This is one of my three talks for Good Friday at our three hour service today:
I wonder what comes to mind when you think of Judas? A betrayer, a traitor? He committed the most famous, evil, heinous, sin in history. Even his name has become synonymous with treachery. If anyone is caught as a traitor, we throw the insult ‘Judas’ at him.
It is interesting to see how Jesus describes him. At the moment of his betrayal, Jesus, full knowing that Judas was about to betray him, described him like this:
Matt 26: 50 “Friend, do what you came for”
Jesus called Judas friend. He chose him as one of his closest companions, one of the twelve, all the time knowing that Judas would be the one to betray Jesus. Jesus called Judas, friend.
So what was the motive for a friend of Jesus to betray him like this?
Some Christians throughout history have tried to explain his actions, saying that perhaps he always felt like an outsider as he came from a different place to the other disciples. Judas Iscariot – Ish-Kerioth – came from Kerioth whereas most of the other disciples were from Galllee.
Some have tried to claim that in betraying Jesus, Judas was simply trying to goad Jesus into action – forcing his hand to become the sort of Messiah that he wanted.
These suggestions may or may not be true but we cannot know. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest these.
So what do we know about Judas which might shed light on his motive?
We know he was the keeper of the money for the group, the society treasurer. He took note of what money came in and when it was spent. We’re also told he took money out of the money bag without anyone else knowing. (John 12:6)
We also see that he led the criticisms of Jesus when mary anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume (John 12). Mary had done a beautiful thing for Jesus but Judas was outraged. “That perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor!”. That way, at least, the money would have had to go into the bag before it could be dished out, and Judas could skim some off the top!
So, I wonder, was Judas’ motive money? Well, it was a bribe that finally convinced him to betray Jesus. Thirty silver pieces was a lot of money – a months wages. He (perhaps alongside Annas and Sapphira in Acts 5) is the materialist of the New Testament.
Materialism is the compulsion to hoard, the compulsion to spend and is characterised by anxiety or effort to get money or things.
The Catholic missionary, Francis Xavier commented that he had heard a great many number of confessions during his ministry. Some were for sins that he knew and others for those that he could barely imagine. In his ministry he had never come across someone who, of his own accord, confessed to being covetous.
Materialism is secretive. It is seldom admitted and often kept hidden. No one knew what Judas was doing when he took money out the bag. When Jesus said at the last supper that one of the disciples was going to betray Jesus, they all looked around at each other and asked themselves “could it be me?”. Judas had kept it a secret.
Materialism is secretive and it corrupts the heart of our being. It defiles us and enslaves us. It twists our values so that when moral decisions do come along, we are unable to make them. I wonder if we examine our hearts, whether we find any trace of Judas in us.
The most tragic thing is that Judas saw his sin – he recognised that he betrayed an innocent man. But when his conscience pricked him, he didn’t go to the cross or go back to Jesus, he tried to get out of the bribe by throwing down the money in the temple courts and the feet of those who had bribed him. He left to take his own life
and he never saw the cross.
The tragic thing is that Judas could have been restored. Peter, as we’ll hear about later also disowned Jesus, but he saw the cross and was present to be restored by Jesus
The new testament does not single Judas’ act out as the evil of all evils. if fact, it barely mentioned him outside the gospels. Judas is only mentioned by name in one other place, in Acts 1 when the apostles are selecting a replacement for him. The other NT writers hardly make any reference to him at all.
So Judas is not painted out as more evil than anyone else. That is because Judas’ sin is one that could grip any one of us. It was the ordinary course of evil, shown up for what it is in the light of Jesus and the Cross and taken to it’s logical and terrible conclusion.
In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah states :
We all, like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way. (53:6)
Isaiah claims that we have all journeyed far from the presence of God in our sin. But, he goes on, looking forward to the day of the cross:
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
In the cross, Judas’ evil is shown up for what it is. Our evil likewise. But in the cross also, that evil is laid upon Christ, and he restores us.