The world’s most notorious betrayal!

Perhaps having heard of the plot of Jesus’ enemies, Judas goes and makes them an offer. In spite of their decision to wait until after the Passover before arresting Jesus, the Lord’s enemies will take advantage of an opportunity provided for them by Judas Iscariot. Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve. So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. Then he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude.
Judas must have been thrilled. Jesus the Messiah had chosen him to be one among His twelve — and had appointed him treasurer too. Surely, he would be a mighty king in the New World Order that they would establish. It was more than he had ever hoped or dreamed. Yet at some point, Jesus’ message began to change. He frequently told His disciples that He would die—by crucifixion, of all things—and that this was a main reason for His coming. Judas began to notice that Jesus’ references to the Kingdom contradicted his own ideas of it. How could this be right? Jesus, Judas thought, must be a false Messiah. So, he began to find fault with the things Jesus said and did. He began to steal from the money box, either for his own ends or maybe to fund some of the activities of his people. Once, in Bethany, he even complained aloud of his displeasure to Jesus. When Jesus gently rebuked him for his comment, Judas was incensed!

Maybe the most vivid example of tragic misinterpretation of prophecy occurred in the life of Judas Iscariot. His misconception about the coming of the Messiah resulted in the betrayal and death of Jesus and his own death by suicide. Scholars surmise that Judas may have been the only Judean among the twelve disciples of Jesus. This alone could have caused him to feel somewhat superior, as Judeans considered Galileans to be country dwellers or “bumpkins.” When Jesus gave him charge of the money box, it may have additionally boosted his ego.
Arguments about the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot have resonated throughout the centuries. We don’t know exactly why Judas betrayed Jesus; but we do know that, over time, the views of Judas about money clashed with those of Jesus. That might have explained his betrayal. I have somewhere read that Judas was complaining of the loss of 300 coins from his purse, so he sells Jesus for one-tenth of that number! The fact that it was the world’s most notorious betrayal, however, is undeniable. Judas betrayed Jesus. But after being betrayed, Jesus went on to fulfill the messianic prophecy: He would suffer and die in the ultimate act of redemption, to release all humankind from the power of sin and the devil.

Traditionally the Catholic Church has used these early days of Holy Week as days for final personal preparation for the celebration of the high holy days. There is great wisdom in these traditions. Perhaps, we too, will find in these days, the courage to confront our true selves and realize how often we deny or betray Jesus in our daily lives. Surely, we exclaim, we could never betray Jesus as Judas did. However, we can’t expect any society to be totally incorruptible! There is a powerful message behind these Gospel readings. Jesus sees right through our appearances, how we falsely present ourselves to others as holy or pious beings. He recognizes the frailty of the human spirit as reflected in the acts that lie behind the betrayal of Judas and the denial of Peter. The more that people profess to adhere to religion, the greater the opportunity they have of betraying God if their hearts are not right with Him. History shows that, when lesser acts of betrayal are allowed to dull the conscience of society, society ends up committing terrible crimes.


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