When Passover came, Jesus and his disciples celebrated the Seder. While they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will deliver me up.” (The Greek phrase is usually translated “will betray me”, but literally it means ‘will deliver me up’ or ‘will hand me over’, which carries a somewhat less onerous connotation and suggests the fulfillment of a necessary task.) The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. Finally, Jesus said, “‘It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it.’ So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.” (John.13.22-26)
Interestingly, John tells us that no one at the table understood why Christ had said what he said about Judas. In fact, none of the disciples ever speaks a word against Judas. (The first three Gospels never make negative comments about him. John, the only one that does, and this only once, says nothing derogatory about him here.) Is it possible they do not realize what he is?
After Jesus handed him the bread, Satan entered into Judas, and Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” One thing this signifies is that Satan could not act until Christ allowed it. In this sense, evil loses. Satan only enters Judas because Christ, the play’s director, allows him to. This is no great triumph. And certainly the disciple who made this all possible could not be the evil traitor that popular belief would suggest, since Satan’s action was performed with the blessing of Christ himself. Christ’s choice of Judas was no accident.
Peter, however, said that no matter what anyone else did, he would never desert Jesus. Peter, who represents the most earth-bound level of the Apostles (his name means rock or stone), continues not to understand Christ’s higher needs. Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter objected vehemently, “Even though I must die with you, I will never deny you!”
While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him was a great multitude with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. And the one who delivered him up had given them a sign saying, “The one I will kiss is he: arrest him.”
Now Peter had been sitting in the courtyard waiting, and a servant girl saw his face in the firelight and said, “You were also with Jesus, the Galilean.” But he denied it, and said, “I do not know what you are talking about.” Then another servant girl saw him and said, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Again he denied it, saying, I do not know the man.” After a while, some bystanders, who had heard his Galilean accent, said, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then Peter began to curse, and he swore, “I do not know the man!”
Judas Iscariot, meanwhile, seeing that Christ was condemned, was filled with concern and brought back the thirty pieces of silver that the priests and elders had paid him, saying, “I have sinned by delivering up innocent blood.” Judas, by this admission, was asking the priests to punish him for causing the shedding of innocent blood: in Numbers, when speaking to Moses about murder, God had said that blood pollutes the land, and a murderer who is guilty of a capital crime “must be put to death.” But the officials responded spitefully, “What is that to us?” Judas then threw down the thirty pieces of silver, and went and hanged himself. His death relieved the community of bloodguilt arising from the crucifixion, for as God had also said to Moses, “the [promised] land can have no expiation for blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it.” At this level, in other words, there must be perfect balance, perfect karmic justice. Otherwise, Judas realized, the soul would fall and Christ would fail.