The Holy Week or Passion Week gives us an opportunity to reflect on the contradictions of human nature. Among the characters in the drama of the passion, the role of Judas attracts attention for reflection. He was an insider who played a major role in the arrest of his master, Jesus Christ. We could also reflect on the personality of Jesus and why the Jews rejected him even though he was not an alien. This confirms the teaching of Jesus that “a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household” (Matthew 10:36) and “a prophet is not honoured among his people” (Mark 6:4). Betrayal and intra-family conflict is captured in the pre-historic narrative of the murder of Cain by Abel. Cain was not happy that the sacrifice of Abel was accepted by God while his own was rejected (Genesis 4). The response of Cain to God’s question, “where is your brother” still resounds in the world today: “Am I my brother’s keeper” (Genesis 4:9)? Catherynne M. Valente once said: “You are going to break your promise. I understand. And I hold my hands over the ears of my heart, so that I will not hate you”
During Passion Week, it is pertinent to ask: “What was the real offence of Jesus?” “Why did Judas betray him?” From the early history of the Israelites, the system of government was theocracy, a government where God govern the people through the prophets. God is good, gentle, patient, just, merciful and compassionate. It appeared that the people took these attributes of God to be weakness and therefore preferred a human king: They said to Samuel, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. The Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them (1 Samuel 8:5-7). In due course, to “Listen to the voice of the people” would give birth to democracy, the game of numbers and majority votes.
What led the people to make this demand was the bad behaviour of the sons of Samuel, Joel and Abijah whom he made judges over Israel. They were judges in Beersheba but they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice (1 Samuel 8:1). As insiders, the children of Samuel were not exemplary ambassadors of the family. They betrayed the integrity of their father. In the course of the monarchy in Israel, they started having problems with their kings. Sometimes they felt that God had abandoned them because of their sins. Defeat in battle and exile were considered as punishment for not keeping the commandments of God. The prophets promised them a messiah who would deliver them from the hands of their enemies. They understood that to mean a messiah who would be a warrior and a conqueror that would emerge from a royal family and from the majority divide of the nation.
One of the reasons Jesus was rejected by his people who handed him over to foreigners to be executed was the location of his origin. The conversation between Philip and Nathanael points to this fact. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see” (John 1:45-46)! In Israel people were judged based on where they come from, whether from Judea, Samaria, or Galilee (Acts 2:7). Those from urbanized areas had more privileges than those from rural areas. Galilee was seen as remote and far from civilization compared to Jerusalem. Nazareth within Galilee was not recognized from the Jewish sources before the third century CE.  Jesus grew up in Nazareth, a village with a population of not more than 500 people then. Nazareth was insignificant because it was far away from the Mediterranean Sea. For the educated and urban Jews, the Nazarenes were look upon as ignorant and simple-minded sinners. In the debate on the origin of Jesus, Nicodemus tried to defend Jesus requesting that Jesus should be allowed to defend himself because the Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he has done.  They answered him, “You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search, and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee” (John 7: 51-52).
Another reason why Jesus was rejected was that his simplicity, gentleness, compassion and love did not meet the requirements of the kind of messiah that the people were expecting. They expected a messiah warrior who would free them from the yoke of the Romans and the neighbouring enemies. We could recall that the people had rejected the leadership of God and demanded a human king. Jesus is the son of God and the second person of the Blessed Trinity yet he is rejected, tortured and crucified. They did not care about the future and the consequences. “When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.” And all the people said, “Let his blood be upon us and on our children!”  (Matthew 27:24-25).
No conspiracy succeeds without an insider. Being a leader who came to serve and not to be served, it was difficult for the soldiers to identify Jesus in the group. Judas accepted to betray a person who trusted him so much that he made him the minister of finance (John 13:29). Did Judas want to play a “fast game”, hoping that Jesus would escape? It is clear from the Scriptures that Judas loved money. Jesus had identified him as a ‘devil’ (John 6:70-71) given that the love of money is the root of all evil. Judas valued reality only from monetary profit. He saw the oil used to anoint the feet of Jesus as a waste: “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief” (John 12:4-6). He went to the chief priests to negotiate the price for the betrayal: “What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?” And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:15). Judas was a fake. He betrayed his master with a kiss but Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss” (Luke 22: 48). We should be wary of “Judas kiss”. He felt remorse and attempted to return the money without success (Matthew 27:3-4). His nemesis was suicide (Matthew 27:5; Acts 1:18)
Of all the things Jesus was accused of by his own people, the only one that convicted him was a political reason.  “Are You the King of the Jews” (Matthew 27: 11)? This saga is similar to the picture of the world today but this is not new. The brothers of Joseph hated him so much that they planned to kill him but for the intervention of a good insider, Reuben who said to them, “Shed no blood” (Genesis 37:22). The option left was to sell him to stop his dreams but God raised him high in Egypt (Genesis 37:12-36). Those with capacity, who are called and chosen from the “Nazareth” of our society, still believe that leadership comes from God and no person can switch off destiny no matter how the tempest rages. Every traitor must not forget however that nemesis awaits those who think only of this world and their pockets. “What shall it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and lose his own soul (Mark 8:36)? If those who are betrayed often triumph what else shall we say? If God is for us, no one who is against us can extinguish our light and dream (Romans 8:31). We shall overcome and be free one day! After Good Friday comes the joy of Easter Sunday. HAPPY EASTER!