Was Judas Mentally Ill?

By Steve Austin | Messy Grace

Apr 05

All the darkness and secrets make me wonder if Judas was mentally ill...

I feel very sorry for Judas. He’s probably the most despised character in all of Christendom. Yet, Judas is my favorite because we have so much in common. I would have been Judas.

Everyone around must have commented on how close he was to Jesus. For Judas, the Truth had skin on and dirt under his nails. As the trusted bookkeeper, Judas showed real leadership potential. He was on the front row at every tent meeting. What a great guy, they would say, look how faithful. He followed Jesus so closely, right up until the very end. Well, almost. Judas knew Hope intimately, yet he willingly walked away.

So did I.

I used to wonder what caused Judas to sell-out; but in the days immediately following my own suicide attempt, I could imagine exactly how it happened. Judas allowed his struggles to separate him from the goodness of Jesus.

We may never know what deep questions and doubts Judas had, but I feel certain of this: Judas had secrets. Don’t we all know what it’s like to carry around a secret? I wonder if it was greed that caused him to steal money from the Lord’s purse, or something else? Did pressure to perform lead to anxiety and darkness? Did hopelessness make him doubt Jesus was who he said he was? Had he been one of the men who frequented the woman at the well? Whatever the case, I imagine a load of guilt and shame caused the guy unbearable anxiety. He couldn’t sleep at night, because his soul was storm-tossed. I think depression weighed heavy on him. Judas worked for the most famous faith-healer and evangelist the world has ever known, but he couldn’t get his own life together.

Of course we know little about his background, and nothing about his thoughts, but this is how I imagine Judas.

He was a wreck. A total mess. Responsible for the murder of Jesus, he just couldn’t cope with the guilt. He couldn’t forgive himself. He was overwhelmed with grief and could not get past his own mistakes. Who knows what really started the ball rolling…but whatever it was, Judas slowly faded toward his eventual and infamous demise.

When I imagine Judas, I imagine him as mentally ill. A hurt, an offense, divorce, jealousy, a drinking problem, something unexpected that causes us to question everything we’ve ever known. We have a weak moment, and the emotions that have been simmering all this time suddenly begin to boil.

This picture of Judas is one that mirrors our lives when we begin to focus more on our failures than the power of second chances. I’ve heard well-meaning people say suicide is “the coward’s way out,” but they have obviously never experienced the depths of tragedy and despair. For someone to commit suicide, I believe they’re already living in Hell. From that place, condemnation to eternal judgment is nothing new. They’re already there.

I am Judas each time I focus on my failures more than the power of second chances.

The biblical account of Judas is the most moving of all the disciples for me because it highlights that he was a very flawed man. So am I. Judas genuinely loved and followed Jesus, yet he royally screwed up and we see in Scripture just how deeply he regretted his betrayal. All of this feels eerily familiar to me.

I don’t think Judas is burning in Hell. I think his own personal hell was in the moments before and after he kissed Jesus on the cheek and threw those thirty tarnished pieces of silver back at the feet of the Pharisees. Judas acknowledged his own guilt and begged for things to be different. I think as the thirty pieces of silver clinked across the limestone floor of the synagogue that dark night, Judas made his peace with God, but felt he could never face his own shame in public ever again.

I have walked a mile in those same shoes.

Judas lost all hope. So did I. He went outside the city, threw a rope over a big tree branch, wrapped a noose around his neck, and committed suicide. My first attempt was a leather belt, wrapped around a flimsy shower rod in a hotel bathroom. I wonder if the last sounds Judas heard, before his neck snapped and he died, were the nails being hammered into the flesh of The One he betrayed? The One, dying on another tree, to give us hope. The One dying for me and for Judas.

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About the Author

Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.

  • Sarah says:

    ❤️❤️❤️ Beautiful!

    • Steve Austin says:

      Thanks, buddy!!

      • I think we can all relate to Judas on some level. We have all betrayed Jesus and have fallen away (some of us more than others *cough *cough). Being a mental health Therapist, I cannot speak to whether Judas was mentally ill or not. There is not enough info about him to form a complete Psychosocial assessment. One thing most scholars agree, regarding Judas, was that he had been stealing from the coffers all along. Like Judas, we make the mistake of thinking we are fooling Jesus…however, Jesus was on to Judas (and us) from the get-go. Like you, I feel sorry for Judas as well. His deception inadvertently cast him in a role of far greater magnitude than he could have ever imagined. In the end, I don’t think Judas ever truly grasped who Jesus was, or what HE came to do. If so, he would have eventually realized, that even despite his treasonous acts, there is forgiveness and redemption on the other side…just ask Peter.

      • Steve Austin says:

        Oh, how LOVE smart Christians! Thank you for such a brilliant and kind response!

  • Sandy Perry says:

    I don’t know if Judas was mentally ill, but I believe we are a little more like Judas than any one of us is willing to admit.

  • interesting post

  • Steve, Awesome blog post! I agree with you. Judas was mentally ill. I have come to realize something in the last few years of overcoming past abuse. When we walk in the darkness with sinful conditions our mindset is dysfunctional or mentally ill. I call it a spiritual disorder of the mind. We lack the spiritual mind of Christ. Thus, we have the mindset of our sinful nature. Our mindset is fashioned by the world of darkness around us. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, we have been under the curse of knowledge of good and evil. I believe this curse is the main cause of the mental illnesses we have in the world today. It’s difficult for me to explain 100% with accuracy. I believe this is why the bible say’s to renew our minds with the word of God. I blog about this a little and struggle to put it into words that others can understand. Anyway, I agree with you. Linda

    • Steve Austin says:

      Thanks for the great insight, Linda! I hope to hear more from you!

      • The Lord is Calling says:

        Hi Steve,
        I thought to share a post from my blog with you. It further explains my insight that the Lord has enlightened me with months ago during my own struggles in the darkness. The good insight related to this post is about half way down the page. When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I believe the devil uses deception to attack out mindset the most. He did in the garden of Eden and he is still doing it today.

        I understand the darkness having come from a dysfunctional family. I have three siblings with Mental Illness due to the conditions we were raised in years ago. Their mindset was conditioned from an early age by our parents who chose to walk in darkness with evil imaginations and sinful conditions. I hope you enjoy reading the post. I’ll be sure to check out your blog over the next few day’s. I’m curious what you write about.

        God Bless, Linda

      • The Lord is Calling says:

        Steve,
        I forgot to send you the URL

        http://www.thelordiscalling.com/world-of-darkness/story-called-life/

        Linda

      • Steve Austin says:

        Thanks!

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