What if Judas…

Content warning: Suicide, betrayal. It’s about Judas, after all.

Was a thief because he was desperate?

Maybe he had a sister, a mother,
a little brother,
a former or current lover,
held in slavery
to someone with power.

Maybe he was trying to buy their freedom
A little at a time.

Or maybe he needed a miracle
that Jesus, somehow, couldn’t
or wouldn’t

Maybe the sum of money he needed
was a little too big
To find in the mouth of a fish.

Maybe Jesus noticed,
Maybe they all noticed,
but didn’t say anything.

Maybe when the woman
broke the alabaster vial
worth $17,000 or more
his face fell
right along with his heart
and as the nard poured over Jesus
he thought to himself:

That could’ve saved them.
Maybe “the poor”
it could’ve been given to
had names for him.

What if his betrayal
Was because he knew nothing would come of it?
Or wait –
What if Jesus was in on it?

What if he finally talked about it
to Jesus
Maybe Jesus hadn’t heard him:
“Judas, you just need to get some responsibility.”
“Judas, maybe if you didn’t blow it all on alcohol
You could use your money for what you wanted.”

What if, after the triumphal entry
Feeling omnipotent again

And he heard Judas out that time.
Felt his friend’s predicament in his bones.

“You can’t keep stealing from the treasury,”
Jesus says, maybe.
“In the first place, it’ll never be enough,
In the second, people are starting to notice.”

“True,” maybe said Judas. “But what can we do?”
Just then, a child came in.

“Jesus, they’re offering money
for information leading to your arrest!”
exclaimed the breathless youth.

Jesus shrugged. “What’s new?”
And then
he turned and looked at Judas
who turned and looked at him too.

“No,” said Jude.
“No way.”

A mischievous smile crossed the face
of the Lord.

“They have nothing on me,” he said.

“NO.” Firmer.

“It’s at least worth finding out how much.”

“Jesus Christ. I’m not turning you over.
I need the money –
THEY need the money
But not like that.”

“Might even be thirty – “
“Pieces – “
“Of silver.”

You know the rest.

“How much will you pay me?”

A meaningful nod at the table.
“Go do what you need to do.”

A garden. A kiss.
A ridiculous arrest.
Coins change hands.
He’ll be free by morning

Then Judas would watch and wait
Only a little bit anxiously
Surely Jesus was right – there was nothing;
They’d have to let him go

Wait – Pilate?! How
did it get this far?

In a daze, the downcast disciple
Stared down
the via dolorosa
and the horror of Golgotha

Maybe Jesus said, from the cross, to John:
“Tell… Judas… Not… His… Fault.”
John, beloved and angry,
swore those words
would never cross his lips.

None of this was worth it.

Judas went back.
There was no saving a life
With coins earned
with the blood of an innocent friend.

“YOU MONSTERS!” he shouted
Threw the coins at their feet.

Then grabbed a rope
Who knows what for?
And walked along a hillside
What if, eyes blurred with tears
He didn’t see the rock
Fell headlong
And that was the end.

The disciples found him
Tangled in a rope
At the bottom of a hill.

They all had different theories.
“Satan entered him at dinner that night.”
“He hanged himself.”
“He fell headlong.”

“Good,” thought the disciple Jesus loved.
When the news reached
the locked upper room.
“He deserved it.”

But then Jesus was raised
On the third day.
Came to the upper room
And saw
No Judas.

No comment;
Perhaps the disciples hadn’t wanted to associate with him.
But he knew the risk.
They’d talked about it.
He said it was worth it
Back when neither of them thought
That any of this would go that far.

John softened over the decades.
He carried Jesus’ words about Judas
Around in his heart
And they tenderized it.
If Christ could forgive Judas
What manner of love could this be?

Eventually, he forgave Judas too
And carried the burden of Christ’s
“Tell… Judas… Not… His… Fault”
To his grave.


There’s a story about Judas
Not from scripture
That says in the end
After travelling through places of the afterlife,
Rejected by both heaven and hell
Judas found his way to another upper room
In the Kingdom of God
And looking through the window
Saw Jesus, beckoning, saying,
“We have waited for thee.”


We were reading from Amy-Jill Levine’s Entering the Passion of Jesus for our church’s Lenten study when this idea struck me:

What if Judas needed the money? What if that’s why he was stealing? What if he betrayed Jesus, never thinking Jesus would be executed? Oooh, what if Jesus was in on it?

The gospels contradict this story. They say Jesus knew he was going to be executed and predicted it repeatedly. For this story to be true, the gospel writers would’ve had to have invented that part, either on purpose or the way we humans often remember things that didn’t happen.

It also has a much more human Jesus than the gospel accounts give us. Maybe.

But who’s to say? I’m not saying it happened this way. There’s no evidence that it did. It probably didn’t. It was just an idea I got for a story that I wanted to tell, and now I have. Maybe a little inspired, thematically, by this one.

Also, this “fan theory” is probably not new, but it’s new to me.

Anyway, thanks for reading.

About David M. Schell






One response to “What if Judas…”

  1. tempsordinaire Avatar

    This is not the first telling of Judas’ story through a lens of understanding and forgiveness that I come across (turns out that there’s is a whole tradition of “Judas novels” [1]). Yours is so beautifully put, and resonant with our times. It’s no wonder that keeping company with the gospel will make us change our perspective on those known to us as sinners.

    [1] in French at least, see https://www.cairn.info/revue-litterature-2009-1-page-61.htm

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