I am mediating on this meditation from the Scripture Union. I invite you to examine yourself with me today.
Judas Hangs Himself
27 Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. 2 So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.
3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4 “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”
“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”
5 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.
6 The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7 So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. 8 That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, 10 and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
If someone who was privileged enough to work miracles in the name of Jesus could actually betray his master, what does that say about the half-committed believer in an average western society today?
Has history treated Judas unfairly, as the supreme traitor? Medieval artists have depicted him with the money bag, distanced from the others, clothed in yellow for gold and cowardice, his halo faded or missing. He often has grotesque features, an evil spirit entering his mouth or
on his back as a bird or beast. Matthew tells us little, identifying Judas merely as one of the twelve and describing the betrayal as a financial arrangement. However, Matthew does provide the important information that Judas is remorseful. Suicide suggests perhaps self-loathing at the awful consequences of his actions.
Greed is undoubtedly one motive for Judas’s actions, and he may have intended to force Jesus’ hand to become the powerful warrior Messiah many looked for, expecting Jesus to use his power to defeat the Roman occupiers and set up the rule of God. Probably, Jesus’ disciples at some point have anticipated, even hoped, that Jesus would forcefully establish his kingdom. Who of us has never wished for God’s violent intervention?
What I find hardest to deal with is that Judas was a disciple of Jesus and a witness to all that Jesus said and did. It is hard for me to think that someone who spent privileged years in Jesus’ company could betray him. It makes me ask questions about myself and any of us who strive to follow Jesus. Judas’s story is one of failure: human failure to resist evil and embrace God’s gift of love and life. In Jesus’ death and rising, evil is defeated but the shadow of his betrayal lingers because, despite that victory, people must still choose. The choice should be simple, but Judas’s story shows that it is not. Judas was one of Jesus’ close disciples, included in the promises of life. Yet despite that, he chose the way of death.