|“Conscience, Judas” Nikolai Ge (1891)|
This painting by Russian painter Nikolai Ge is of Judas Iscariot standing alone as the soldiers take Jesus away. Seeing him wrapping his robe more tightly, you can’t help but sense the descending darkness. Viewing this painting, my mind immediately goes to this passage…
When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.” They were distressed, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?” “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” John 13:18-21, Mark 14: 17-22
Whereas artistic depictions of the arrest of Christ usually focus on the moment that Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss, artist Nikolai Ge imagines Judas standing on a road, completely immobilized as he watches the crowd move away from him into the distance.
Certainly Judas’ tightly clutching his cloak is evident in the painting. But what else do you see or imagine as you look at the painting, particularly considering that this indeed is the hour “when darkness reigns” (Luke 22:53)?
As to what satisfaction or profit Judas thought he might get from this profound betrayal, we can only imagine.
In the whole of history, was there ever a man more “seized with remorse” (Matt. 27:3–5) — a man, said Jesus, for whom it would have better if he had not been born?