Editor’s Note: Wednesday of Holy Week (Holy Wednesday) is sometimes referred to in the Western Church as “Spy Wednesday” for tradition has it that on this day, Judas plotted with the authorities to arrest Jesus.
Armed with lanterns, torches and weapons and accompanied by a band of soldiers and guards from the chief priests and the Pharisees, Judas Iscariot went to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was arrested. And with a simple kiss, Judas’ foretold betrayal of Jesus was fulfilled.
Judas, the treasurer for the apostles who was in charge of the money bag, previously had gone to the chief priests and struck a deal with them to turn Jesus over to them in exchange for thirty silver pieces. While money may not have been his only motive, it seems Judas had a propensity for sinful conduct surrounding money and possessions.
When Mary of Bethany took a liter of costly Alabaster perfume oil and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair, it was Judas foremost who reprimanded her saying, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” We are told that Judas said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief who stole contributions from the money bag (John:12-7).
Some have questioned whether Judas’ intentions went beyond money and that his real motive in turning over Jesus was because he believed that Jesus was a worldly Messiah who would free Israel from its Roman oppressors if put to the test. Perhaps, but Judas’ intentions seem far less noble.
The chief priest’s and scribes had been seeking a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people attending Passover. Then Satan entered into Judas and he went to the chief priests and temple guards to discuss a plan for handing Jesus over. (Luke 22:4-5)
Judas’ sin of betraying Jesus is a serious one. At the Last Supper Jesus remarked: “The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed. It would have been better for that man if he had never been born.” (Matthew 26:25)
In Dante’s Divine Comedy, Brutus and Cassius, who were involved in the assassination of Julius Caesar, are in the Ninth and hottest circle of Hell along with Judas Iscariot. But it is Judas who is met with the most horrifying torture of the three traitors, with his head in the mouth of Lucifer and his back being forever skinned by Lucifer’s claws.
Without question, Judas is by far the biggest betrayer of the apostles in that he overtly handed Jesus over to his enemies, but Judas is not the only one who betrayed Jesus. Peter, the rock of the church, denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed. And all of the other apostles, except for John, fled and turned their backs on Jesus as He was arrested, tried and crucified.
Truthfully, we all have a bit of Judas in us. How many times have we betrayed Jesus with our own sinful acts and omissions? How many times have we failed to love Jesus by clothing the naked, caring for the sick, giving food and drink to those in need and bringing dignity to the poorest of the poor? Each one of us, in our own way, bears some responsibility for Jesus’ scourging at the pillar; His painful death on the cross.
Still, Jesus’ mercy is greater than our individual sins and for that matter those of the entire world. Thankfully, Jesus will never reject a contrite heart and will always embrace a trusting soul. We can take great confidence knowing that our trust in Jesus will never fail as long as we move past our regrets by turning back to God with a real conversion of our whole lives, repenting of our sins and forgiving others.
It is worth noting that Judas is not without sincere regret for his actions. To the contrary, once Judas saw that Jesus was condemned he deeply regretted what he had done, returned the thirty silver pieces to the chief priests and said “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” (Matthew 27:4-5)
Yet, Judas’ regret only intensified his sin and kept him focused inwardly on himself. He failed to repent by moving past himself and towards the love of God. Peter, on the other hand, who likewise regretted his denials of Christ wept bitterly, but then recalled Christ’s love for him and trusting in His mercy, repented.
Perhaps Judas’ greatest sin was not in betraying Jesus; rather, it was in allowing himself to be consumed by a prideful despair after the betrayal. Unlike Peter and the rest of the apostles, Judas failed to repent; he failed to find hope. Like us at times, Judas could not see past his owns sins and his feelings of unworthiness. Instead of turning outward toward the Lord with a repentant heart that could have been filled with hope, Judas regrettably looked inward and saw only his own despair. Lacking the courage to begin his life anew, Judas ends his life by hanging himself.
As Easter Sunday quickly approaches let us turn trustingly toward our Lord, believing that no matter how many and how scarlet our sins may be, that God’s Divine Mercy is endless and that His treasury of compassion is inexhaustible.
There is no sin that Jesus did not come to take away by giving himself on the cross for each of us, so let us not be like Judas in our despair, but instead, let us act with joy and great confidence by uniting ourselves to God’s holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself. Amen.
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