Reflections around the cross – Judas Iscariot: “The guilt won’t let me go”


Dear Rabbi,

I’m writing this although I know it’s too late.  I wish I could turn back the clock, undo what I’ve done, but I know that there’s no going back – it’s past the point of no return, and there’s no way I can make up for what I’ve done. The guilt’s unbearable.  I can’t live with myself.

Over the time we spent together you built up our hopes that you weren’t just an ordinary teacher and healer – you were so much more – I knew you were going to be the one who’d bring us freedom.  The crowds loved you.  They would do anything for you – just one word from you and they’d join the revolution, anoint you as king, and the new era would begin.  I just knew it.  And then came last Sunday, when we entered the city of Jerusalem and the crowds gathered to cheer you on.  You rode in on the donkey and the message was clear – you were the long-awaited king, come to take your rightful place.  This was the moment we’d all been waiting for, when change would come.  We, your closest friends, your disciples, we knew it; the crowds knew it too – this was the time you would come in power and we, who’d been there from the beginning – hand-picked by you, would share in your glory.

But then you did – nothing – you went back to your base that day.  I thought you were biding your time, finding the right moment – perhaps the next day.  And when you made that statement by clearing the temple of all that corruption and greed, I thought that would be the time, after all.  But again, you did nothing.  All you did was teach and debate.  You had the crowds in the palm of your hand, once again, but again you bottled it.  I couldn’t understand why.  I began to doubt – you couldn’t be the king after all.  Why didn’t you take power? Why didn’t you set us free?

Then it dawned on me.  You were never intending to become king by force.  You’d had more than one opportunity to seize the moment – after the mass feeding in Galilee, on that heady day in Jerusalem, in the temple, and you’d refused each one.  It suddenly became clear to me   I’d been mistaken.  I felt such a fool – I felt so angry – what a waste of time! All this had been for nothing.  Those amazing times we had together.   Those miracles, that teaching, those healings.  All for nothing.  I was so angry.  And the problem with anger, as you yourself taught us, is that it can be deadly.

I wanted to punish you or to try and force your hand – force you to act, or do something.  I’d heard the whisperings in the temple.  The high priests, the authorities were out to get you – they saw what we saw, that you were a threat to their power, and the only way to deal with this threat was to get rid of you.  You knew that too, and you weren’t going to stop them.  You were going to walk into danger and allow them to do what they wanted to you.  Suddenly, I saw my chance.  Chance to get my own back.  I could help them, provide a way for them to get to you away from the crowd and to make some money while I was at it.  Soon it was sorted out – they gleefully accepted my help.  Thirty pieces of silver.  Seemed like a good deal at the time. Recompense for all the disappointment.  We made our plans and waited for the right moment.

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over. (Mark 14:10-11)


And so I led them to you at the Garden, greeted you with a kiss, so they would know who you were. I’ll never forget the way you looked at me.  Reproachful.  Sad.  Hurt.  Your gaze bore right into my soul and saw the darkness inside – the bitterness, the disappointment, the hurt.  From a small spark, it raged like a fire in me, consumed me completely, and it led me to this.  I betrayed you with a kiss.  I wish I could go back, but I can’t.  There’s no going back.

 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him.  (Mark 14:45-46)

I never intended for it to end this way.  I didn’t really think they’d have you killed.  I didn’t really think you’d let them do it.  They were like predators encircling their prey and they had no intention of letting you go once you were in their grasp.  And you didn’t fight back.  Why didn’t you fight back? You could have done something to show them who you really were, but instead, you let them walk over you.  You let them condemn you to death.  Why did you do that?

I didn’t know they were going to do that! I didn’t want them to do that.  I only wanted them to teach you a lesson.  I never meant for you to die.  As soon as it dawned on me that they were going to have you killed, I realised I’d made a huge mistake.  You’d done nothing to deserve any of this.  You were innocent.  You didn’t deserve to die.  You’d done nothing wrong – and I’d betrayed you.

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. ‘I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood.’

‘What is that to us?’ they replied. ‘That’s your responsibility.’ (Matthew 27:3-4)

The guilt won’t let me go.  I will never forgive myself for what I’ve done.

I’m sorry.  I’m so, so, sorry.

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.  (Matthew 27:5)


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