I have always felt conflicted by the Biblical character of Judas. He takes his place in the story with his betrayal of Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. From there Jesus was sentenced to death, and Judas, feeling deep remorse throws the money onto the floor of the temple and ultimately commits suicide.
In John 17:12 Jesus refers to Judas when he says”…none have been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that scripture would be fulfilled.” I have often wrestled with the concept that any person would have been specifically doomed to eternal punishment so that the story could play out, and the rest of us could be ‘saved’. It would seemingly make him the one who really paid the price for us all. Jesus rose again and returned to heaven to be with his father. It almost seems that Judas would be the ultimate sacrifice if he wound up with eternal damnation.
It seems to me that the story of salvation is about Jesus, and God would not distract from the sacrifice in this way. I am no Bible scholar, I have no revelations from God, and I am suggesting no new theology when I say, perhaps Judas found repentance and, like the thief on the cross next to Jesus, was able to make his heart right with God before his death.
The Biblical account speaks to Judas’ remorse, but no additional information is known as he ultimately takes his own life. In Acts 1:25 the author discusses the replacement of the twelfth disciple when he prays and asks God to choose who should “occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” This ‘place’ has been taught by scholars to be hell, but again, any answer comes down to human opinion.
Those who argue for the position of Judas’ damnation seem to believe that a feeling of true repentance could not also still hold suicidal despair. But my own suicide attempt taught me I could both have faith in God and simultaneously hopelessness with this life. God did not give definite answers to these questions. The lack of answers seems intentional in our discovery of faith. In many ways, the more answers God gives the more humans try to use them against each another as they impose their will onto others.
It always seemed important to me to have an opinion, to take a side on an issue and rest in the safety of feeling as though I have an answer to the questions I encountered. Uncertainty is often terrifying. For years uncertainty felt like falling, I desperately sought to put the ground beneath my feet. But more recently uncertainty seems more like flying and the black and white solid edges of ground feel like being trapped.
I suppose for me this change occurred as I began to learn to flap my wings of faith and the feeling of falling subsided. The many, largely self imposed, disasters of my life have found me in a personal relationship with faith that allows me to trust without the need for as many clear answers.
I also recognize that feeling could all change tomorrow as an unexpected situation might make me feel that my wings have been cut and I am crashing to the earth again. Fear of pain and loss often feel like scissors that can appear unexpectedly and with significant force. In these times I often take comfort again in the safe harbors of black and white.
As I ponder the fate of poor Judas, I think of my own beliefs about eternity and mortality. As humans we all face the reality that the primary cause of death is our birth. Writers through history tell us we all eventually wrestle with the fact of our own mortality. Personally, I have never had a strong fear of death. For years it was life that caused my profound fear and despair. Death seemed almost preferable to the pain of daily existence.
My relationship with God, sobriety, therapy, community, aiming to live the values I believe, diet, exercise and medication have all been key ingredients to the peace I have with life today. In finding my own peace I deeply desire others to find their peace as well. But I have also had to face the reality that I cannot tell another person exactly what will bring them to the same place.
I used to think there was one set answer. Follow a set list of steps and anyone would achieve the same result. That theory went out the window when I found myself in AA as the person who was not getting the promised result by adhering to the list of 12 steps. I had to find my own path that has helped me navigate my experience. I am only 41 and have many years to go, so it certainly is not time to carefully examine results yet. But I am unarguably more functional than I was a decade ago when I fought desperately to follow other people’s strict instructions.
On the other hand, I think I would be equally unkind if I simply suggested someone go out and find whatever path that they wanted. As confident as I am that I have no idea what ultimately happens to everyone at the end of this life, I have equal confidence that ignoring the question could lead to a negative outcome.
I know only what has brought my own soul a sense of peace. I know the answers I have found, the choices I make and the feeling of grounding they give me. But I do not feel I have the right to answer the question for another about what is right or wrong in their own life. I can have opinions about the results I see from various methods people use, but at the end of the day I am not God and cannot see into the heart of man to determine the ultimate fate of any individual. Nor can even a lifetime of apparent bad deeds tell me with certainty the state of that persons heart when they meet their inevitable end.
I am certain many would disagree with me when I say that I hope Judas was allowed into heaven. I do not like the idea that anyone would suffer eternal damnation at all, but particularly on my behalf. But when I am honest with myself, my primary concern about the final destination of Judas is actually mostly about myself. It is often the question of my own mortality that makes me ponder the outcome of another. To believe Judas would get away with what he did seems on one hand a denial of justice, but on the other hand his damnation seems unmerciful if he had no choice. My need for an answer to his own story is often more of a need to provide certainty to my own.
But for now, I have found the peace that allows my soul to not force the need to answer this question about another. Today I trust the complexity of these matters to my God who has revealed just enough, but not so much that I should have confidence in any of my own opinions.