I don’t know how original this is, but it is a “shower thought” I had recently. Judas Iscariot is a very unfortunate character.
Judas’ life is a net loss. In Matthew 26:24, Jesus says, “It would be better for him if he had not been born.” And what exactly did Judas do to deserve a minus life? He identified Jesus for the soldiers of Caiaphas. I claim that this was not so bad.
1. What was the marginal harm of Judas’ action? Very little, if any. Having Judas identify Jesus was hardly the only way Caiaphas could have arrested him. Plenty of people knew who Jesus was; Caiaphas could simply have asked when Jesus was going to appear in public, and then had his guards attend and get a good look. (Why not then arrest Jesus on the spot? Because Caiaphas was afraid of a riot.) Or why even bother? Simply showing up and asking “Which one of you is the one who calls himself the Son of Man?” would have done the trick. Even if Jesus and his disciples had pulled a Spartacus, surely soldiers would have known how to deal with that. So it doesn’t seem like Judas contributed much to Jesus’ execution, because Jesus didn’t need to be betrayed in order to be executed.
2. Also, why did Jesus have to be executed? I understand that standard Christology mandates that he die, but why by execution? Why not lightning, asthma, a sudden allergy to Galilean fish, or an awesome-but-fatal miracle (along the lines of Samson)? None of these would have required anyone to betray Jesus, and Jesus would have been just as dead.
3. Speaking of “just as dead,” Jesus didn’t really die. I mean, sure, he died. But not the way people die. He was only gone for the weekend–”temporarily inconvenienced for your sins,” as I read once. People who go into comas endure far more “death” than Jesus. My point is that Jesus’ death wasn’t all that bad for Jesus, which should mean that Judas’ betrayal wasn’t all that bad either. (Yes, Jesus suffered a lot prior to dying. But if the suffering was all that bad, then why couldn’t God have had Jesus executed in another way, like John the Baptist was? That would have killed Jesus just as effectively and would have spared Judas the guilt of turning Jesus over to torture.)
4. Even if Jesus did have to be executed, and it had to happen through betrayal, that just shows how crucial Judas was to God’s celestial plan for the universe. As I understand it, the redemption of humanity through Jesus’ death and resurrection is the primary story of history (according to Christians). If it could not have happened without Judas’ kiss on Jesus’ cheek, then it hardly seems just to inflict on Judas suffering severe enough to compensate for a lifetime of earthly existence.
Perhaps I have overlooked some detail, or am missing the big picture. If so, do enlighten me. But for now, it really seems that according to the Gospels, God couldn’t think of a better way to accomplish his ultimate project than by creating a special minus human whose express role was to point out the identity of a well-known contemporary figure, and then get punished forever.