Faith column: 'Why do you think Judas did what he did?'

On Palm Sunday, we read that they shouted, “Hosanna! Hosanna,” but by Good Friday they screamed, “Crucify him!”

Jeanette McCormick
Tim Middagh / The Globe

WORTHINGTON — I find it very interesting to read the Passion Narrative and consider the story from the perspectives of the various characters in it.

The question, “Why do you think Judas did what he did?,” has, in particular, fostered enlightening conversations with youths and adults alike. Most people seem to believe he got enticed by money. Others consider that he might have felt pressure by religious leaders and feared for his well-being or status. Some believe Judas had become disillusioned because Jesus didn’t seem to really be changing anything, and, mostly, he had hoped the Messiah would thwart all of Israel’s enemies.

Through these conversations, we usually realize how easy it would be for someone to betray Jesus in the way Judas did. In short, Judas was not necessarily worse than most of us. He simply went astray, led by his greed, fear and impatience. Through looking at Judas, we can be reminded about how each one of us can easily betray Jesus every day.

Soon we will be celebrating Holy Week. Many of our traditions will begin by reading portions of the Passion Narrative starting on Palm Sunday, April 2. As we read, it’s easy to simply write off Judas, Peter, Pontius Pilate, the religious leaders and others as “bad people.” We can become horrified at how quickly the crowd turned on Jesus.

On Palm Sunday, we read that they shouted, “Hosanna! Hosanna,” but by Good Friday they screamed, “Crucify him!” Furthermore, as Christians, it is important for us to note that these passages have been used to justify antisemitic acts against our Jewish siblings.


Interpreting the Passion Narrative in ways that cause us to see Jesus’ death as the “fault of the Jews” is nothing short of sinful. Such an interpretation not only is illogical (Jesus was also Jewish, the Romans played an important role in the crucifixion, etc.), but it causes us to not do the important work of seeing how all of us still today act like people who crucified Jesus.

How do we behave like the characters in the Passion Narrative? How are we, like Judas, tempted by money, security and power? How do we, like Peter, deny Jesus in order to save our own skins? How do we, like Pilate, “bow out” of important decisions due to fear of conflict or some outcome instead of using our voices to make a difference?

How do we, like the crowds who turned against Jesus, simply follow along with what others think instead of standing up for what we believe in? In short, how do we turn our backs on Jesus because we fear the new and unknown? Most importantly, how do these temptations cause us to stray from firm faith in Jesus?

Soon, we will be reflecting on some of the most important passages in our Christian tradition. I urge you to consider how your life and actions resemble the actions of the characters we read about in these passages.

I encourage this reflection, not to cause any of us to feel badly about ourselves, but so that we might be aware of our failings and find better — more loving — ways to live. This is our opportunity to be drawn to the life and forgiveness we have in Christ.

Rev. Jeanette McCormick is pastor of First Lutheran Church in Worthington and Grace Lutheran Church in rural Round Lake.

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