He had been plotting it for weeks now, the evil thing that had to be done. For some time he had grown frustrated and disappointed at the sharp difference between what was promised and what was. It wasn’t at all what he had bargained for, he told himself, and so he had the right to take matters into his own hand.
It wasn’t just that things were not as they were promised to be: he didn’t feel valued. He alone knew the true value of things: that’s why they had all agreed to entrust the common purse to him. He alone had seen how wasteful they all could be. What embarrassing extravagance, to pour a year’s worth of ointment on his feet!
So what if he skimmed a little off the top every once in a while? He was owed. He’d given up a lot to become part of this company, and he’d staked his reputation on this Jesus. And where had it gotten him? Nowhere. It was time to act on the plans he had only dreamed about previously. It was time to put the escape plan into effect.
And so he had great plans when he went to the chief priests and asked what he could receive for delivering Jesus to them. 30 pieces of silver, eh? The price of a slave. It wasn’t as much as he was hoping for, but there wasn’t exactly another place in town he could go to get anything. 30 pieces of silver was something to build on, and it would get Jesus out of the way so that he could begin a new life without him or his failed mission.
It had seemed delicious in his mind, as he anticipated the plans he was making. He had thought about it for so long and waited so patiently. Finally, he would be in charge of his own life again, and things would be made right. The actual transaction was not as delicious as he had anticipated, but it was kind of thrilling, this deal made in the dark, this being important to important men. It felt good to be the one making things happen again, and he told himself that the real pay off would come once he had made his new beginning.
He wasn’t exactly sure what he had expected they would do with Jesus. The truth is, he hadn’t really thought much about it. It was just a dirty job that had to be done, and what was that to him?
But somehow it seemed different to actually see Jesus condemned, and a new feeling came over him. Suddenly, it became more personal. Yes, he wasn’t happy with his life, and things hadn’t turned out the way he had planned. But that wasn’t really Jesus’ fault. And he didn’t really want them to kill Jesus.
He tried to shake off the feeling, but it wouldn’t go away. It didn’t seem like such a glamorous and glorious thing now, what he had done. In fact, it didn’t feel good at all. Worse yet, it would not go away, and the pressure it was exerting on him was growing. Far from the peace he had sought to buy, he had instead inherited a war within himself.
“I know what I’ll do. I’ll make things right. I’ll just go and undo what I’ve done. I’ll tell them it was all a mistake and that I was wrong to approach them. They’ll have to listen to my confession. They’re priests: they’ll know how I can make things right.”
But when he came to them, bringing back the 30 pieces of silver, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood,” all they said was, “What is that to us? You see to it!”
He looked wildly around him. He rushed towards where the Court of Israel adjoined to the Priest’s Court, where sacrifices for the penitent were being offered. There he threw down the 30 pieces of silver, and fled. They could have it – they could have it all! All he wanted now was for things to go back to the way they were. But that was now impossible. He knew he had betrayed innocent blood – he’d known it all along. He had felt the truth in his mind when he first started thinking about it. Hadn’t he met with resistance even in his own heart? But over time he was able to master his conscience and pretend it wasn’t still speaking to him.
How stupid! Look what he’d done! And he couldn’t undo it, and no one could help him. He had sinned and betrayed his master, and there’s nothing anyone could do about it.
Everywhere he went, everyone – the people, the houses, the earth and the sky – accused him, and he had no defense. He found himself in the desolate valley of Hinnom. Scrambling among the clay soil, he found his way to the jagged rocks that rise perpendicularly there. Before he knew it, he was at the top of a large rock.
He could see more now, on top of the rock. He could clearly see what had to be done. Slowly, he unwound the long girdle that held his garment, the same girdle that had carried the 30 pieces of silver. He secured it around a branch of a nearby tree and made everything ready. Here was a final action that would go according to plan.
This is what came of Judas’ plans and his attempts to do things his way instead of Jesus’ way. It’s a tragic and sad story, for it’s the story of fallen mankind. Judas is truly a son of Adam, carrying out to its logical, inevitable end the wages of sin.
Judas could have stopped this terrible trajectory any step along the way. He could have repented of stealing from the treasury. He could have submitted himself to Jesus, waiting for the Kingdom of Christ instead of relying on the kingdom of men. Even after he had betrayed his Lord, he could have allowed his remorse to become repentance. Jesus would have forgiven even this worst of betrayals.
But Judas chose to do none of these things but to continue to try to find his own solutions and answers.
The wages of sin are death, and if we allow the sin in our lives to grow, at some point it takes on a life of its own, choking out the true life we’ve been offered. A sin is not just an isolated minor fault or failing but is the seed of a life that is lived apart from God. And the end of a life lived apart from God is Judas’ end. Judas is a picture of the inevitable end of sin.
But Jesus, whom Judas, you, and I have all betrayed, stands ready to forgive. No matter how small or great your sins, or how numerous, Jesus stands ready to forgive you. Today, therefore, is a day to examine your conscience and your life, and to make your confession to God.
Prayer: Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, maker of all things, judge of all men: I acknowledge and bewail my manifold sins and wickedness, which I from time to time most grievously have committed, by thought, word, and deed, against thy divine Majesty, provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against me. I do earnestly repent, and am heartily sorry for these my misdoings; the remembrance of them is grievous unto me, the burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon me, have mercy upon me, most merciful Father; for thy Son my Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, forgive me all that is past; and grant that I may ever hereafter serve and please thee in newness of life.
Almighty God, my heavenly Father, who of his great mercy hath promised forgiveness of sins to all those who with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto him, have mercy upon me, pardon and deliver me from all my sins, confirm and strengthen me in all goodness, and bring me to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
Point for Meditation: Consider your sins before God today. Take note of even seemingly minor ones so that they do not grow.
Resolution: I resolve to confess all my sins today, to turn from them, and to receive the forgiveness of God.
© 2012 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day