The Greatest Betrayal

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

[They] began to say to Him one after the other, Surely not I, Lord?
(Matthew 26:22)

This Lenten season we confide
The shameful sins that we can’t deny:
Anger, lust, gluttony or pride...
Who has 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 not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you.” (Matthew 26:14-25)


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 at 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 before he could make 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 the end, 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. Simon Peter also had his failings (three times at that), but unlike Judas, he repented, and in the end made a resolve to follow the Master to the very end of his life by also dying on a cross.

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 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.

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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