Summary: Judas’ betrayal of Jesus serves as a wake-up call of how close we can come to God’s kingdom and still be lost.
How Could Anyone Betray His Best Friend?
From Walter Wangerin, The Book of God, pp. 765-767.
As he went, more and more people threw their garments down in the road before him. It became a garment of clothing and praise. People ran back to groves of trees and cut branches, then rushed forward and spread them also in the way. A vast, laughing multitude surrounded him now, some running ahead, some following. Excitement raced from heart to heart like fire in a dry field. They shouted and sang songs.
Then, as they were descending the mount to the gates of Jerusalem, the voices of thousands of people all became one voice, one massive music, singing, Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!
Judas was delirious. The city gates began to pour forth another mass of people equal to the first. Those who came out converged with those who were coming in, so the singing was doubled and the roar of it cracked the high blue vaults of heaven. It seemed that all Judea was spiraling down to this sole place for the praise of Jesus of Nazareth. Oh, what a mighty army! Now truly, the very legions of Rome must tear off their greaves and beg for mercy.
Certain rulers with bright red faces had also come out of the city. They fought their way to Jesus on the colt.
“Teacher!” they screamed, “control your disciples! Tell them to shut up!”
But Jesus shouted, “I tell you, if these were silent the very stones would cry out!”
Judas laughed with magnificent glee. He couldn’t help himself. He was sailing on a sea of victory, surely, surely! And the water was the people, and the ship was his Lord, and the wind was behind them, surely!
Shaking with laughter, seeking quick camaraderie, he glanced up at Jesus – and suddenly there descended to the earth a horrible silence. Or so it seemed. Judas felt as if he and Jesus were alone beneath a green sea where there was no sound but the voice of Jesus only.
Because Jesus was crying!
He was not rejoicing in the public acclaim nor glorying in the advent of his kingdom now. He was crying! He was gazing at the stones of the city and allowing tears to run down his face.
Was Judas the only one who could hear the tragic sobbing of the Master? He wanted to grab Jesus and shake him. Don’t lose heart now! Judas howled in his heart.
Jerusalem, he heard Jesus saying, O Jerusalem, would that even today you knew the things that make for peace. But they are hid from your eyes. For the days shall come when our enemies will surround you and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you. They will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.
For just a moment Judas suffered a stark panic. The words might be words of a defiant messiah, but the tone was defeat. The tone was melancholy. Judas screamed out loud, “The kingdoms of the world, Master! The jewels of creation! Their power and their glory are all yours, if you will fight for them!”
Immediately it broke the spell: the thunderous songs of the people rushed in again, and Judas heard roarings on every side. He and Jesus once more were riding the great surge of royal power through the city itself! They were at the very gates of the Temple.
Jesus dismounted. The Lord went afoot, now, majestic and wrathful, through the Triple Huldah Gate in the southern wall of the Temple, his golden eyes fixed and flaming. The disciples could scarcely keep up with him.
Then Judas saw where Jesus was going. The booths. The hundred shops in the southern portico. The tables, the selling of animals for sacrifice, the money exchange, commerce in the precincts of the Temple.
As he approached the busy marketplace, Jesus twisted three cords into a whip. Then he cried in a piercing voice, “Away! Away!” and began to crack his furious whip over the heads of the merchants.
Judas trembled with pleasure. Now it was starting. This was Messiah! Jesus, hurling fire to earth! Jesus, the howl of God, whose voice is a rod of iron: Judgment has come, O you people! For look how the Master flings to the pavement the coins of the money changers! How he tips their tables over! And those who sell sheep and oxen and pigeons – them he drives out of the Temple, crying accusations like a Zealot: ”Away with these things! Away! It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer. But you have made it a den of thieves. Away!”