In the four years that I have been writing here, I have mentioned the Christian Holiday of Easter exactly once, and that time only in passing.
Typically, when Pagans post about Easter, what you get is either a rambling discourse on the pagan influences (eggs, rabbits, not quite forgotten goddesses of the Dawn) still visible in the modern celebration of that holiday, or you get a “correcting misinformation” post which seeks to set right all the shoddy research, presented as fact, that find their way into those aforementioned ‘rambling discourses’.
I have no interest in joining that particular tug-o-war.
It’s just not a holiday that I can get excited about one way or the other. I find all those plush pastel rabbits to be irksome in the extreme and I can’t fathom why anyone would want to lay claim to them. Those shopping mall Easter Bunnies, hoisting screaming children onto their laps are the things of nightmares. And in the grocery store yesterday, I literally saw boxes of milk-chocolate crosses sitting on the shelves. Who buys that for their child?
No, and thank you!
And as for the Easter story itself…, Over the years I’ve sat through more retellings of it than I can count, and mostly I just feel really bad for Jesus, if not for the obvious reasons.
Here’s a guy who dispenses so much wisdom and just generally good advice, and the entire time you know that generation upon generation of his supposed followers are going to focus on the mythology surrounding his dying and rising, while completely ignoring the vast majority of what he actually said while he was alive.
I’ve never been particularly moved by his sacrifice. More, disappointed I guess.
No, there is really only one character in the Easter story that I find truly interesting: the Bible calls him Simon’s son, Judas Iscariot.
Did I say character, and not person?
Let us see…, the Gospel of John first calls him a thief, and then explains that the devil entered him and caused him to betray Jesus to the temple priests in exchange for thirty pieces of silver. One author has him giving the silver back after the deed is done, but in another book he uses it to buy a potters field. Does he hang himself in remorse for his betrayal? Or does he fall headfirst over a cliff, landing so hard that his guts burst open, soaking the ground in blood?
Oh yeah, I meant character.
It’s no secret that I’m not sold on an any of the folks in the Bible being more than loosely based on actual persons. And it honestly doesn’t matter to me if they were real or not.
The story is the story, and the story is incredibly powerful.
It has shaped the world we live in, for better or worse, for the last two-thousand years.
And for me, as someone who was raised in that faith tradition, but has long stood outside it, looking in, I find the character of Judas to be far more compelling than the sacrificial hero that is the focus of the tale.
And the reason for this is that Judas, more than any other character in the Christian Holy Book, truly challenges the notion of free will in the face of an omnipotent god.
Did Judas go to Hell for betraying Jesus?
It is a question I’ve been asking since I was a child. I actually remember my family debating the issue on more than one occasion, and never to a satisfactory conclusion.
Christians believe that the events leading up to and immediately following the crucifixion were foretold in various prophecies from the Old Testament. Now, I’ve read some of those verses, and…, if the prophets are made to stand on their heads and jump through several moving hoops…, well sure, I guess you could say that it all kind of fits together.
Admitting, for the sake of argument, that this is true, then all of the events leading up to the Cross are necessary functions of God’s omniscience. Judas MUST betray Jesus. If he doesn’t the prophecies are worthless and the blood of the lamb does not wash away the sins of the world.
There is no need to slander his character by suggesting that he was stealing from the apostles money bag. There is no need to suggest that he was a dupe for the devil.
He was doing his job, as preordained by the knower and shaper of all things.
Or was he?
What if he truly did have a choice.
That means that he could have chosen not make a deal with the temple priests. he could have refrained from delivering that tell-tale kiss, and Jesus might have made it through his Passover visit to Jerusalem unscathed. God’s grand plan for the redemption of mankind might have taken an entirely different turn, or it might have been thwarted entirely.
“Ah,” my critics will say, “but Judas DID make his choice, as God knew he would when presented with that situation.”
To which I say, “that’s manipulative bullshit unworthy of anyone calling themselves the ‘Most High’.” Seriously, that’s right up there with ‘hardening Pharaoh’s heart’ so that he’ll stick it out while his people suffer through yet another plague.
Punishing someone for something you made them do is the height of injustice.
So if the Christian God is a being both omnipotent and morally just, Judas was equally as important to the great plan as Jesus himself, and no punishment should be given.
If the Christian God is not omnipotent, Judas had a choice and may indeed be suffering eternal torment, but the whole grand plan for the salvation of mankind is reduced to a series of unfortunate events, and that’s not going to go over very well with the faithful.
So which is it?
Are the characters in the Easter story simply unwitting cogs in someone else’s melodrama?
Are we all?
Or does each of us have the godlike power to shape the course his or her own destiny, while the gods themselves sit and watch and hope for the best.
I wonder sometimes, if that kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane revealed more and deeper truths than the authors, whoever they were, might have hoped.