March 29 – Judas Betrays Jesus

Matthew 26:1-5 and 14 – 16    (NLT)

“When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “As you know, Passover begins in two days, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

At that same time the leading priests and elders were meeting at the residence of Caiaphas, the high priest, plotting how to capture Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the Passover celebration,” they agreed, “or the people may riot.”

“14 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests 15 and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?” And they gave him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.”

Mark 14:10-11   (NLT)

“Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests to arrange to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were delighted when they heard why he had come, and they promised to give him money. So he began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.”

Luke 22:1-6    (NLT)

“The Festival of Unleavened Bread, which is also called Passover, was approaching. The leading priests and teachers of religious law were plotting how to kill Jesus, but they were afraid of the people’s reaction.

Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve disciples, and he went to the leading priests and captains of the Temple guard to discuss the best way to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted, and they promised to give him money. So he agreed and began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus so they could arrest him when the crowds weren’t around.”

How could a person spend three years travelling with someone, and then join a plot to kill them?   Especially when that person is Jesus!  Judas would have seen all the miracles and the kind things Jesus did.  How do you decide a person like Jesus needs to die?

Perhaps a preconceived mindset might have clouded Judas’ thinking.  Some of the disciples thought that Jesus was the Messiah who would deliver Israel from Rome’s power and make Israel a mighty nation once again. They really didn’t completely understand what ‘kingdom’ Jesus was talking about when He talked about the kingdom of God.  So perhaps Judas was becoming disillusioned the longer he was with Jesus as his hopes to be an important person in this new regime were fading – you know, the rabid nationalist or political extreme.  

I’ve seen things like that happen when someone joins an organization with certain hopes and ideas in mind.  When they realize that they really hadn’t understood what was involved, they usually fade out of the picture.  Sometimes they’ll cause some dissention if they voice their criticisms a lot. But murder is rather ‘over the top’.  

The Jewish religious leaders were becoming more upset by the day, and they were plotting how to get rid of this horrible person who criticized them and seemed so popular with the people.  But they were also afraid of what the people might do if they made too public a move.  So I think they were really excited when Judas showed up and said he’d like to help them.  Imagine!  An insider on their team!  They ended up paying Judas thirty pieces of silver – the price of a slave (Exodus 21: 32).  

I read some commentaries on these verses, and I thought I’d post some really interesting comments from Inter Varsity Press Commentary.  They give some good insight into what happened when Judas decided to betray Jesus – much better than what I can do.

“Judas represents all those who follow Jesus only for what they can get from him, not for how they can serve him: eventually they may decide that the cost of serving him is higher than it is worth.” 

And:

“The only obstacle to the leaders’ desire to get Jesus is the people. Their fear of a popular backlash makes them cautious. It does not look as if anything will happen in this holiday period.

But things change rapidly once Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot. Luke’s statement reveals a behind-the-scene actor in this drama. Judas does not act alone. Deception has infiltrated the camp. The passage does not explain how this happened or what may have led to it. What is important is that the subsequent events occur because Satan has his way with Judas. No matter what the devil promises, Satan’s entry into one’s life is destructive; Luke has already offered the illustration of the Gerasene man (8:26-39). For when Satan enters a life, he leads the person in sinister directions.

So Judas goes to confer with the leadership, the chief priests and the officers. Religious officials and temple guards are in view here. Since someone from the inside is willing to betray Jesus, the leaders can now plan to intercept him in a more private setting than the crowd-filled temple region. They must be rubbing their hands together with anticipation: at last Jesus can be stopped. A sum of money is exchanged. … This is not an act of honor for Judas, for the betrayer makes sure he has more to gain than merely the removal of a messianic movement’s leader.

Judas’s involvement is doubly fortunate for the leadership. First, they can now seek Jesus away from the crowds and take him in private. Second, if trouble arises and their plans go disastrously wrong, they can make the case that one of Jesus’ own has been the cause of his downfall. Judas can be blamed for whatever follows. The leaders can say they have just done their duty in dealing with Jesus. So Judas’s offer simplifies matters greatly.

With the agreement in place, the leaders only need a good opportunity. Double-dealing has led to betrayal. The Jewish celebration of national salvation becomes the occasion for a plot to arrest and convict Jesus. Once again, irony abounds. The leadership steers a course of murder in the name of righteousness. Sin always distorts reality. In addition, a cosmic chess match comes to its crucial moment. Satan will put Jesus in check, but Jesus will make the final move that means checkmate.”

Our song for today is In Christ Alone by Owl City. This song is the opposite of what Judas believed.

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