On March 18th of this year, the Ambassador of Belarus, Ihar Sokol, was leaving the Ukraine for his home when a border officer stopped him and asked who he was. Then, with identity confirmed, the soldier stated that he had been ordered to give him 30 pieces of silver. (The interaction was caught on video.) The officer, extending his hand with the bag of coins, didn’t find his gesture received well by the Ambassador. To say the least, the contempt was palpable…the betrayal was certain.
As refugees flee, buildings smolder, and mass graves are dug, the world watches as mankind’s brokenness is on center stage. Betrayal is everywhere.
It’s been over 2000 years since Judas gave up Jesus, and the symbolism and reality of that moment is as real today as it was back then. Those 30 pieces of silver seem to always be in demand one way or another…sometimes collected 1 coin at a time. So what can we take away from that betrayal 2000 years ago? Is there something we can learn today?
Looking at 3 passages which chronicle Judas’ actions, we can find some take aways.
Matthew 26:14-16 // Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
Mark 14:10-11 // Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
Luke 22:3-6 // Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.
A SECRET DESIRE NURTURED
In all these passages we see it is Judas who went to engage the chief priests with his plan, to their surprise, and delight, not the other way around. This betrayal was something that had been building up inside Judas, the desire for more of the clang of coins in his own pocket. We know he had been dipping into the money bag for a while. John says it this way…
”He did not say this because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it." // John 12:4-6.
Judas liked what money could do for him. It provided something that he wanted. Be it things, experiences, power, security, you name it. Judas craved the money, or the thought of what the money might do, more than he enjoyed Jesus. Because he had already been stealing from the bag, we know he was keeping a secret, nurturing a sin. It started with managing the money, which was a good thing, it would end in his ultimate demise.
St. Augustine says it this way….. “Sin arises when things that are minor good are pursued as though they were the most important goals of life. If money or affection or power are sought in disproportionate, obsessive ways, then sin occurs. And that sin is magnified when, for these lesser goals, we fail to pursue the highest good and the finest goals. So when we ask ourselves why, in a given situation, we committed a sin, the answer is usually one of two things. Either we wanted to obtain something we didn’t have, or we feared losing something we had.” I believe this was true for Judas as well.
I’m sure Judas didn’t start out by stealing a massive amount of money. I’m sure it started with 1 coin at a time, then grew, as it always does. I suppose it could have started with a justification of his actions….”I earned this, I deserve it. No one will even miss it. They don’t appreciate everything I do for them. No one cares really.” He began the process of nurturing, and justifying, his secret sin.
Do you have a secret sin that you need to confess, one that you have been nurturing?
Do you have a thought that you need to name and expose, because of where it will lead your heart if it goes unchallenged?
Has the Holy Spirit already been speaking to you about this?
A FALSE FRONT
I have always thought it was amazing that Judas had walked with Jesus for 3 years. Courtside. He saw all of it. The miraculous, the amazing, the glory, and the power of Jesus. He witnessed things he could never explain. He was one of the 12. He listened to the late night talks of Jesus, he saw him walk on water, he was there when the 5000 were fed.
He experienced everything the disciples experienced, except for the heart transformation, which was the ultimate experience.
Judas had mastered how to walk the walk, hang out with the right people, how to be seen as one who knew Jesus without actually being one who did. There was a gap. The gap was the difference between his spiritual reality and how he was perceived. The scary thing….Judas didn’t follow Jesus, and no one knew that about him, everyone assumed he was fully bought in, a true disciple. This is what made the betrayal possible. His heart wasn’t in lock step with Jesus. His betrayal was a transaction, in a relationship that had come to an end. Jesus was no longer beneficial to Judas. Time to cash out.
In what ways do you have a GAP between how people perceive you and your spiritual walk and how you actually are? Do you have a false front, a facade?
Has there been a time when you have been tempted to “cash out” in your walk with Jesus? To not claim him?
NOT SO DIFFERENT FROM YOU AND I
There is a temptation though to make Judas into someone who is extremely different than we are. To make him out as the absolute worst kind of human, one that we could never be, when in reality, our hearts are all too frequently tempted to betray Jesus and replace him.
Perhaps the greatest thing we can take away from Judas’ kiss on Jesus’ cheek, is the examination of our own hearts. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said ‘Self-denial is a necessary aspect of a Christian life; that the cross is central to human understanding; and that, without the atonement, every one of us would stand forever in the role of Judas.”
What is it that you and I should be denying of more in our life? Surely many things, but ultimately, we should deny the desire to climb up and sit on the seat in which only Jesus should fill, the throne of our life.
When you think of the dark moment of Judas’ betrayal ask yourself this question… “Am I so different from him?” In the stillness of this Easter season, take the opportunity for true self examination. Have you become apathetic? Have you become self-righteous? Have you become complacent? Use the life of Judas as a mirror to look into, to examine and see if there are any similarities, then quickly turn, and look upon Jesus and know He loved, loves, and will continue to love you through all the ups and downs, mountain tops and valleys. So check your pockets, and make sure you don’t have any pieces of silver, not even 1. And if you do, well, this is the perfect time to confess it, and die with Jesus…and be raised to new life.