I heard a sermon yesterday in which it was suggested that Judas’s betrayal of Jesus was a failed set-up. The sermon followed the common idea that Judas was a disenchanted Jewish nationalist who betrayed Jesus when he saw that Jesus was not going to overthrow Rome. But it was suggested that Judas was playing a more subtle game: He wanted to force Jesus into a position where He would have to fight back. If Judas could convince the temple and Roman authorities to confront Jesus directly, to corner Him, surely Jesus would in the end prove Himself a Maccabee. The revolution would begin with the Battle of Gethsemane.

Peter got the hint, swinging his sword and cutting off a soldier’s ear. Jesus stayed passive as ever, and ended up on a Roman cross.

This interpretation of Judas has some advantages. It helps to explain his remorse. When the plan backfired, Judas wanted to wash his hands of the whole thing. Judas didn’t suddenly discover that Jesus was an innocent man. He knew that all along that Jesus was righteous. He only had hoped that He would be a righteous warrior instead of a righteous sufferer.

It also implies that Judas was Satanic in precisely the same way Peter was. When Jesus first began telling the disciples about His coming arrest, suffering, and death, Peter rebuked Him: You can be king without a cross. Jesus dismissed that proposal as Satanic because it was the same proposal that Satan had put before Him in the wilderness. Possessed by Satan, Judas had the same idea: Set up Jesus to realized His destiny as King, but bypass that untoward business of crucifixion.