What would drive Judas to betray Christ?
Wednesday of the Passion Week is often called “Silent Wednesday.” The dominant thought about this day was that it was on this day that Judas arranged the betrayal of Jesus. It seems so appropriate that the man who betrayed the Messiah sent from God would receive silence as his reward.
Judas Iscariot is a tragic figure.
The name “Judas” is a derivative of “Judah” which means, “Jehovah leads.” Is there a more paradoxical name given in history? We also know that Judas was from land of Judah (southern Israel) from the fact that his last name is a geographic reference. Judas’ last name is Iscariot, which is a compound word made up of “ish” (man) and “Kerioth” – a city in southern Judea (see Joshua 15:25). Therefore, Judas is the “man from Kerioth.” Out of the twelve disciples, Judas was the only disciple who did not come from the Galilee region. Traditionally, the area of Judah was known for its affluence and, therefore, Judas was most likely from a more affluent community than the rest of the disciples. Could it be that the background of Judas was given charge of overseeing the treasury for the disciples (see John 12:6). It is also interesting to note that all of the other disciples were somehow connected to one another prior to following Christ (a brother, friend, family member, etc.), but the connection Judas had with Jesus is a mystery. How and when did he begin to follow Jesus? What was the circumstance in which Judas chose to follow Jesus? We simply do not know.
Judas seemed very spiritual.
Let’s consider Judas prior to his betrayal of Jesus. You would have seen Judas healing people. You would have seen Judas pledging allegiance to Christ when the crowd chose to leave (John 6:66-71). When Jesus spoke of betrayal at the Last Supper, not one of the disciples seemed to consider Judas to be the one who would betray Him (see John 13:21-25). As a matter of fact, Judas is never mentioned by any of the other disciples as being deficient in his faith in any way. Other than a passing rebuke by Christ (something that all of the disciples faced at some point as they followed Jesus), Judas was a master of hypocrisy (c.f. John 6:64).
It seems that the root-issue that fueled the betrayal of Judas was money. Or, to be more specific, Judas was an idolater. When Judas began to scheme how he could satisfy himself through betraying Jesus, he entered into the vibrant worship himself over the worship of Jesus.
Note: The Apostle Paul attributes sin as functional self-worship: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry (Col. 3:5) In a real way, the world if filled with two types of people: people that worship themselves as evidenced through acts of self-obsession and people who worship God as evidenced through their devotion to Jesus Christ.
Judas had followed Christ for three years. Judas had endured persecution, hunger, endless talks from Jesus around the fire, a life abandoned to the cause of the Kingdom of Heaven, and for what? At the start of this last week of Christ, Jesus was, again, speaking of leaving and death (see Matt.26:2). Was Jesus playing on killing himself? Was Jesus anticipating some type of martyrs death? Surely Judas must have begun to wonder, “Is this it?” “Is this all that is going to happen?” Judas must have wondered how He could redeem the three years he had put in. He was a known follower of Christ and that type of reputation would surely follow him. What would he say to his friends and family back home about these past three years? Judas had to face the reality that he had hitched his wagon to Christ and now it was clear Jesus was not going to restore the powerful Kingdom that had been long anticipated. Judas would soon be on the run from the religious leaders Judaism and maybe even branded with sedition toward the Roman Empire. Judas needed a nest egg and fast.
It is not a stretch to consider that since Judas had seen Jesus face a hostile mob and simply walk away when they tried to kill Him (see Luke 4:28-30), he could rationalize that betraying Christ would lead to one more opportunity for Jesus to escape. However, this time, he could be the richer for it – thirty pieces of silver richer! Judas quickly made his way to those who would pay the most – the religious leaders who hated Jesus with a passion (see Matt.12:14). It must have seemed like the perfect plan! Judas could have even flirted with seeing how God maybe even using him to force Jesus to take a stand. Could Judas have thought: “Hey, maybe this is exactly what Jesus needs to get over His fixation with death and dying.”
Judas was self-deluding.
Tragically, Judas did not realize a fundamental problem with sin – it creates an alternate reality based on personal desire. When Judas began to strategize how to sin against Christ he entered into a world of personal delusion. He began to forge his own reality based on visualizing how he could satisfy what he really worshiped, money. While we don’t know Judas personally, we do know that every soul makes decisions based on what it values most. It was on this day that Judas constructed an imaginary world in which He would start a new life. The plan must have seemed so easy, so perfect.
The world today is replete with people who think they can get away with something, but only find themselves wondering how they could have been so wrong or, even worse, trying to figure out how to not get caught the next time! For Judas there was no next time. Judas was living in the moment. Judas did get an outcome for his betrayal; Judas killed himself and his name is now forever associated with those who are spiritually and morally bankrupt.