After3 is a blog series intended to help you prepare this Holy Week...to anticipate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
Today is not a regular Hump Day. It's Holy Wednesday and with another day we step closer to the moment that will rattle Creation's most distant nebula down to the core of your soul. Today we reflect on this passage:
Then one of the twelve apostles, Judas Iscariot, went to talk to the leading priests. He said, "What will you pay me for giving Jesus to you?" And they gave him thirty silver coins. After that, Judas watched for the best time to turn Jesus in. (Matthew 26:14-16)
No one names their kid Judas. No one even names their dog Judas, unless the dog chews up all the furniture, poops in the house, and likes the taste of neighborhood children. Many villains have their moment in the pages of scripture: Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Goliath, Jezebel, but Judas takes center stage at history's climax. It is hard to recover from such historical failure. His betrayal of Jesus overshadows any good that he might have done in his three years with Jesus. Surely he helped someone. Surely he believed something Jesus said. Surely there was some imago Dei (image of God) in him. Perhaps, but we will always remember him as the one who betrayed Jesus. The bible even labels him as such. Judas will always have an asterisk by his name.
The trajectory of Holy Week would have you pause today and ask yourself, "How have I betrayed Jesus?" But, I want to adjust our trajectory ever so slightly. I'm going to assume you have betrayed Jesus. God knows, along with several hundred of others, I have. I'm writing under the presumption that we all have some Judas in us. With that in mind, I want to give Judas a second look, the benefit of the doubt.
After Judas betrays Jesus, the Jewish authorities convict him and sentence him to death. Judas receives word and...
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. "I have sinned," he said, "for I have betrayed innocent blood." (Matthew 27:3-4a)
I find Judas' reaction a bit odd for someone who wants Jesus dead. He seems genuinely surprised and broken-hearted at the news of his conviction. His "I have sinned!" sounds as much like a confession as I have heard. So, here's my take on Judas.
I think Judas loved Jesus, but he had a money problem. The biblical authors agree: Judas...was the one who kept the money box [for the disciples and Jesus]. He often stole from it (John 12:6). Judas knew better than anyone of Jesus' innocence. He figured the lack of evidence would never lead to a conviction. Judas capitalized on an opportunity:
Hand Jesus over.
Make some easy money.
The authorities release the innocent Jesus.
No harm, no foul.
But it all went terribly wrong, and when he realized Christ's blood was on his hands he couldn't bear the shame and...he went away and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:5b)
I wish Judas had hung (no pun intended) around until the resurrection. I wish his remorse had the opportunity to see the Risen Lord. I wish he could have heard Jesus say, "You are forgiven!" Betrayal of Christ always destroys, undoes, and annihilates. It is the nature of sin. Judas made a horrible choice in accepting money for Christ's arrest. But his greater mistake was assuming Christ's grace could not cover it! Perhaps if he had the hindsight of the resurrection he would be...
As you reflect on your betrayal of Jesus today, yes, take it seriously. Your sin breeds destruction, but unlike Judas, you have the hindsight of Easter. Don't let guilt and shame snuff out hope. Lean into Christ not away from him. Increase church participation rather than create distance. Your betrayal does not have to define you.
No more ***