May 2, 2024

The Traitor Judas and the Harlot Woman (St. Luke of Simferopol)

The Traitor Judas and the Harlot Woman

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on May 2, 1945)

On Great Wednesday we remember the prodigal woman, about whom our Lord Jesus Christ said that as long as the gospel is preached in the world, her deed will be remembered. We also remember the most vile, shameful, most terrible of all human deeds - the betrayal of our Lord Jesus Christ by the Apostle Judas.

And here before us is the state of the hearts of these two people - the harlot woman and the apostle of Christ, who accepted the great grace and honor of being chosen as one of the twelve closest disciples of Christ. The harlot, rejected by everyone, poured precious ointment on the feet of Jesus, and the closest disciple betrayed Him.

When we hear about the terrible event of the betrayal of our Lord Jesus Christ by His disciple, betrayal with a kiss, our heart shudders and trembles with indignation. But many of us have a perplexed question: how did our Lord Jesus Christ make the one whom He Himself later called the devil His disciple ? At the Secret Supper He said, “I have chosen you, but one of you is the devil.” How could the Lord Jesus Christ choose a man as one of the holy apostles, about whom the Holy Scripture says that he was a thief? He was, so to speak, the treasurer of the holy apostles, carried a box into which alms were placed for the Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles, and stole money from this box.

So why did the Lord Jesus Christ, an expert of the heart who knew who Judas was, who knew that he would betray Him to death, still choose him to be one of His closest disciples? How to explain this? The explanation is this: for His great and often incomprehensible purposes, the Lord God often uses the most sinful, most unworthy people.

When the wickedness of the people of Israel increased to infinity, then the Lord raised up the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar and made him His instrument. Nebuchadnezzar was the chosen one of God, the sword of God, and yet he was a man of immeasurable, truly demonic pride, who exalted himself above everything that is holy and great; he exalted himself above God Himself, declared himself a god and demanded divine worship for himself. This is the monster, the monster of pride, cruelty and bloodthirstiness, that God chose as the executor of His sentence over the people of Israel. But then, when the task entrusted to Nebuchadnezzar was completed, the Lord also punished him for his wickedness, for self-exaltation and immeasurable pride.

The Lord commanded him to become like the beast of the forest, depriving him of his reason. He became violently insane and was expelled from the human environment, lived alone in the forests and grew hair like an animal. But the time has come to pardon him. And then the Lord put into his heart the consciousness of what difficult deeds he had done, Nebuchadnezzar repented and was again restored to his royal dignity.

Let us also remember the Pharaoh of Egypt, who did not want to release the people of Israel from captivity in Egypt. Let us remember what severe punishments God subjected him to. Well, wasn't Pharaoh also destined by God to fulfill this sinful role? Of course yes. The Holy Apostle Paul tells us: “For this very purpose I raised you up, that I might show My power over you, and that My name might be proclaimed in all the earth” (Rom. 9:17).

He was appointed by God, he was an instrument of God. In the same way, Judas was an instrument in the hands of God. In the Eternal Divine Council of the Holy Trinity, a great and holy decision was made - to save the perishing world through the Son of God. It was decided that this salvation should be accomplished in a way that seems strange and mysterious to us - the death of Christ on the Cross of Golgotha.

For by the Cross of Christ the head of the serpent — the devil — was trampled. In order for this decision of God to be realized, a person like Judas was needed. A traitor was needed, one was needed through whom the way of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ would begin.

Perhaps you will ask why this was so necessary, why it could not have been arranged so that even without the betrayal of Judas the Lord Jesus Christ would still have been arrested and executed? We dare not judge the ways of God; we dare not explain them completely. But we can say what our understanding tells us. If the betrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ had happened differently, without the horror of betrayal by His own disciple, then the world would not have felt forever such ineradicable contempt and hatred for betrayal, which the apostle inspired. Judas, having committed it.

It was necessary to shake human hearts, it was necessary to show the immeasurable depth of baseness and vileness of which a person is capable. And this immensity of vileness was revealed to us now, on Great Wednesday, by the betrayal of the Lord by His disciple.

The Holy Apostle Paul says that the Lord knows all people in advance, and since He knows them, He destined them for one fate or another: “Whom God foreknew, them also He predestined” (Rom. 8:29-30). Those whom the Lord God foreknew, He also prepared – some to eternal salvation, others to eternal destruction.

Again, the question may arise: why set anyone up for destruction?

The Holy Apostle Paul answers: “Has not the potter power over the clay, that out of the same mixture he may make one vessel for honorable use, and another for base use? What if God, desiring to show His wrath and demonstrate His power, with great long-suffering spared the vessels of wrath, which were ready for destruction, in order to show together the riches of His glory over the vessels of mercy, which He prepared for glory, over us, whom He called not only from Jews, but also Gentiles?" (Rom.9:21-24).

Blessed be the will of the Lord, which presents some of us to salvation, while allowing others to go to eternal destruction along their chosen path of rejecting the gospel of Christ. Let us not murmur against God because among us there exist such sons of perdition who are destined for eternal damnation, like Judas.

Another question arises for many: Is the salvation, forgiveness and repentance of Judas possible? Will he really be condemned along with the devil, can there really be no forgiveness for him? No, there cannot be. It is absolutely impossible to pardon him, for our Lord Jesus Christ said that whoever denies Him before people, He will also deny them before His Heavenly Father and the holy Angels.

And Judas, rejecting Him, the One who was His Holiest, Most Blessed Teacher, rejected the One from Whom he saw with his own eyes many miracles created by Him, from Whom he directly heard the holy great sermon of love, Whom his wicked eyes contemplated for three years.

Is this not the most serious of all the renunciations of God that people are guilty of? Can we think that there will be forgiveness for the one whom the Lord Himself called the devil? For we know that there will be no forgiveness for the devil, and if the Lord called Judas the devil, it means that eternal torment is prepared for him too.

Judas, having learned that the Lord Jesus Christ was betrayed to death, shuddered and was horrified, came into trembling and despair. He went to the high priests and scribes, from whom he received thirty pieces of silver for his betrayal, threw them on the floor and said: “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4). He did not repent, but only fell into hopeless despair. If he had repented, the merciful Lord would have eased his torment. But he fell into despair and hanged himself, and you know that suicide is an unforgivable sin, and God testified before people that Judas was condemned forever, for from the words of the Holy Apostle Peter we learn that when Judas hanged himself, when his lifeless body fell from the noose, his belly burst and his entrails fell out. Isn’t this the seal of God’s eternal punishment, isn’t this the most shameful death? The entrails of another great sinner, the heretic Arius, who rejected the Divinity of Jesus Christ, also fell out. He plunged the Church of Christ into grave turmoil and division for many years. That's why he was punished.

There is no more despicable, more intolerable name for us than Judas. This name became a common noun for all traitors, and there were many traitors both before and after Judas. There are many of them even now among us, in our Christian environment, for there are many people who, if they themselves do not directly commit vile betrayal of their neighbors, then in order to achieve their base goals they use those who are capable of committing treason. They look for false witnesses in order to prevail over their opponents, but they themselves wash their hands - “I didn’t do it, he did it.”

And in the eyes of God and ours, these are the same traitors as those who directly commit betrayal. Perjury and slander are very close to betrayal.

Are there few people among us who are capable of slander and perjury? Do they have the right to condemn Judas, to be indignant at him, when they themselves are little Judases?

The soul of Judas is immensely vile and shameful. And the Holy Church in the current Gospel reading contrasts his soul with another soul - the soul of an unfortunate, despised harlot, a soul that shone before the whole world with immeasurable love for the Lord Jesus Christ, cleansed by the most sincere, most painful repentance for her sins. For what brought her to the feet of Jesus, what made her wash His feet and wipe them with her hair, water them with precious ointment? What prompted her to this act, which will be remembered everywhere as long as the world stands?

The consciousness of her uncleanness, which shook her entire soul, at the sight of the Holiest of the holy, awakened her heart, in trembling and fear, she fell with tears at the feet of Jesus. And her heart was illuminated with the Light of Divine forgiveness. She prepared, as the Lord said, His body for burial; she became one of the myrrhbearing women.

But won’t today’s harlots, of whom there are so many among us, think that if the Lord so easily and quickly forgave all her sins, then their sins are not so serious? Won’t they think that it’s enough to go to confession to a priest, to say in one memorized phrase: “I’m a sinner, father,” and that’s enough? Don’t they understand that such repentance is absolutely worthless and is not comparable to the repentance of the harlot woman who poured ointment on Jesus’ feet?

Let them not deceive themselves, let them not think that they will be easily forgiven, let them prepare for many years of repentance for the sins of adultery and fornication. This is what I had to say about the remembrance on Great Wednesday of the betrayal of Judas and the exploit of the harlot woman.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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