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Holy Week Devotional: Wednesday, April 17

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot

By Greg Funderburk, Minister for Pastoral Care

John 13:21-35; Matthew 27:1-10 

The despair of Judas is an event in Holy Week that often evades deeper scrutiny. His is a wilderness that often escapes our sympathy. Are there some barren wilderness places from which there is no return?

Stephen Adly Guirgis is a playwright who, in 2005, wrote a play called, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,which envisions Judas on trial for his soul following his betrayal of Jesus.  

The play was directed by the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman and ran for a season off Broadway and then in the West End of London. In addition to Judas Iscariot, who was played by Sam Rockwell, characters who make an appearance in the trial include Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Matthew, Peter and Thomas, Caiaphas, Pontius Pilate, as well as Mother Theresa, Sigmund Freud, and Satan. 

The play is filled with profane language and rough idioms, but, was — as a meditation on divine mercy, judgment, and human free will — emotionally moving, spiritually provocative, and compelling theologically, due to Giurgis’ searching faith and the contributions of Father James Martin, a renowned writer, contemplative thinker, and Jesuit priest, whom Guirgus thanks profusely in his acknowledgements. 

Toward the end of the play, after the trial has ended and it’s evident that Judas has been found guilty, Judas is alone in the near dark on stage. Jesus makes his way to his broken betrayer, but first turns to the audience and speaks these (mildly edited) lines to all of us:

“Right now, I am in Fallujah. I am in Darfur. Right now, I’m on Lafayette and Astor, waiting to hit you up for change so I can get high.  

I’m on Sixty Third and Park having dinner with a multi-millionaire and an actress. I’m taking a walk in the Rose Garden with the president. I’m helping the Secretary of Defense to get a good night’s sleep. I was in that cave with Osama and on the plane with Mohammed Atta. And what I want you to knowis that your work has barely begun. And what I want you to trust is the efficacy of divine love practiced consciously. And what I need you to believeis that if you hate whom I love, you do not know me at all. And make no mistake, ‘Who I Love’ is every last one.” 

Then, despite his betrayal, despite his sin, despite his guilt, despite his evil, despite the trial’s outcome, despite the darkness, despite everything, despite anything, Jesus turns to Judas and tries to save him again. 

This week, this Holy Week, let us remember this is what Jesus Christ has done for each one of us. 


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