Judas Iscariot needs little introduction. He is infamous, in both art and popular culture, as the villain who betrayed Christ with a kiss. He was one of the Twelve Apostles called by Christ to work closely with him in his mission. Yet this raises a key question; if he was once close to Christ, why on earth would he betray him?
Pope Benedict XVI, in a reflection he once gave about Judas, sets the scene: “The betrayal itself happens in two moments: before all, in the planning, when Judas agreed with Jesus’ enemies to 30 pieces of silver (cf. Matthew 26:14-16), and then, in its execution, with the kiss given to the Master in Gethsemane (cf. Matthew 26:46-50). In any case, the Evangelists insist on the status as an Apostle that Judas held in all regards: he is repeatedly called “one of the twelve” (Matthew 26:14, 47; Mark 14: 10, 20; John 6:71) or “of the number of the twelve” (Luke 22:3).”
As one of Christ’s inner circle, Judas was entrusted with the responsibility for the group’s money. However, he routinely stole some of it for himself (John 12:4-6; 13:21-29). This gives us a clue about why he found it so tempting when the chief priests and elders offered him 30 pieces of silver in exchange for Jesus.
After the arrest of Christ, however, Judas felt remorse about what he had done. He returned the money to the chief priests and elders, saying: “I have betrayed innocent blood.” When he realised that they didn’t care, he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and then hanged himself. After a discussion, the chief priests and elders decided to use his blood-money to buy a field as a burial plot for foreigners.
But the betrayal wasn’t all about money. The Pope pointed to a more sinister reason for Judas’ fall from grace. He said: “the Gospel texts insist on another aspect. John expressly says that “the Devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him” (John 13:2). Analogously, Luke writes: “Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve” (Luke 22:3).”
He concluded: “In this way, one moves beyond historical motivations and explanations based on the personal responsibility of Judas, who shamefully ceded to a temptation of the Evil One.” As Christ was earlier to remark to the apostles: “Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.” (John 6:70)
This stained glass scene pictures the betrayal in two parts. Firstly, we see Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane, betraying Christ with a kiss as St Peter attacks the high priest’s servant. Secondly, we see the shocking moments after he returned the money to the chief priests and elders. While the Jewish leaders discuss what to do with the money, Judas is seen in the background, hanging by a noose.
The grand ‘Passion Window’ that contains this scene is by the Hardmans firm and dates to 1853. It features 12 episodes from the arrest to the death of Christ and is found in Holy Trinity, Brook Green. This arrangement enables the viewer to appreciate the betrayal of Judas in its broader context.
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Where to find this work of art
Holy Trinity, Brook Green
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