When I found out I was pregnant, I tried to give the baby a name as soon as possible, just in case. I wanted my little people to have a name if they didn’t make it through the pregnancy. I named my second son Judah. More than once, when I pressed my rounded belly into a friend and announced the name of this being growing inside of me, they recoiled and mouthed: “JUDAS?” My heart would sink. The very idea that someone would confuse my precious baby with the most vile character in all of christendom made my blood boil. In some cultures, effigies of Judas are pelted with rotten produce, hanged or burned during Passion week. Why would I name my child after that? Or even choose a name that could be confused with him?
This Passion week, like many of the holidays this year, is a perspective shift for me.
I found myself one dark Monday morning, listening to the story of Judas and crying -not tears of hatred, but tears of pity. When I told my sweetheart, he made that same cringe as if I had made my son his namesake: “Why would you feel for Judas?”
It seems Judas kept himself in denial, even on the night that he turned his teacher in, saying “surely not me” when Jesus said someone would betray him. After it was done, Judas felt so much anguish that he committed suicide. Most orthodox Christians believe that Jesus’s death (and resurrection) was God’s plan all along, whatever Judas’s role.
It is easier to stay blind to our great potential to damage each other. We’re easily distracted by our own perceived need, not trusting that there is enough, or caring for those right next to us. I think it is rare that we intentionally go out to damage one another. It starts more quietly, a selfish pang that if left unchecked ripples into self-justified carnage. We hurt each other, we hurt ourselves in the process.
In this, I am utterly guilty. It turns out, that Judas, not unlike the story of Judah, King David, or Eve, is not just a cautionary tale, but actually my story.
I want redemption for Judas like I want redemption for myself. The fact that he sunk down into utter despair gives me compassion for Judas and fear for myself. Will my effigy be pelted with tomatoes for all time, my image remembered with scorn and hatred? Maybe. There might be those that need me to be a conduit for their anger at the lack of justice in this world. I’ll admit, my past, and probably future, actions deserve that. Yet, I am not abandoning hope. Somehow, by what I can only articulate as a miracle, I am still here, painfully aware of myself. Now the unbelievably difficult work is sitting in that, and trusting that when the time comes, there will be enough: Enough courage. Enough time. Enough compassion. Enough strength. There is no just in case. Just one step, then the next, then the next. Astonishingly, in these simple steps, this gradual surrender, I discover embedded goodness. I am surprised by joy, exceptional forgiveness, and whispers of unspeakable wonder and grace.
I hope these words makes sense to you, even if you know nothing about Judas or Judah, or are turned off by scriptures. To redeem means to exchange, compensate, and make amends. Hopefully, the idea that we are imperfect vulnerable beings that need the hope of redemption resonates with you. This certainly changes the way I see others, even Judas. To me, that is what Easter is all about.
Erin is a doula, writer, mother to men, and teacher on permanent hiatus. She loves how writing connects us and thrives on the bright edges of human experience.