The Hands of Betrayal

In the Words of Judas

Painting of Judas Iscariot Judas Iscariot (between 1886 and 1894) By James Tissot - Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, Public Domain
Judas Iscariot (between 1886 and 1894) By James Tissot – Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2008, Public Domain

My name is Judas Iscariot. Yes, I’m the one who betrayed the Master. All four of the Gospels record my sin. No where is my name mentioned without some condemning addendum—”the traitor,” “the one who betrayed Him.”

I hadn’t planned on betraying Jesus. It just worked out that way. To be sure, we had our differences—usually over money. He just didn’t have a head for figures. He put me in charge of the funds for the whole group. I was responsible for the day-to-day expenses of thirteen men. None of us had any regular source of income. We just pooled all our financial resources when He called us. Then, He turned the purse over to me. Me—Judas Iscariot! Not the taxman Matthew who was so much better at figures!

Do you have any idea what it’s like to try and balance a budget for thirteen when the only income is an occasional shekel or drachma from a grateful follower who was poorer than we were? When that woman poured that expensive ointment on His head at Simon’s house, well, that was the last straw! Here we didn’t even have two shekels to rub together, and she was wasting this priceless lotion!

One of the others took the words right out of my mouth. Why this waste? …this perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor. Under my breath, I agreed and added, “Yeah, it could have been given to us!

I’ve Had ENOUGH!

But, the Master didn’t seem to care that we were poor and He even praised the woman for her thoughtful gift! That was it as far as I was concerned. I heard the high priest wanted to arrest Jesus because He was creating such an uproar. So, I figured maybe I could pick up a little bit to put food in our mouths and maybe teach the Master to pay a little more attention to the practical things.

I didn’t know they wanted to kill Him. I thought they would just lock Him up for a while, or maybe whip Him, then let Him go. When I heard they had condemned Him, I tried to take the money back. Matthew, the tax collector, knew I tried to return the thirty pieces of silver. He wrote it down in his book! But, they laughed at me. Caiaphas and Ananias and the others said they didn’t care if Jesus was innocent. They wanted Him out of the way. Now they had Him, and they weren’t about to let him go.

I didn’t mean for it to go this far. I didn’t want Jesus to be killed and only wanted to teach Him a lesson! But something went wrong. Terribly wrong. They’re going to crucify Him tomorrow, and I can’t live with that. My hands have betrayed innocent blood. It was an accident, but it’s too late to stop it now….Excuse me, I have to go….

How Dare You! Traitor…

All through my childhood and adolescence, I despised this sniveling coward named Judas Iscariot. He was a traitor, a turncoat, the type of man who would sell his own mother if the price was right. I always pictured him as a weasel of a man who betrayed the One he had called “Master” out of sheer spite—or cowardice. My mental image of this man Judas pigeonholed him as a “first class creep.”

A leather bag with 30 pieces of silver spilled out on top of a parchment with Arabic writingAs I got older and understood more about the betrayal of Jesus by one who claimed allegiance to Him, the more I detested this “Benedict Arnold.” When I learned that this formerly faithful follower had sold out his best friend for what amounted to a mere $2.60, I saw red! How could anyone who dared to call himself a friend betray someone for such a paltry sum? It was an unthinkable, unacceptable atrocity!

Yet now, as the years have passed, I’ve mellowed  somewhat. As each Lent approaches and I again meditate on the people and the events of that final week of Christ’s life, I often find myself wearing the sandals of this one or that one who played a pivotal role in the waning moments of Jesus’ earthly existence. But, in the years that I have given thought and expression to the Passion Week players, I realize that I seldom stood in the sandals of the man called Judas Iscariot. Few of us do. Even fewer of us want to.

Well, I Never…

I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because we, like countless other “church-reared” Christians, were brought up to view Judas as the villain—a “sinister Sam” type of character who preyed upon the innocent. Maybe it was because we can’t picture ourselves as a betrayer. A denier like Peter, perhaps even a judge like Pilate—yes. But I would never betray my Lord like Judas did. Would you?

We condemn Judas for his cowardly, almost greedy actions. We relegate him to a fate worse than death for his betrayal kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane. Somehow, it only seems right that he took his own life. In Passion plays and Easter skits, no one wants to be the dastardly Judas. Yet, I wonder…if we HAD been there in Judas’ place, would we have acted any differently?

Would we have been irritated by the extravagance of the woman with the alabaster jar of ointment? Would we have been tempted by the rumor of a reward for the arrest of Jesus? Like Judas, would we have believed the priests only wanted to chastise the Master for His teachings and His healings? Would we have so willingly accepted the bag of silver coins, and then, when we saw the Master condemned to death, guiltily tried to return the “blood money”–ultimately flinging it to the floor when Caiaphas and his crew laughed at us?


We Are Just Like Judas

A black background with carved wooden hands of betrayal, upturnedHe’s no different than us. He accepted a bribe to deny his faith, to turn against his Lord. A paltry sum—thirty pieces of silver—the equivalent of $2.60. But, did he really betray Jesus for any more of a mediocre payment than we sometimes do?

What about the young person or adult who “sells out” in order to be popular, well-liked, to “fit in” with the “right crowd?” What about the times we compromise our allegiance to Christ in order to “get ahead” or to impress someone we think we love? Have you ever given in to the temptation to do something that was, perhaps, a bit shady or questionable because you were sure “it wouldn’t hurt anything?” Did you ever wish you could take back something you said or undo something you did when you saw the results of your words or actions? Then you know how Judas felt when he heard the Master had been sentenced to death.

As Lent progresses and we look at other key figures in the final week of Jesus’ life, let us examine ourselves. Are there times when we are like them in our actions or attitudes? How about our motives or lack of faith? Are there times when we, like Judas, betray our Lord and turn our backs on our faith for a piddling sum or a somewhat questionable reason? Are there times in your life—in my life—when we, too, might have to say, “My name is Judas Iscariot. My hands are the hands of betrayal.”

Scripture Used in Today’s Message – Matthew 26:6-16, 47-50l 27:3-10

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