I wish Judas hadn’t killed himself.

Judas Iscariot
Image from: http://ubdavid.org/bible/characters3/characters3-11.html

You know the Judas I am talking about. Judas Iscariot. The disciple who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

The Bible tells us he killed himself. Every time I read through the accounts of Jesus’ betrayal, crucifixion, and resurrection,  I always find myself wishing that Judas hadn’t made the choice to end his own life.

But he did … and it bothers me.

~~~   ~~~   ~~~   ~~~   ~~~

Recently I read through Matthew 26 during my morning devotional.  This portion of Scripture gives quite a bit of insight into Judas.

For many years, I thought of Judas as some bumbling sort of soul, the kind of person who could easily be duped. In regards to his betrayal of Jesus, I assumed perhaps he was manipulated by the Jewish leaders for purposes much greater than anything he could aspire to do on his own.

Maybe he was a loser looking for friends in high places.

Perhaps he was a people-pleaser who couldn’t figure out a way to say no.

I wondered if he might be a young guy just looking for validation.

Whatever his personality type, I always figured Judas sort of just “fell” into an unintended role as part of the Pharisee’s plan to get rid of Jesus.

According to Matthew 26, nothing could be further from the truth.

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Turns out, it was Judas who went to the chief priests.

Then one of the Twelve – the one called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you.” ~Matthew 26:14-15

It wasn’t the priests who were actively looking for an insider willing to betray Jesus. Rather, Judas was the one who took the first step. He set the betrayal in motion himself.

For the love of Christ, why did Judas do that?

Some people might use that phrase flippantly, but I’m serious.

Judas had just spent three years of his life walking all over Judea with Jesus. He had seen all of those miracles. He was there when the lame man walked, when Lazarus was raised from the dead, and when Jesus walked on the water. He had seen the miraculous healings. From the Sermon on the Mount to the feeding of the 5000, Judas heard and saw it all.

Didn’t he grow to love Jesus during that time? If so, then why would Judas betray Him?

Maybe it was …

For the love of money.

There’s no other reason that makes sense. Especially when you consider everything the Bible has to say about Judas and money.

You don’t have to dig around in the Gospels very far to figure out that money must have been extremely important to Judas. He was, after all, the treasurer for Jesus and the disciples, which meant he was in charge of the money bag.

We also know from Scripture that Judas was prone to helping himself to the money that was in that treasury. (John 12: 6) I can’t imagine that Jesus and his disciples had a lot of money to begin with, but Judas was sneaking out small amounts of it here and there for his own use. I’m sure he thought what he took would never be missed, but it appears that the others were aware of his tendency to take that which wasn’t rightfully his.

It seems that Judas had a problem money.

So money-loving Judas decided to go see the chief priests to barter for Jesus. The chief priests offered Judas 30 pieces of silver in exchange for Jesus’ betrayal. I have always assumed those coins must have been worth quite a large sum. But (as we have already seen), my assumptions aren’t always correct.

I did some research because I was curious just how much money Judas earned as Jesus’ betrayer.  And what I learned is that Judas was most likely paid with Tyrian shekels, which was the type of currency used to pay the Temple taxes. In those days, every Jewish male over the age of 20 paid a Temple tax, which was the equivalent of two days wages or 1/2 shekel.

So if 1/2 shekel was worth two days wages, then 1 shekel would be worth four days wages. Do the math and 30 shekels of silver would be worth 120 days wages. Therefore the coins Judas received in exchange for the betrayal of Christ would be worth approximately one third of a year’s salary.

Not too shabby.

Unless you read the previous passage in Matthew 26 … .

Start reading in Matthew 26:6 and you’ll come across the story of the woman who anointed Jesus with the fragrant oil. It’s another very familiar passage. According to the Gospels, Mary (sister of Lazarus and Martha) came into a dinner party and poured out an entire alabaster jar of oil on Jesus’ head.

This oil was very costly. In fact, in another Gospel’s version of this same event, Judas himself tells us exactly how much this oil was worth:

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarius, and given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” ~John 12:4-5

Later in the passage, we learn that Judas wasn’t known for being a man who cared about the poor and needy. His life of sneaking and stealing that which didn’t belong to him was known by those in Jesus’ inner circle. They recognized in this situation that Judas wasn’t concerned about money being used to help others.

So what was Judas concerned about? Why did he protest?

To Judas, anointing Jesus with an entire alabaster jar of fragrant oil was a nothing more than pointless extravagance. He didn’t see the oil being used in a sacrificial act of worship from a loving heart. When the precious oil was poured over Jesus, Judas could only see a frivolous waste of money. Money that could have lined the bag in which he freely dipped his hand.

It’s interesting to me that these two passages can be found side-by-side in the same chapter of Matthew.

Worship and betrayal.

Sacrifice and greed.

A humble heart seeking to worship the Messiah, and a prideful heart seeking after self-gain.

Mary anointed Jesus with oil. As she broke the bottle, out flowed the precious oil which could have been sold for an entire year’s salary. Yet, she knew the worth of the oil couldn’t begin to compare to the worth of Jesus Christ.

But to Judas, Jesus Himself was worth only about one third of a year’s salary.

Perhaps more accurately … a third of a year’s salary and his own soul.

Image result for judas betrays jesus
An illustration from a mid-19th century print showing Judas bestowing the betrayer’s kiss on Jesus while Roman soldiers look on.                             © STEFANO BIANCHETTI/CORBIS

Most Christians are familiar with how Jesus sent Judas away from the Passover table. Later, Judas led the Roman soldiers to the Garden of Gethsemane, where he betrayed Jesus with a kiss.  Jesus was bound by Roman guards and led away like a criminal.

I wonder what Judas was expecting as he stood in the garden and watched Jesus being led away. Did he have any idea that Jesus would be condemned to die?

The gospel of Matthew (chapter 27, verses 3-5) tells us the once Jesus was sentenced to crucify, Judas was “seized with remorse.” He actually went to the chief priests to return the money.

“I’ve have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” ~Matthew 27:4

The priests didn’t care about Judas’ admission of guilt or confession of Jesus’ innocence.

And Matthew’s gospels says that Judas threw the money into the temple and went away to hang himself.

And this is what boggles my mind … if Judas knew he had done something terribly wrong, why didn’t he confess it to Jesus? Why didn’t he seek forgiveness from the one he wronged? After three years, didn’t he know the heart of Jesus? Didn’t he know he could pray to God and receive mercy?

So what kept him from seeking out forgiveness?

Pride?

Probably. It’s what keeps most of us from going to God and seeking forgiveness. At least, pride is what most often keeps me from admitting my sin.

This is why I wish Judas didn’t hang himself, because feeling remorse for our sins doesn’t do us any good. It never has. Back in Genesis in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve sinned. The very first thing they experienced was remorse for their actions.  They tried to hide their sin from God by sewing clothes from fig leaves.

Only their remorseful actions didn’t work then.

It didn’t work for Judas.

It doesn’t work for us now either.

So the lesson from Judas is to recognize that remorse for our wrongs doesn’t solve the problem. There needs to be more than just regret over our sins.

We need forgiveness, which comes through the confession of our sins to God.

We need repentance, which is simply the act of turning away from the wrongs we have done as we commit to live our life according to God’s way. It doesn’t mean we never sin again. Far from it! It just means we look to Jesus as our example as we strive to live our life according to God’s way.

I believe if Judas had confessed to Jesus and asked for it, he would have been forgiven. There would have been no need to hang himself in shame.  He would have received grace and mercy. He would have the promise of everlasting life.

Because that’s what the cross is all about.

For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. ~Romans 6:7-11

So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. ~John 8:36

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