Judas and Christ,
Drawn by Emile Bernard (1868-1941),
Drawn in 1935,
Eau-forte and aquatint
© Christian Art Today
Judas Iscariot was to betray Him
One of the Twelve, the man called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, 'What are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you?' They paid him thirty silver pieces, and from that moment he looked for an opportunity to betray him.
Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus to say, 'Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the passover?' 'Go to so-and-so in the city' he replied 'and say to him, "The Master says: My time is near. It is at your house that I am keeping Passover with my disciples."' The disciples did what Jesus told them and prepared the Passover.
When evening came he was at table with the twelve disciples. And while they were eating he said 'I tell you solemnly, one of you is about to betray me.' They were greatly distressed and started asking him in turn, 'Not I, Lord, surely?' He answered, 'Someone who has dipped his hand into the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of Man is going to his fate, as the scriptures say he will, but alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Better for that man if he had never been born!' Judas, who was to betray him; asked in his turn, 'Not I, Rabbi, surely?' 'They are your own words' answered Jesus.
Reflection on the Eau-forte
Judas Iscariot is usually portrayed in art and literature as a dark, tricky and murky figure. He personifies evil and betrayal. And our drawing by Emile Bernard executed in 1935, is no different. Judas is drawn in dark grey tonalities, contrasting with Jesus' pure white face. Judas has sharp, rigid, pointy lines with an elongated, almost dagger-like beard. It is of course easier to portray Judas in this caricature, because for us it is more comfortable if we think that Judas is completely different from us. By portraying him as such an evil man, and such a traitorous man, we stop connecting with him. We move him so to speak to a different reality, one we never have to connect with. And yet, all of us have characteristics of Judas inside us. So rather than run away from looking at who he is, we should actually be looking very closely at how he behaved.
We have all betrayed Jesus many times during our lives and will do again. We don't live the good lives that we intend to. But look closely at what Judas' basic mistake was: it was not betraying Christ. His big mistake was believing he could not be forgiven. Jesus would have forgiven Judas' betrayal though, just as He forgave Peter. I am sure that Jesus loved Judas with all his sins and shortcomings. But Judas was so focused on himself, on his own sins, his own guilt, that he forgot how much Jesus loved him… and that Christ would have forgiven him…
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Readings related to Matthew 26:14-25
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