Unlike the other three Gospels, which leave the betrayer somewhat ambiguous at least to the disciples themselves, John doesn’t mince words. Simon Peter asks the beloved disciple to ask Jesus, and he replies that it is the man to whom I give my dipped bread to. He then hands that piece to Judas Iscariot.
It’s a troubling passage, since one would think that the other disciples would have risen in horror and raised some sort of cry. Yet, John pretends that somehow they didn’t understand, thinking Jesus’ words to Judas were having to do with the purchase of food for the Passover. (Remember John doesn’t situate the “Last Supper” on the Passover as do the other Gospels.)
In any case, we learn from John that Satan entered Judas at the moment that he touched the bread offered by Christ. How John knew this, is unknown. But it certainly puts Judas in a different light.
People have speculated that Judas was a Zealot, a Jew who awaited the Messiah who would lead an army against the Romans. The argument goes that Judas, realizing that Jesus intended no such armed rebellion, grew angry and felt betrayed by Jesus. He felt Jesus was “in the way” of the real movement that would throw off the chains of Roman occupation.
John seems to dispel this argument by arguing that Judas’ betrayal was in fact “always meant to be” and something that did not enter his mind until he accepted the morsel of bread from the hand of Jesus. In a sense, Jesus “picked” Judas to be the betrayer.
Peter, on the other hand, is not overtaken by Satan. He simply acts as many a frightened person. How often have we read in story or seen in film the followers who, when the going gets tough, get going in another direction? Peter is all of us who have not the strength of our convictions when our own skin is being threatened.
I don’t think we pay nearly enough attention to Judas frankly. There are references in the Gospels of Judas not liking how money was dispersed. There are references to complaints. But if indeed Judas were a Zealot, it would be reasonable that he would want all funds for the “movement.” Indeed his 30 pieces of silver may well have been diverted into the rebellion had he not realized that the Sanhedrin intended to kill Jesus, and realized his mistake.
I don’t mean to make too much of this, since we can never know. But perhaps we make too much of Judas’ evilness and too little of Simon Peter’s running away. I am not sure. I only mean to suggest that thinking about the juxtaposition of the two is of value perhaps today.