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Matthew 27: The question of Judas

Lynne Baab • Wednesday October 14 2020

Matthew 27: The question of Judas

Will Judas be in heaven? That question stimulated some creative and challenging thinking on the part of theologian Ray Anderson, my favorite Fuller Seminary professor.

Take a look at this not-very-cheerful incident from Matthew 27:1-5:

“When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death. They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor. When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ But they said, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself.’ Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself.” 

We can see Judas’s second thoughts about receiving money to betray Jesus. He tells the chief priests that he sinned by betraying innocent blood. We can try to imagine the depth of despair that would drive him to suicide.

Dr. Anderson used to fly up to Seattle to teach distance classes here, and he was my professor for numerous classes. One time he told us that he had preached a sermon at a Fuller Seminary worship service for which he received a lot of pushback. He said that he told the congregation that if Judas had not committed suicide, Jesus’ first resurrection appearance would have been to Judas.

Dr. Anderson told our class that he believed that Jesus would have said something like this to Judas: “I went to my death at the will of my Father, not because you betrayed me. My death was part of God’s plan. I did not die at the will of humans. I died obeying my Father.”

Dr. Anderson did quite a bit of writing about Judas, which you can access in a blog post by one of my colleagues from New Zealand, Jason Goroncy, who now teaches theology in Australia. A lot of Dr. Anderson’s thinking about Judas was stimulated by a question from a man who was incarcerated because of killing his parents: “Do you think Judas will be in heaven?”

Here’s Dr. Anderson’s answer to that question, from his book Dancing with Wolves While Feeding the Sheep: The Musings of a Maverick Theologian:

“So, will Judas be in heaven? Not really. That is, not the Judas who is the betrayer, but possibly a ‘born anew’ Judas through the power of the Holy Spirit in the encounter with Christ which occurs after death (2 Cor. 5:10). Will Ray Anderson be in heaven? Not the Ray Anderson who is ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ (Eph. 2:2) but a ‘born anew’ Ray Anderson through the power of the Holy Spirit, of which I have present assurance of a future reality, the ‘pledge of our inheritance’ (Eph. 1:13-14). Both Judas and I will appear before the final judgment seat of Christ. I ‘fear no condemnation’ (Rom. 8:1), and I would like to think that this fear will also be removed in the case of Judas.”

Jesus, Resurrected One, thank you that through your death and resurrection we fear no condemnation. Thank you that the Holy Spirit’s power enables us to be born anew. Help us to perceive the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives as a pledge or down payment of the grace that will be fully ours one day. Thank you that your grace is so enormous that we can imagine Judas in heaven. We ask that we would be able to rest in your peace, and communicate the wonder of your grace and peace to others. Amen.

(Next week – Psalm 96: Creation praises the God who judges. Illustration by Dave Baab. I love to get new subscribers. Sign up below to receive an email when I post on this blog.)

If you missed my personal update from a couple of weeks ago, my husband Dave and I have returned to New Zealand to wait for a vaccine here. We are on the way from our quarantine in Auckland to our home-away-from-home in Dunedin. I've written some travel blog posts describing quarantine and our route south, with lots of photos and watercolor sketches by Dave:

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