( A commentary on Matthew 26: 14-25)
Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain one, and say to him, `The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.'” And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples; and as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Is it I, Master?” He said to him, “You have said so.” (Matthew 26:14-25)
Much has been written about the motivation of Judas to betray Jesus Christ.
Truth is no one really knows. But it is reasonable to believe that Judas didn’t get it. He didn’t understand who Jesus was. How could anyone who had followed Jesus through these three years given up this man of love to these men of hate?
He had never really come to know him and his merciful love. He had totally missed the point of Jesus’ parables of the lost sheep, lost coin and lost son. He hadn’t grasped that when he called Peter and the others to forgive 70 times 7 times. Jesus reminded his listeners that God himself would do the same. Jesus told them and us that there was a better way.
Nothing, no person, no religion, no race, no ecosystem, no nation, no blade of grass was made without Word, Wisdom, Love. Humanity is all one in the eye of the divine, as a river is one though made of many countless drops of water. The “way” of Christianity is to embody this love in all we do, see, think, believe – not superficially, sentimentally but in the actuality of life.
But what’s happened in these two millennia? What has to happened to us that this natural aptitude to feel the pain of the world, to “gentle its wounds” turns to hate? How do we miss the face of Christ, playing “in ten thousand places, lovely in limbs, lovely in eyes not his? What happened to our eyes that scared souls, wide-eyed children, crying mothers, desperate fathers, panicked young man, people fleeing persecution, Jewish worshipers, gay lovers appear to us as rapacious foreigners, inhuman monsters, terrorizing infidels?
What’s happened? We too don’t get it . . . yet. We’d never lie if we thought our lie would cause Jesus’ crucifixion or someone else’s. We’d never steal if we knew that our theft would murder Jesus or murder someone else. We’d never neglect a needy person if we knew that as a direct result Jesus would die or that that Lazarus at our gates would die through our omission. But the spiritual reality is that our sins are really what led to Jesus’ death. He died to take away our betrayals, our infidelities, our iniquities.
Perhaps that is why Jesus cried out to the Father in his first words from the Cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” We really don’t think our sinful choices through, because if we knew that our sins would crucify Jesus few of us would never choose them.
Prayer of The Day
“God our Father, we are exceedingly frail and indisposed to every virtuous and gallant undertaking. Strengthen our weakness, we beseech you, that we may do valiantly in this spiritual war; help us against our own negligence and cowardice, and defend us from the treachery of our unfaithful hearts; for Jesus Christ’s sake.” (Prayer of Thomas a Kempis)
We stand now in the midst of Jesus’ great moment of truth. In the events we recall this week, his whole life is summed up. A noisy parade into Jerusalem, followed by a mock public trial, and then the agony of an excruciating execution. In these acts the whole meaning of Christ’s life is revealed. And the meaning of yours and mine, too. Let us walk with him through his moment of truth, and watch and listen. Because if the way of the cross is the way of life and peace, we need to learn his way.
But as we look at the cross something strange begins to happen. We begin to sense that we aren’t alone in our moments of truth. We begin to see that he has gone before us and shown us the way. He spoke the truth, and lived it, and went even into death for it, lost even his sense of God’s closeness. But by staying there he opened the way for our forgiveness and healing.