“One of you will betray me.” Matthew 26:21
The story of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus is a major part of the account of the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The gospels do not spend much time on his motivations so we are left to wonder and speculate. But they chronicle the events that led to his fateful decision.
It must have been no secret that the religious leaders did not like Jesus. Matthew reports, at the beginning of chapter 26, however that they came to a turning point. They made a conscious and official decision that Jesus should be put to death. But because they were afraid of a riot, they sought an opportunity to do so quietly without the crowds around. Judas would provide them that occasion.
There seems to have been a turning point for Judas as well. It was the anointing of Jesus by the woman in Bethany. She poured a jar of expensive ointment over Jesus’ head. This was perfume used for special occasions and especially burial. One gospel notes that the amount of ointment poured out by her was worth a year’s wages. It was probably her life’s savings. Those standing by were astonished and even dismayed at this extravagant use. Judas seems to have been particularly upset. In John’s gospel, he is the one who voices the complaint. “This should have been sold and given to the poor!” But John also notes that Judas did not really care for the poor. Rather, he kept the treasury and used to help himself from its contents. It was immediately after this that Judas went to the chief priests and agreed to betray Jesus.
How serious was Judas’ betrayal of Jesus? After all, Peter would deny three times that he even knew Jesus. Was Judas’ offense that much worse? Jesus said that it was. Judas’ place in history was assigned by Jesus himself, because of the seriousness of the offense. Jesus said that it would be better for him never to have been born. It is not we who decide the consequence of our actions, but God who weighs our decisions and offenses. In this case, Jesus issues a strict condemnation for what Judas was about to do.
We might wonder that Judas did not repent and change his mind. But Luke notes that Satan had already entered into him. Judas gave way to the temptation that would lead to Christ’s crucifixion and his own undoing.
This story reminds us that evil exists and sometimes has its way in people’s lives and actions. But the good news is that Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection was an ultimate victory. It was the sign for us that evil will not win out. God’s kingdom will reign. Jesus' betrayal was also allowed by God, for our good. When we find ourselves betrayed or rejected, we are not alone. Christ has been there before us.
With Warm Regards,