Wednesday of Holy Week
(Isaiah 50:4-9a; Matthew 26:14-25)
Of the four gospels Matthew gives the most complete portrait of Judas Iscariot. As in Mark and Luke, Judas is named on Matthew’s list of apostles in the last place because he will betray Jesus (10:4). In the passage read today, Judas bargains with the chief priests for thirty pieces of silver in exchange for handing Jesus over. During the Last Supper Matthew alone pictures Judas as disobeying Jesus’ explicit directive not to call anyone “Rabbi.” In Gethsemane Judas again defies Jesus by calling him “Rabbi” and then treacherously kisses him as a sign to the arresting party that he is their man (26:47-50). Finally, only Matthew describes Judas’ returning the money he received from the high priests out of regret for what he had done. Then, according to Matthew alone, Judas hangs himself (27:3-5).
Judas betrays Jesus out of greed. The thirty pieces of silver comprise 120 days of wages for a skilled laborer in gospel times. In the end Judas appears remorseful when he goes back to the chief priests to return the silver. Is he expressing contrition for his sin? Not really. He offended Jesus, not the chief priests. If he were truly sorry, he should have sought Jesus’ forgiveness.
Judas evidently was at least gifted enough to attract Jesus’ attention and to be elected an apostle. Perhaps he was blinded enough by the desire for silver that he bought into the criticism of Jesus by the Jewish leaders. In any case he lacked the fortitude to ask forgiveness of the person he offended. Looking at ourselves, we may find some of the same character faults. Hopefully, we pray every day that God will strengthen us so that we never betray our friends, least of all, Jesus, the greatest of our friends.