To London on Monday to deliver FOW 2 to Summer School. (Three and a half hours on a train, then, 10 seconds after we get off, she catches sight of the team from UCL. “Bye!” she shouts and runs off towards them. So much for me guiding her safely through London) So I was left, slightly redundant with an afternoon in London to fill.
The British Museum called me and therein a small but beautifully formed exhibition (Room 69a in case you are interested) on coinage in the Bible. I love this sort of thing – real denari(s) ?? and shekels and things. Genuinely fascinating. In the middle of all this, I came across a small case containing 30 pieces of silver. That was all. 30 real pieces of silver. No one was suggesting that they were the actual ones that were used as Judas’ pay-off but they were from the same time.
I found it surprisingly moving. Just the reality of these tiny silver coins in front of me. Judas wasn’t always a traitor. He lost faith in Jesus – partly because he never really knew who he was. Yet the act of betrayal must have been heartbreaking for both I think. Jesus had lived with the disciples for three years and he loved them. Sometimes people used to say that Judas was put into the disciples for one purpose – to betray Jesus – and it was therefore as if anything he felt was of no value and that Jesus wasn’t too fussed about him because Judas was part of a bigger picture. This goes against everything I have ever learnt or felt about Jesus. I don’t think Judas was picked to betray. Jesus would never single anyone out as that hopeless. I think that he was aware that if he picked 12 people to share in his life that eventually someone would lose it. It could have been anyone of them. It could have been all of them. For the record, if I had been in the disciples, I think that there is a pretty good chance that it could have been me. Judas never recovered.
By the Last Supper Jesus knew that Judas was lost. He knew that his frustration and impatience and self obsession had caused him to hand himself over to wickedness.
The one who hands me over is someone I eat with daily, one who passes me food at the table. In one sense the Son of Man is entering into a way of treachery well-marked by the Scriptures—no surprises here. In another sense that man who turns him in, turns traitor to the Son of Man—better never to have been born than do this!”
Then Judas, already turned traitor, said, “It isn’t me, is it, Rabbi?”
Jesus said, “Don’t play games with me, Judas.”
Jesus was well aware that he was following the path laid out in Scripture but I don’t think it hurt any less. People sometimes say that everything happens for a reason which is probably true but that seems a bit bloodless sometimes for me. Looking at these coins brought home the reality of a betrayal or a hurt of a friend. On both sides. I forget sometimes that Jesus really experienced these things. Loss and loneliness and disappointment. The Son of God isn’t just an interested onlooker but someone who recognises the pain of a broken relationship as something that he has experienced in his own life. It would serve me well to remember this I think, next time I whinge to God that he doesn’t know what I am going through.