Judas and Suicide: Can Judas be Forgiven?

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by Nancy Ann McLaughlin

Are there “pure” evil persons that God cannot or will not forgive?  Remember before you answer that God is all powerful and humans cannot force God to do or not to do anything.

In theory perhaps there are unforgivable persons.  But theories are only good so far as they help individuals determine the best course of action for their own lives.  For instance the theory that suicide is unforgivable may be in encouraging someone not to commit suicide.  But there is a danger to using a theory in an attempt to condemn another person – I would hate it if someone were to judge me or my loved ones in that manner.

Many persons believe in, or have heard of, unforgivable “sins” such as suicide, BUT I suspect that such labels reflect more humankind’s misunderstanding or revulsion regarding such behavior.  Thus such actions are apt to be a cultural tradition, norm, or taboo than a God-given decree or attitude towards someone who feels that desperate.

Is Judas’ suicide a moral evil?  Many people believe that people like Judas (or Hitler) cannot or will not be forgiven – but that is between those persons and God alone to determine.  Others cannot know what actually happened at the moment of each such person’s death.  But “in theory” one can look at the possibilities in order to help oneself in one’s own relationship with God.

What is known about Judas Iscariot?

·      Judas was one of the chosen apostles (Lk 6:16, Mk 3:19, Mt 10:4, and Jn 6:70-71).  Did Jesus see potential in him?

·      Judas had a father named Simon (Jn 6:71).  He was a person like everyone else with a family.

·      As an apostle Judas was both called and sent and was involved in all of the activities of Jesus and the other apostles.

·      Judas was entrusted with the group’s money and was tempted with greed (Jn 12:4-6 and Mt 26:14-16).

·      Jesus was aware of Judas’ issues and acknowledged that Judas would follow through on them (Mt 26:23-25 and Jn 13:21-30).

·      Judas’ actions were seen not just as misguided but as evil by the scripture writers and thus some of the accounts also mention Satan or the d’evil being involved (Lk 22:1-6).  But also compare this to Jesus’ response to Peter when Peter encouraged Jesus to take an easier, more glorious route: “Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the Law, [Notice who the responsible people are here – Judas is not mentioned.] and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.  Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’ Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men’” (Mt 15:21-23, NIV).

·      Judas betrayed Jesus’ location to the chief priests, teachers of the Law, and the elders of the people, he did this through a kiss (Mt 26:47-49, Mk 14:43-46, Lk 22:47-48, Jn 18:2-3).

·      Judas’ motivation appears to have been greed, but there are speculations that Judas was also disappointed that Jesus was not the type of Messiah who would conquer the Romans and take over in general.  Some also think that Judas felt Jesus would get out of this confrontation like Judas had seen Jesus avoid similar events before (see John 8:42-58 and 10:25-39).

·      Judas’ response to his own actions appear to be remorse and an attempt at restitution and perhaps stop what he, too late, realized was a mistake: “When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and retuned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and elders. ‘I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood.’ ‘What is that to us?’ they replied. ‘That’s your responsibility.’ So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself” (Mt 27:3-5).  Then the chief priests took the money and bought a burial place for foreigners called the Field of Blood.

·       Luke, however, in the Acts of the Apostles, records: “With the reward he got for his wickedness Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out” (Acts 1:18) thus the location is called the Field of Blood.

·      The early church obviously was not clear in the details with these somewhat different accounts from the former tax collector’s sources and the doctor’s references.  But both accounts attempt to understand the events of Judas’ death in terms of justice for the betrayer and scriptural support (for Matthew see Zech 11:12-13 and for Acts see Pss 69:26 and 109:8, as cited in JBC, 1968, p. 170).

·      Judas was labeled as a traitor and betrayer (Lk 6:16, Mk 3:19, Mt 10:4).  This implies that many did not forgive him, but could also have been descriptive such as Thomas the doubter, or Peter who denied Jesus.

Would Jesus have forgiven Judas if Judas had not committed suicide?  Consider:

  • Jesus indicated that Pilate was not as much at fault as the Jewish leadership who had handed Jesus over (Jn 19:11).
  • Jesus forgave his executioners (Lk 23:34).
  • Jesus invited one of those also being crucified, who was guilty of crime, into heaven (Lk 23:39-43).
  • One of the first things that Jesus did after the resurrection was invited the disciples to be forgiving – breathing his Spirit upon them, he also wished them peace (Jn 20:19-23).
  • Jesus forgave Peter who denied him (Jn 21:15-19) and the apostles who had abandoned him.

Is there a serious issue with Judas having committed suicide and therefore God being unable to forgive him?  Was Judas ungrateful that God had given him life?  Or was Judas more caught up in the horrible greedy decision he made and was not able to forgive himself in his despair?  God knows and understands what is happening in the hearts, bodies, and minds of all who commit suicide, and God still loves them as children.

Bottom line?  If people choose to believe that God cannot or would not forgive Judas, they might have a problem believing that God would or could forgive themselves too.  “The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus look at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God’” (Mk 10:26-27, NIV).

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention service available to anyone in suicidal crisis. If you need help, please dial: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Contact the author at Nancy@GodParenting.info