Spies had already been lurking around the Temple questioning people about Jesus’ whereabouts after He finished his preaching each day earlier in the week. So far, they had gained little information for the High Priests plotting against Jesus.
Needless to say, the religious hierarchy is delighted when one of Jesus’ own disciples goes to them offering to betray Him (Matthew 26:14-16):
Then one of the Twelve – 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 thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
The priests pay Judas the money straightaway, because according to the law, an informant had to be paid before his information could be used. They are relieved that someone has come forward to do their dirty work for them (Luke 22:5).
The priests think that the tide is turning in their favour. The climate in Jerusalem is changing. The exuberance of the crowds surrounding Jesus is more subdued. The priests and rabbis note that although the crowds are still gathering, people say that Jesus is less Messianic. He was angry on Monday and has done nothing more than preach since then. Where’s the excitement? Where’s the drama? The High Priests think that they might be able to turn this changed atmosphere to their advantage.
And this brings to mind our own fickle moods with regard to Our Lord. One minute we love Him, the next minute we ignore Him and, so often, we betray Him through our own sins and weaknesses. Looking at Judas, we see a man who went with the tide. Why did he follow Christ? Did he, like the crowds, expect some great act from Jesus? Were his expectations as a disciple basking in Jesus’ greater glory left unfulfilled? Or was he, like so many of us, just an opportunist, ready to follow — and capitalise on — whatever wave of sentiment was sweeping among the people? The sum of money he received was worth a few months’ salary, possibly less.
Indeed, John’s Gospel tells us that Judas had a love of money. He offered to guard the money bag belonging to Jesus and the Apostles (John 12:6):
6He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. (New International Version)
Perhaps Judas also thought he would receive protection or just the ephemeral ‘fame’ of turning in someone notable.
Is there a bit of Judas in each of us? Would we volunteer to spy on a good person in the public eye if we knew that someone powerful and influential wanted us to? What if we were promised some sort of reward — either prestigious or monetary — for doing so?
What about our lesser ‘crimes’? Have we ever helped to get a blameless colleague sacked to curry favour with the boss? What about the committees we serve on? Have we ever suggested someone be blackballed for no good reason just to make us look better? Have we so wanted to be part of the gang or in-crowd that we laugh at and bully more modest and humble classmates or neighbours? This is what happens when we seek to be seen as ‘cool’ or one of the group.