In Matthew 26, after the anointing of Jesus at a dinner party by a woman who poured out a lavish measure of expensive perfume, one of the disciples, presumably Judas, who was the group’s accountant, sold out the Savior.
Then one of the 12 – the one called Judas Iscariot — went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” So they counted out for him 30 silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. Matthew 26:14-16
As we know, that opportunity presented itself in the Garden of Gethsemane, but prior to that Jesus washed Judas’ feet along with the other disciples. Jesus broke bread and shared the cup and predicted Judas’ betrayal. Imagine the deep wound of having Jesus look you in the eye, knowing what was in your heart (and in your pocket) and then saying that it would have been better if you had never been born. Read and reflect on John 13:18-30.
Jesus’ next direct word to Judas was to identify him as “friend” in the Garden:
While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the 12, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.” Matthew 26:47-50
Jesus is arrested, false witnesses are produced before the Sanhedrin, Jesus affirms to the high priest that He is the Christ, the Son of God, whereupon He is found guilty of blasphemy, spat upon, beaten, slapped and mocked. We can assume that Judas, now an insider-informant for the Jews, was a witness to this. We also know that when Judas saw Jesus condemned, he repented.
Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound Him, led Him away and handed Him over to Pilate the governor. When Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. Matthew 27:1-5
Judas did what a God-fearing Jew was supposed to do when becoming aware of sin: Go to the priests and ask for atonement. But what did he get instead? The priests refused their own calling and then they said the unthinkable, “See to it yourself.”
No one can see to their own sin. No one can atone for themselves. The entire Temple system was based upon the truth that substitutionary offerings had to be made, and they had to be made by priests. Judas ultimately did the only thing he could imagine might help, he offered his own life as a sacrifice for the sin he had committed against Christ.
Understanding the depth of Judas’ Jewishness and recognizing the remorse he experienced and the attempt he made to make things right, rehabs Judas somewhat. Certainly he is still the one who betrays the Lord, but he also repents and seeks forgiveness. Told to “see to himself,” he hangs himself.
If Judas had only waited three days he would have stood forgiven by the Risen Savior, but Judas does not see that coming. From his vantage point the Resurrection is not in view. Be acutely aware today that there are those today who stand where Judas stood — unable to see the Light of God’s redeeming love through the darkness of their own sin. Be a witness as you walk with them to the Cross — and to the Empty Tomb.