The Greatest Betrayal

Matthew 26: 14-25
Isa 50: 4-9a / Psa 69

But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.
(Matthew 26:24)

This Lenten season we confide
The shameful sins we can’t deny:
Anger, lust, gluttony or pride…
Who betrayed You, Lord? “It was I.”

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 hand Him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand Him over. On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’ “So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, He said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” They were very sad and began to say to Him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?” Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” Then Judas, the one who would betray Him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “They are your words.” (Matthew 26:14-25)

Reflection

What could have led Judas Iscariot to behave the way that he did? Just before the Last Supper, Judas witnessed what must have finally triggered his betrayal of the Master. While they were in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman had brought in a jar of very expensive perfumed oil and poured it on Jesus’ head. The apostles (especially Judas) had reacted negatively to this waste, thinking there was no special occasion for it. But Jesus told them, “She did it to prepare me for burial” (Mt. 26:8-12). Quite recently, he also recalled Jesus saying, “In two day’s time it will be Passover, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified” (Mt. 26:2). Judas considered himself a practical man. His vision of glory in the company of the Messiah had faded with the fatalistic words of Jesus. It was time to cut clean. But not without making some money out of the situation. After all, didn’t Jesus Himself predict that He would be handed over to the authorities? He probably justified his treachery by thinking that he was merely helping along to fulfill the Lord’s prophecy. In truth, it was his weak faith that handed him over to the power of Satan.

The tragedy in Judas’ life was not only due to his inordinate love for money, but also to his lack of faith in his Master’s plan and his willful desire to strike out on his own. If he had only believed Jesus’ words that He would rise again from the dead (Mt.16:21, 17:23, & 20:19), who knows if God would have altered the course of his destiny? God can make even our selfish motives turn out for the good (Rom 8:28) if only in the end we see and follow His design in our life. Friends of ours joined our Brotherhood “in exchange” for our joining their multi-level marketing group. They later realized how they had bartered their faith “for thirty pieces of silver”, but were still grateful for the unique way the Spirit had led them to the renewal of their faith.

This Gospel passage emphasizes not only the virtue of obedience, just as the apostles obeyed Jesus in preparing the Passover meal, but the importance of being faithful to discern the will of God. Judas, being the treasurer of the group, was supposed to enjoy the Lord’s and the apostles’ trust, but because of his inordinate love for money, the root of evil, and his lack of faith and trustworthiness, he went down in history as the symbol of man’s greatest betrayal. And yet Jesus was trying to make him change his mind when He said, “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him (even without Judas’ treachery, God’s plan would push through). But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” In a subtle way, Jesus was trying to change Judas’ mind. But His dire warning fell on deaf ears, even when our Lord confirmed his treachery: “They are your words.” We can never hide our sins from God. But He loves us so much that He’ll do everything to make us change our minds and hearts and repent of our betrayal of Him.

Loving Father, may the example of Jesus’ fidelity to Your plan lead us to accept without doubt or fear Your will in our life, trusting fully that in spite of all hardships and trials in life, or because of them, we will become better followers of Christ. Amen.

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