When I read the story of Judas Iscariot betraying Jesus, I find myself wanting to distance myself from him. Maybe my need to keep my distance is because I have found him living in me from time-to-time when I have betrayed the things that God holds dear. This distancing helps me perpetuate the illusion that if I just stay away from all things Judas that I won’t “catch” what Judas had.
I have come to realize, as we distance ourselves from the Judas-like people in our lives, that we are also distancing ourselves from the families who called Judas their son, brother, cousin and grandson – all the way down the family line.
Up until the moment John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln while he sat in Ford’s Theater, Booth was just another safe and familiar family name. Everything changed for the descendants of Lee Harvey Oswald when he assassinated President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. Up until the moment when Oswald fired his bullets from the window of the book depository, Oswald was also just another family name. The actions of a single person can have devastating effects on an entire family line and the perception of their name.
Whenever an individual pulls the trigger on a negative response to life, and that response deals death by their words or actions, the weight of that decision is laid upon the surviving family members. After the event, whenever the name of the perpetrator is mentioned in public, the family image is filtered through the painful events of the one who did the deed.
I try to image what the Iscariot family must have felt when their son betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. “Judas, what were you thinking? We did not raise you that way!” Even the biblical record tries to distinguish Judas Iscariot from the other people in that culture who bore the same name – “Judas, not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name.” John 14:22
Maybe today we need to look around the fringes of our culture and find a contemporary version of the Iscariot family who are living in the shadows of shame over the actions of one of their loved ones. It would be just like Jesus to have us approach them and say, “Mr. and Mrs. Iscariot, please forgive me for not coming earlier. I was afraid that if I were seen with you that part of my brokenness that has betrayed others would be exposed. I am sorry. It was not your fault. Please forgive me.”