Today is Good Friday, the day when Jesus was crucified at Golgotha and died for our sins. The Bible states that he was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples for 30 pieces of silver.
“Judas” is a hellenized form of the Hebrew Judah, which can mean either a man of the tribe of Judah or the word “praised.” It is the Hebrew equivalent of the Arabic “Mohammed,” which has the same meaning. His last name, “Iscariot,” is believed to come from the village of Kerioth and corresponds to the ruins of Khirbet el-Qaryatein, located approximately 10 miles south of Hebron. “Ish Kerioth” would mean “the man from Kerioth.” Judas was the only one of the twelve disciples who came from Judah. The rest came from Galilee.
The Bible states that it was Judas who approached the Pharisees to betray Him and not the other way around. The Pharisees were glad to see Jesus put to death and has been looking for excuses to kill Him, but their actions could not have happened without Judas’ assistance.
The Pharisees were a dual religious and political sect who insisted on upholding both the Jewish religion and national identity as a separate, distinct class from and in the minds of many, above their pagan neighbors. To their credit, the Pharisees were important defenders of the Jews during the Maccabean wars and sought to preserve Judaism from destruction through hellenization. Their devotion and adherence to tradition also earned them many martyrs and the respect of pagans for their willingness to give up their lives for their religion. However, there also developed among the Pharisees inclinations towards arrogance and later, ethnic nationalism and racism. It was not enough for Jews to preserve their religion and ways of life, but many came to believe that to believe as a Jew made a man superior to non-believers, and for some, that having Jewish blood made a man superior to other men by his birth.
During the time of Jesus there was a great deal of soul-searching about the meaning of Judaism and what constituted true obedience to God. Jesus put to rest the controversies of his day by answering the questions of the Torah and the combined oral and written information constituting Jewish sacred tradition, which later became known as the Talmud, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 42,
Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
He will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
One of the questions that Jesus answered was the nature of salvation- is there no afterlife as the Sadducees taught, is it reserved for Jews only as the Pharisees maintained, or is it as the Essenes said a matter of righteousness that comes from the grace of God without necessarily being tied to race?
Jesus said that a man’s salvation comes from the grace of God and is not tied to race. Grace comes before race, nation, and people, since God is the creator of all men.
Peter, Andrew, John, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James of Alphaeus, Jude, and Simon the Zealot chose to follow the grace of God. They were rejected by their own people and the world, but went on to convert the entire world.
Judas chose to side with the Pharisees who promoted nationalism, and in so doing volunteered his services, all of which brought him nothing but destruction.
Nation, race, and culture are gifts from God to every man, who should be proud of his roots as they are a part of his creation. It is wrong to deny, ignore, or immorally suppress them.
However, any created thing, no matter how great, is always subject to the glory of God, for God is the author of all nations, races, and cultures, and without Him none of them would exist.
Let the story of Judas’ betrayal be a warning for every man who would value his identity, race, or culture over the dignity of another man, for the mercy of God is to he who desires righteousness more than himself.
The Nationalism of today is no different than the nationalism of Jesus’ time. Just as it was then, so it will be also at the end.
The pursuit of nationalism brought about the betrayal of Christ then, and so will it be in the future when he returns.