Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,
And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.
And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him (Mt 26:14-16).
Even as Jesus was enlightening the masses with a little sermon on the Mount of Olives, preaching the irruption of God into the world and healing the odd leper in Bethany, Judas was conspiring with the Sanhedrin. He sold the Son of God for 30 pieces of silver. The things people will do for money! That’s what we remember on Holy Wednesday. Funny, isn’t it, that the one who betrayed the Lord should get his own day of commemoration.
Perhaps Jesus disappointed somehow; perhaps He failed to meet Judas’s messianic expectations; perhaps Judas just couldn’t resist dreaming of his own anointing with a dainty unguent. Perhaps, even, he had absolutely no choice: he was just the sort of malignant spirit with whom Satan is invited to sup on a daily basis, and God uses that very type to fulfil His purposes. Jesus had to be betrayed for prophecy to be fulfilled, and Judas was the vessel who was given over to the Devil (‘Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot‘ [Lk 22:3]). His heart was the first to hate the Son of God, and when that hate corrodes the soul, you scheme and conspire in downfall and rejoice in the consummation of malevolence.
It’s easy for us to wonder and judge with incredulity. Just how can you spend so much time in a man’s company and not get the measure of his character? How could Judas not know? How could he not trust? Had he not seen with his own eyes? How could he not believe?
The reason is that he did not love, or that he loved himself, his ambition and money far more. Judas is one of those friends who aren’t really friends at all. You know the sort – the superficial hangers-on; those who like to be seen with you or use you for their own ends; those who boast and name-drop, whose every conversation becomes a tedious narcissistic discourse about the self. The world of politics is full of such people. So, too, is the Church. They profess eternal friendship and avow their undying loyalty while they plot to stab you in the back. ‘Treachery with a smile’, as The Lady astutely observed.
As long as Judas could line his pockets, he never paused to consider the inevitable consequences for Jesus. That would have been an act of compassion, of consideration, of love. Yet his conceited heart was consumed with hate, selfishness, self-righteousness and greed. He knew what was certainly best. He knew what definitely had to be done. He knew the way, and he perceived infallibly. And he would brook no correction. That’s when Satan enters in.
Friends are God’s gift of love: they are there to nurture and support, and also to correct and rebuke. On this Holy Wednesday, let us thank God for them, and reflect on forgiving those who have persecuted or betrayed us – even as they have caused us to weep a bitter river of heartache, misery and sorrow.