Summary: A consideration of how much we value Christ, using the betrayal of Judas as a starting point
Thirty pieces of silver, or as we would say it today, thirty silver coins. The traditional price of a slave. The fine that an owner of an ox would have to pay if it gored somebody to death. A decent sum of money for an ordinary, working member of the public. A decent sum of money, but not a fortune. Not enough to make somebody rich or to set them up for life.
That’s how important Jesus was to Judas. That’s the value that Judas placed upon Jesus. Thirty pieces of silver. A decent sum of money, but not a fortune.
There are all sorts of theories as to why Judas decided to betray his master. Some say that he was a political revolutionary and was disappointed when Jesus did not act in the way that he expected him to, and throw the Romans out. They say that because Jesus was not a political revolutionary, Judas wanted to get rid of him. In a similar vein, others say that it was more frustration than anger and disappointment, and, rather than wanting to get rid of Jesus, he thought that by having him arrested he would finally make Jesus act in the way that he thought a Messiah should. Either of these may have been part of the story, but both miss a very important factor. The Bible tells us exactly why Judas did what he did. He did it for the money. For the thirty pieces of silver. He went to the chief priests and haggled the best deal he could get. He wanted some money. We have just read of it in Matthew, but it was prophesied many years previously by the prophet Zechariah.
Read Zechariah 11:12-13
Judas was the treasurer of the Jesus and his disciples’ operation. He looked after the money and paid the bills. But then came a problem. He had his finger in the till. John tells us that he used to help himself to the common finances and that he was greedy for money. When a woman came and anointed Jesus with oil, the first thing that Judas thought about was the cost. It seems that love for money gradually took him over until he reached the point where he was prepared to sell his friend and master whom he used to love more than anything else.
A decent, but not huge, sum of money was all Judas valued Jesus at.
The other disciples valued him far more than thirty pieces of silver. They valued him more than money, more than popularity, more than safety, more than comfort. Most of them were put to death for him, showing that they valued Jesus more than even their own lives.
Today is Palm Sunday, when we remember how an excited crowd cheered Jesus on as he entered the city. They waved branches of trees in the air and throw their cloaks down on the ground in front of him. They eagerly yelled, "Hosanna, blessed is the man who comes in the name of the Lord" By their words and their actions on that day they were pledging him their allegiance, they were allying themselves with him. But where were they when he was arrested? Where were they when he was crucified? They said that Jesus was so special but they did not value him more than their own personal safety and popularity. They cheered him when it was fashionable to cheer him, they supported him when it was good for their reputations, but when it became damaging to their safety, their comfort, their careers they showed what they valued the most, and dropped him.
Then there was the rich young man who came to Jesus, but would not follow him because it would have meant giving up his wealth. Like Judas he valued money more highly than he did Jesus. Many of the people how followed Jesus in the early days of him ministry left him when his preaching became difficult and started discomforting them. They valued their comfort more than Jesus. We might have heard the story that Jesus told to illustrate this, about a farmer who sowed some seeds in his field. Some of the seeds started out well and grow and started developing, but then they were choked by weeds. They symbolized people who heard his word and obeyed, but valued their own lives, comfort and reputations more, so that when trouble and persecution, or riducle, came as a result of them following Jesus, they left him.
Other people genuinely love Jesus and believe he is who he says he is, but love and value their own lifestyles more. So that when a choice between life-style and Jesus or favourite sins and Jesus has to be made they do not choose Jesus, they choose what is more valuable to them.