Judas Cuts a Deal

Some Thoughts on Spy Wednesday   8 April 2020

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (Facebook Live)

North Little Rock, AR

The Rev. Carey Stone

Today we begin the descent into the depths of darkness that will culminate on Good Friday. We are presented with a picture of a human of whom Jesus said: “it would have been better if he had never been born” – Judas son of Iscariot. His name never fails to bring about a visceral reaction as we can never forget his treacherous act of betrayal. How could someone walk with Jesus, eat with Jesus, pray with Jesus, listen to Jesus’ sermons, minister with Jesus in public meetings, and witness Jesus’ miracles turn to the dark side? Why did he on the Wednesday before Maundy Thursday secretly meet with the Sanhedrin and concoct a scheme of betrayal that would bring Jesus into the custody of the State? Mention is made in John’s gospel of the devil entering into the heart of Judas to betray Jesus. He being the treasurer for the disciples, was offered and took the 30 pieces of silver (about $200 in today’s economy) for his trouble, which he would soon bitterly regret so much so that he gave it back.

So besides ‘the devil making him do it’ what else could have driven him to take such a wrong turn in his earthly pilgrimage? I believe the same thing that split up Jesus and Judas is the same thing that splits many relationships to this day, unspoken but strongly held expectations.  Jesus, ultimately proved to Judas to be a profound disappointment. Scholars have speculated as to what some of his motivations might have been. Ambition is a pretty good theory. Judas, being from a backwater town wanted to “go places” and saw Jesus as his ticket. Jesus, was going places, and Judas knew it. Judas was on the front row for the miracles, for the crowds of thousands who would gather to hear him teach and preach.

However, as time went on Jesus’ sermons began to shift to talk of his impending death. We remember that Peter certainly had a negative reaction to this to the point that Jesus looked at him and said “Get behind me, Satan.”

Judas’ reaction was much more of a slow burn but proved to be way more deadly because it simmered just beneath his consciousness. Perhaps Judas saw an opportunity to force Jesus’ hand. If he were arrested, he could then use all of his power to destroy the power of Rome and set up his earthly kingdom.  Judas, assumed as one of the 12 that he would be in Jesus’ cabinet of leaders and would rule alongside him.

But this was nothing more than a new version of an old song, the same song and 47th verse. Human ego gets in the driver’s seat – and it tells us that “we know what’s best for us,” and that should include upward mobility, a time and place where there’s going to be more power, money, and prestige. Herein lies Judas’ disappointment and ours, the Way of Christ, as it turns out, is the way of downward mobility, towards a humbler, and simpler life – once again, just backwards to the ways of the world.

From a distance it’s easy to judge Judas harshly, but upon closer examination we may discover that we have more in common with him than we would care to admit. Judas represents our self-centered ambitions, the parts of us who, on what is often an unconscious level, are willing to abuse, and betray others in order for us to get ahead. Today on Spy Wednesday, Judas serves as a mirror to reflect that truly all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. But, and thank God there is a but here, God had a plan, that even the darkest of human hearts cannot overthrow.

 

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