This week’s play can be seen as part two of a two part treatment of Judas’ service to John. Its title could also have been, “The Betrayal of Judas”, and if that led you to ask the question, “Are you talking about Judas betraying someone, or Judas being betrayed by someone?” it would have done its work. If it further made you wonder who he betrayed, or who betrayed him, that would be icing on the cake.
This whole back story is made up, of course. There’s nothing about Judas being a disciple of John the Baptist before he was a disciple of Jesus anywhere in the gospels (though they do report that a couple of John’s disciples did leave him to join Jesus) and there’s no attempt to piece together his motives for betraying Jesus besides the account that he received thirty pieces of silver for it. It’s possible his motive was solely greed – it’s also reported that he was stealing from the group’s treasury, after all – but the approach in these plays will always be to avoid the easy and comfortable stock interpretations. If Judas was simply a thief and a traitor, then it’s too easy to look down our noses at him and gain nothing from his downfall. If, however, it is somehow possible to betray the Messiah entirely from good intentions, then we suddenly have a story worth meditating on.