The Heart of a Traitor

Matthew 26

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I have often heard that there can be no forgiveness for Judas. After all, Judas committed the worst crime imaginable; he delivered Jesus into the hands of the executioner. Not only did he betray his closest friend, he sold Jesus for the price of 30 silver coins. People estimate this to be worth anywhere from $90-$3000. If you ever watch crime shows, you know that $3000 is a miserly sum to ask for a task such as that. This just shows how greedy Judas was. In fact, in John 12:3-6, we see that Judas frequently steals from the money box. Judas is the one who was upset with the woman who poured the expensive perfume on Jesus’ head. He claimed that he wanted to give the money to the poor, but he actually wanted to take some of the money for himself. According to some, these sins aren’t even the worst that he committed. The worst sin was denying forgiveness.

I want to challenge this idea. I believe it is entirely possible that Judas could have been forgiven and we will see him in the kingdom of God. In 1 John 1:9, it says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Did Judas confess his sins? We can read in Matthew 27 that Judas “was filled with remorse.” He even declares openly to the priests, saying, “I have sinned.” Judas confessed. Is God not faithful and just? We know that he is, so there must be forgiveness available even for Judas.

Mark 3:28 says that “all sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.” Now we must ask, did Judas blaspheme the Holy Spirit? First, we must determine what it means to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. In Catholic teaching, six acts constitute blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and three of them could apply to Judas, those being despair, obstinacy in sin and final impenitence.

To despair is to believe that your sins are beyond forgiveness. It’s hard for me to say that this applies to Judas after he returned to the priests and tried to return the money. He was seeking forgiveness and the priests turned him away saying, “What do we care? That’s your problem.” If anything, this is a sin by the priests for refusing Judas the support that he needed. The argument that Judas did despair is that he proceeded to hang himself. Why would he do this if he believed that he was forgiven? This is a fair point, but once again, this seems to hang on the priests who refused to tell him that there was forgiveness for his sins. Perhaps Judas despaired, and perhaps not, but I can’t see his heart. Only God can.

Obstinacy in sin is the persistence in sin even after sufficient admonishment. It appears as though Judas was persistent in his greed and thievery, seeing as John wrote about it. Here, there are a few questions to ask. How much is too much to be forgiven? How long had Judas been doing this? I can’t answer either of those questions. I personally believe in change of heart. Even if Judas had been continuing in this sin for a long time, he could have had a change of heart once Jesus was sentenced to die and he realized the error of his sin. Thus, he sought forgiveness. This question leads to another, more philosophical question: Can a man who has lived his whole life in sin receive forgiveness in the last moments of his life? Once again, I don’t have a firm answer, but I tend to believe that obstinacy in sin isn’t even a blasphemy against the spirit. If one sin can be forgiven, then two sins can be forgiven. Jesus said to forgive others 77 times. He also said if you forgive others, our heavenly Father will forgive us. Hence, we can receive forgiveness for the same sins over and over. It’s never too late to receive forgiveness.

The final blasphemy is final impenitence. This is the only one that I could see applying to Judas. Impenitence means failure to repent. Did Judas fail to repent before his death? I think not because of the way he sought out the priests, but once again, I don’t know Judas’ heart. Only God does.

Either way, if Judas is guilty or forgiven, I think it is dangerous to talk in terms of absolute forgiveness because in the end, we are not the judges. God is.

-Nathaniel Johnson

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