Judas kissing Jesus

Who Was Worse? Judas or Pilate?

 April 8, 2022

This Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week. Christians throughout the world will be remembering the last days of Jesus’s life, leading to his death and resurrection. These are high holy days for the Christian community as we retell the old, old, stories which include a vast array of characters. Stories need villains to make them interesting and this story is no exception. We have the high priest, Caiaphas, and other religious leaders, King Herod, the fickle crowd that demands a crucifixion, and, of course, Judas, the betrayer, and Pilate, the politician. But who was worse? Judas or Pilate?


Recently while praying the Apostles Creed, it occurred to me: other than Mary and Jesus, Pilate is the only person referred to by name in the prayer, and not in a positive context. Why should Pilate merit such mention? Was what he did so bad that it warranted being mentioned over and over again every time a believer prayed this prayer? I certainly wouldn’t want such ignominy. And was what Pilate did so much worse than what Judas did? Why didn’t the writers of the Creed include mention of Judas?

What did Pilate do? He was a politician, playing both sides without interest in the truth, even when presented with the truth and warned by his wife not to hurt this man. He had no prior relationship with Jesus. Pilate chose what was politically expedient—sound familiar?


Judas, on the other hand, had been with Jesus for three years, one of his close companions. While the musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, paints Judas in a more favorable, psychologically complex portrait, this is the invention of the writer and not found in Scripture upon which it was based. All we know is that Judas was the keeper of the money and handed Jesus over to the religious leaders for thirty pieces of silver. We also know from Scripture that Judas killed himself out of remorse for what he had done (Mt. 27:3-7). Still there are few psychological nuances in Scripture to tell us more about this man.

For whatever reason, Judas betrayed his friend and then killed himself. He, who had spent so much time with the Teacher and heard his message of forgiveness, was not able or willing to seek forgiveness for what he had done, perhaps feeling it was unforgivable.

Who Was Worse? The Betrayer or the Politician?

So who was worse? Judas or Pilate? Is it worse to betray a friend and not seek forgiveness, or to be a politician, ignoring the truth for political gain? With all of the rampant lies and disregard for truth coming out of the mouths of our politicians, I tend to lean towards Pilate. Some contend that Pilate was included in the Apostle’s Creed as a symbol of political corruption and abuse of power. But then, what is more heartbreaking than betrayal by a friend?

I leave it to you. What do you think? Who was worse? Judas or Pilate? Please post your comments below or email me, patricia@patriciamrobertson.com.

Looking for meditations on the readings for Holy Week to assist you in your prayer and reflection during these holy days? My booklet, Holy Week: Season of Dying, offers short vignettes based on common life experiences to help you when facing loss, betrayal, and death.

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