Summary: Why did Judas Iscariot betray Jesus - was there an ulterior motive? Did Judas Iscariot see something in Jesus that the other disciples missed? Was Judas Iscariot trying to kick-start Jesus into action as the real and promised Messiah, the expected Messiah
John 12: 1-8
Today’s gospel from John is set in holy week, the anointing of Jesus with precious ointment – a poignant scene; but Judas reacted that it was a terrible waste, the ointment could have been sold and the money given to the poor.
John's comment is that Judas said this, not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, he kept the common purse and stole from its contents.
Judas plays a leading role in the passion of Jesus.
The problem that the Jewish authorities had, was how to get Jesus into their hands without a riot, for Jesus was very popular with the common people.
It was Judas who solved their problem.
So Judas on that Thursday night knew where Jesus would go; there was limited space in Jerusalem and very few or no gardens where Jesus could go.
Well-to-do people had their private gardens on the Mount of Olives and Judas knew that some unknown friend had given Jesus the courtesy of their garden during the Passover season, and Jesus would go there.
So Judas led the Jewish authorities there.
At the time of Passover there would be a full moon, and the night would be almost as clear as the day.
But with such a crowd there was always the chance of confusion.
So Judas had arranged a signal, so that he might identify Jesus to the soldiers and to the Temple police.
When a disciple met a Rabbi, it was the custom for him to place his hands on his master's shoulders and to kiss him…… That was to be the sign.
And then tragedy engulfed Judas as Matthew tells us Judas went back to the priests, told them that he had sinned against innocent blood, and begged them to take their money back.
When they wouldn’t, he flung the 30 pieces of silver back at them, and went out and hanged himself.
Is there any significance in the 30 pieces of silver?
The OT prophet Zechariah worked as a shepherd and when he went for his pay they gave him 30 pieces of silver, which he sarcastically calls a “handsome price” because it was such a small amount, the price paid for a slave’s accidental death.
The employers meant to insult Zechariah with this amount of money and returning the insult, God tells Zechariah to “throw it to the potter,” and Zechariah tossed the money into the house of the Lord to be given to the potter.
Judas in his turn was so overcome with guilt for betraying Jesus, and, fulfilling Zechariah’s vivid prophecy, that he threw the 30 silver coins into the temple.
30 pieces of silver, the compensation for a dead slave that is what the Jewish Authorities considered Jesus to be worth.
The Jewish leaders used the thirty pieces of silver to buy a field from a potter, again as Zechariah had predicted; it was in that field that Judas hanged himself.
But why did he do it? Why did Judas betray Jesus?
None of the other apostles realised what was going on in Judas' heart and mind except Jesus.
Unlike the other disciples that called Jesus “Lord,” Judas never used this title for Jesus and instead called him “Rabbi,” which acknowledged Jesus as nothing more than a teacher.
While other disciples at times made great professions of faith and loyalty, Judas never did so and appears to have remained silent.
As early as the feeding of the 5000 Jesus saw in Judas' heart - the germ of the traitor’s spirit (John 6:70,71).
It is thought by some that Judas was a violent, fanatical nationalist, pledged to use any means to drive the Romans from Israel, possibly he was a Zealot.
The Jews never ceased to believe that they were God’s Chosen People and the idea of holding worldly power and domination.
It may be that Judas saw in Jesus his dream fulfilled, with his powers of speech and action, the leader of a band of freedom fighters.
The Zealots were ruthless and determined in their fight with Rome to free their country from the oppressor and they believed that a Messiah, a warrior king would come to lead them to victory.
The parallels today are with ISIS but they weren’t so barbaric but it’s strange how the English language has adopted the word Zealous in our vocabulary as someone who is: ‘To be filled with eagerness and ardent interest in the pursuit of something.’
But NOT at the expense of human life and NOT at any cost!
It was that dream that Judas attached himself to Jesus; and it was that dream that collapsed.
Judas, like most people at the time, believed the Messiah was going to overthrow Roman occupation and take a position of power ruling over the nation of Israel.