Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Gospel Reflection Matthew 26:14-25

Today's Gospel reading gives us another account of Judas' betrayal of Jesus. Judas went to the chief priests and made a deal. Thirty pieces of silver. I have often wondered what prompted Judas' double-crossing. Sometimes the answer given is that it was simply part of God's providential plan. After all, who can plumb the depths of human depravity? True enough. But if Judas freely chose to betray, then he was likely not thinking about acting in accord with divine providence. There must have been something else going on. 

Perhaps Judas was fed up with Jesus not taking up the sword of the expected Messiah. Judas may have been zealous (but not a Zealot, per se) for the restoration of Israel and the removal of pagan occupiers. We get hints of this latent expectation in Jesus last hours, when Peter strikes the servant of the high priest with a sword (John 18:10) and in Acts 1 when the disciples ask Jesus if now is the time when the Kingdom will be restored to Israel. When Judas realized Jesus was not going to be the conquering Messiah, he abandoned the cause. 

Or perhaps greed got to Judas. The Gospels tell us he was a thief (John 12:6). He saw an opportunity and gave into the temptation to have more. We later learn that he bought some property (Acts 1:18). The trouble with this motive is that Judas did not get rich from his treachery. There was symbolism in the priests offering 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13). It was the price of a slave. More or less an insulting offer. This makes the Judas' act all the more despicable. Something more sinister was afoot. 

Maybe Judas was being vengeful. There may have been a slight, where Judas was insulted and he sought a way to get back at Jesus and the other disciples. In any event, Judas more than likely knew the arrest of Jesus would mean his death. To hand over Jesus would seal his fate. 

Based on the calculated deviousness of his actions, I think Judas grew to hate Jesus because Jesus was not who Judas wanted Him to be. Judas spent significant time around Jesus. He knew his rabbi well. When Jesus did the signs and wonders, it captivated Judas. When Jesus taught with authority, Judas was enraptured. But then something happened. Judas' cast his gaze outward from Jesus to other things. He was not satisfied with what Jesus was. He did not want what Jesus wanted. He started to nod along to the teachings as his mind drifted. He started to roll his eyes whenever another leper came to be healed. He grew weary and calloused to the work of God. He therefore turns his heart and mind away from Christ and looks for a prime opportunity to abandon ship. 

Galatians 6:9 tells us to not grow weary in well-doing. Hebrews 12:1-3 says to run the race before us with perseverance, looking to Jesus as the founder and perfecter of our faith. St. Paul writes about fighting the good fight and finishing the race (2 Timothy 4:7-8). As we see what happened to Judas, whatever it was, he gave up hope. Let us follow the exhortation of the Scriptures and do the opposite; cling fast to the eternal hope that we have. No matter how difficult things get, we have examples of those who have gone before us. We have a great cloud of witnesses. We know that it will be hard, but more than worthwhile. Let us not get close to the Lord only to draw back. 

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