187. The bargain made by Judas to betray his Lord has always been difficult to understand. The man must have had fine possibilities or Jesus would not have chosen him for an apostle, nor would the little company have made him its treasurer (John xii. 6; xiii. 29). The fact that Jesus early discovered his character (John vi. 64) does not compel us to think that his selection as an apostle was not perfectly sincere; the man must have seemed to be still savable and worthy thus to be associated with the eleven others who were Jesus’ nearest companions. It has often been noticed that he was probably the only Judean among the twelve, for Kerioth, his home, was a town in southern Judea. The effort has frequently been made to redeem his reputation by attributing his betrayal to some high motive—such as a desire to force his Master to use his Messianic power, and confound his opponents by escaping from their hands and setting up the hoped-for kingdom. But the remorse of Judas, in which De Quincey finds support for this theory of the betrayal, must be more simply and sadly understood. It is more likely that the traitor illustrates Jesus’ words: “No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. vi. 24). The beginning of his fall may have been his disappointment when Jesus showed clearly that he would not establish a kingdom conformed to the popular ideas. As the enthusiasm which drew him to Jesus cooled, personal greed, with something of resentment at the cause of his disappointment, seem to have taken possession of him, and they led him on until the stinging rebuke which Jesus administered to the criticism of Mary at Bethany prompted the man to seek a bargain with the authorities which should insure him at least some profit in the general wreck of his hopes. His remorse after he saw in its bald hideousness what he had done was psychologically inevitable. Although Jesus was aware of Judas’ character from the beginning (John vi. 64), he that came to seek and to save that which was lost was no fatalist; and this knowledge was doubtless—like that which he had of the fate hanging over Jerusalem—subject to the possibility that repentance might change what was otherwise a certain destiny. As the event turned he could only say, “Good were it for that man if he had not been born” (Mark xiv. 21).
188. With this the curtain falls on the public ministry of Jesus. The gospels suggest a day of quiet retirement following these controversies and warnings, with their fresh demonstration of the irreconcilable hostility of people of all classes to him and his work. After the seclusion of that day, he returned to give final proof of complete obedience to his Father’s will.
The Last Supper