acting against rather than in support of his character? I side with President Kimball in my admiration for Peter and his willingness to disavow the Savior, letting him stand alone thereby fulfilling his calling as our Lord and Savior. I truly believe that his denials of Jesus went against Peter’s natural character rather than defined it.

    Again, I offer no doctrinal support, only the images and peace spoken to the troubled soul of a 16 year old boy, who took the questions of his heart to his Father in Heaven. True or not this understanding has comforted my soul for the last 30 years.

  12. nhilton said

    Stewart, FWIW, I agree with you on most counts and find your conclusions comforting.

    However, re: Judas I can’t brush aside the gospel’s explicit citing that “Satan entered into Judas” (Luke 22:3; John 13:27). Whether this is figurative or literal, it speaks of dark deeds vs. something nobel as you’ve portrayed. Judas committed a horrible crime and there is no tip-toeing around that fact. To think or teach that Judas had some noble, tho mis-guided higher motive for what he did, perhaps hoping to usher in the messianic era, is to minimize the Satanic influence that was exerted upon Judas and to which he succumbed.

  13. Jim F. said

    nhilton, I agree that we cannot brush aside what the scriptures say about Judas’s deed. We ought not to excuse Judas for what he did. However, isn’t it possible that Satan gave Judas the idea that he might be able to usher in the messianic era by forcing Jesus’ hand? If so, then to suggest that Judas thought that way is not to minimize the role that Satan played, is it?

  14. cherylem said

    Regarding Judas, it is interesting to see how the four gospel writers treat him and the whole betrayal story.

    in MARK, the chief priests and scribes plot to kill Jesus. At the anointing, SOME were indignant because of the cost of the ointment. Judas goes to the chief priests in order to betray Jesus; Jesus announces that “one of you will betray me.” Judas identifies Jesus with a kiss.

    In MATTHEW, the chief priests and elders plot with Caiaphas to kill Jesus. At Jesus’ anointing, the DISCIPLES were indignant because of the cost of the ointment. Jesus tells his disciples that “one of you will betray me.” Judas identifies Jesus with a kiss, and only in Matthew do we read of Judas’ remorse and his suicide.

    In LUKE, the chief priests and scribes plot to kill Jesus. In the very different anointing story, only THE PHARISEE objects to the anointing, on the grounds that the woman is the sinner. Jesus again states his foreknowledge: “the hand of him who betrays me” is at the Last Supper. Satan enters into Judas. Judas does not kiss Jesus because Jesus stops him: “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss? Judas’ death is not mentioned in Luke, but in Acts we read that Judas died by bursting open in a field (Acts 1:16-19).

    In JOHN, the chief priests and pharisees gather in council to plot Jesus’ death. (John is the hardest of all the gospels on the Pharisees.) This is the gospel where Caiaphas says: “It is expedient for you that one man should die . .. . ”
    At the anointing, only JUDAS is angry, no one else. Also John then says that the reason Judas was angry at the anointing is because he was a thief, and kept the money box.
    Jesus states his foreknowledge by saying: “One of you is a devil.” Satan enters Judas.
    In the Garden, Judas does not identify Jesus, but rather is with those that come for Jesus. Jesus identifies himself, and everyone falls on the ground before him. Jesus has to tell them to finish what they came for (it’s an amazing scene) even while he protects his disciples (“Let these go their way.”)

    That is, and there is a point to this, for those who believe that Mark was written first, and Matthew and Luke depended heavily on Mark (and Q), and that John was written later and more separately, this is an interesting analysis to make, though it should be done in more detail than what I’ve just drawn out.

    By John, Judas is heavily demonized. Jesus calls him a devil, Satan enters him, he’s a thief anyway, he’s the only one who’s upset at the cost of the expensive ointment, and he plays a very small role in the actual garden – Jesus is the one in charge, throughout the entire passion narrative.

    All of which is interesting to me.

  15. brianj said

    stewart, nhilton, Jim, cheryl: While I agree with the idea that we should refrain from judging anyone—let alone a person who lived 2000 years ago, that we haven’t met, that we have very little information about, that we have only one side of the story concerning, and so on—I think that the scriptures still give us types that we can look for as a warning. Thus, we have characters (not people) who represent different traits, and we can then say, “How am I being a Judas?” (Or a Korihor, or Jonah, Job, Noah, etc.) Yes, those characters are based on people, but I think we have to read them as they are written: incomplete, one-sided, possibly exaggerated—i.e. characters.

    Nevertheless, it is somewhat troubling to think that some people are demonized in the scriptures (perhaps) unfairly, as Cheryl illustrates in her very interesting analysis (but there are probably many, many other examples).

    That being said, if we look at the characters Judas and Peter in the Gospels, I don’t think the text justifies or excuses their actions in any way. We may vilify them more than the text means to (as Jim points out in 13).

    In fact, I think the mistakes of Peter are crucial to the theme developed in Acts: that the Spirit is vital to being truly transformed into a disciple of Christ. If we see Peter as a true disciple all along, then we miss the transformation that the text wants us to see.

  16. Robert C. said

    BrianJ, I really like this idea of reading the scriptures for the lesson they have to teach, sometimes through types which might not accurately portray the individuals’ actual personality or role. And I think it is useful to think about issues of historicity similarly….

  17. nhilton said

    Cheryle #14 & Brian #15, I wish I had read your comments here BEFORE I taught yesterday’s lesson. I attempted to do what you’ve both done really well, to consider the text via character analysis. I love how you, Brian, suggest reading the text for the character’s qualities & applying them to ourselves vs. judging the individual on whom the character is based. Cheryle, I’ve had students ask me questions about Judas which I did my best with, but your “side by side” on just Judas is GREAT! I wish I had the time to have done what you did, or better said: taken the time. But, thank you anyway for giving it to me now. It is a good thing you’ve patterned here in considering each gospel writer’s take on a character. I read each gospel and try to mentally compare, but haven’t taken the detailed time to make specific comparisons like this one that has proven so helpful to me.

    Jim #13, in response to your questions, I think saying “the devil made me do it” isn’t appropriate. However, I’d really like to just jump right to Brian’s suggestion in #15 and leave it there. I think “judging” Judas is unproductive & the point of any of it is gotten to in Brian’s gist.

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