The Lord continues his march toward the cross of Calvary. The disciples notice that the Lord is carrying a heavy burden since he has told them as much over the last couple of days. The crowds of Palm Sunday are gone now and there is an ominous glow over the horizon as the sun sets on Jerusalem.
Jesus has been preparing his disciples for this week for three and a half years now. He knew it would be a shock to them. They being Jewish loyalists would expect him to soon take his crown and become King of Israel. All the signs pointed this way. He had opened the blinded eye, healed the sick, broken the yoke of the oppressed and even raised the dead. The disciples knew what the religious elite did not because he had revealed it to them. They knew he was born in Bethlehem, the city of David, the prophesied birthplace of the Messiah. They knew he was no mere mortal man. They had seen him walk on the waves and calm the seas. It would not be easy for them to watch him die.
It would not be easy for Jesus either. He begins to feel the increasing weight of his decision. The sins of the world will be laid on his shoulders and as a sheep to be slaughtered he will walk, alone to Calvary. How will his mother handle it? Surely she has known since his birth what he was destined to do. Still he concocts in his mind a plan to ensure she is provided for and protected. John must be told.
His thoughts turn to his disciples. He loves them dearly. They have walked with him closely these last few years and they are near to his heart and as good as brothers to him; they are his friends. Yet, not friends only, they must carry the gospel once he has ascended. They will be his witnesses all across the world and they must be courageous followers and not just friends. They must embrace him as Lord.
He notices their concerned, hushed tone as they observe him contemplating alone. They have been recently concerned since his trip to Bethany to raise Lazarus. They thought it foolish to come so close to danger with all of the threats on his life. Now that he has joined the nation in Jerusalem for the Passover, they have become extra cautious. No matter how many times he tells them, they still don’t understand. Not only must he be arrested, he must be beaten near to death. And as death closes in on him, only then will they relent in their torture, in order to nail him to the tree.
He knows his disciples. He knows how they will respond, who will weep and who will stand to fight. He knows who will run and who will not. He knows them all so well… especially Judas Iscariot.
He has been hinting to the group from the beginning that one of them is not like the others. The Rabbi has convinced them all of his Lordship, all except one.
Judas was called like the other twelve, but he was not like them. Being in charge of the moneybag, Judas used to help himself to what portions of money he felt entitled. (John 12:6)
Judas prized possessions and wealth over the Christ. Jesus knew it from the moment he met Judas. But he loved him anyhow. He brought him close and treated him as his own. He prayed with Judas, loved Judas, and later he will even wash Judas’ feet. There is not a moment that goes by that Christ did not extend the same love to Judas as all the other disciples. Yet, this divine love had the opposite effect on Judas than it did on the others. The eleven were softened by his love. Judas was hardened.
When Mary breaks her alabaster box of ointment on the Lord’s feet to reveal how much she values him as Lord, Judas is indignant.
“Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”
A noble gesture from Judas by all accounts if it weren’t clouded by the truth we know about his true character. Judas is sick of this outlandish love for Christ. He is tired of the pandering to the destitute that Christ is akin to. It is time for Jesus to either prove himself once and for all as King or stop stringing everyone along.
So Judas purposed in his heart to betray Christ. The disciple turned spy will make the backdoor deal for our redemption.
But wait; there is an unseen hand behind this betrayal. An old foe is plotting his final blow to the throne of God. The serpent is lurking in the shadows. He sees a chance here with Judas. Of course! Someone close to Christ, someone nearer than even his family is the perfect choice. A disciple that he chose would be the one to betray. Just as it was in the garden in the beginning, so will it be now. A son chosen by God to follow will lean in close to the Christ, only to bury the dagger deeper and the serpent will stand by with a wry smile. If he can kill the heir, he can storm the throne. It can all be his.
“Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him the money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.”
Jesus looks up into heaven for a moment and breathes a sigh of relief. “And so it begins” he whispers to himself, and to the Father. Judas has sold the Lord for 30 pieces of silver. What a petty price for the Lord of all creation. He had left the door of his heart wide open for the Deceiver to come and bend his will against the Christ. Jesus’ friend will soon betray him with a kiss.
Jesus turns back to the eleven, his jaw clenched in determination. There is much to be said and much to be done before all is finished this week. A new covenant is about to be established, and he must prepare a supper to inaugurate it.
I am so easily moved to anger towards Judas on Spy Wednesday. Yet, the Lord always graciously guides me back to humility. How often is my heart satisfied with the “silver” of the world, rather than the glory of the Christ? The enemy waits at the door of our hearts to pounce and create an unhealthy passion for that which can never satisfy. This futile attempt to diminish the glory of God affects us deeply, even if it does little to dissolve that which cannot be dissolved. We begin to crave and hunger after things that will not satiate our passions, but exacerbate them.
How will you treasure the Christ this Holy Week? He is worthy to be treasured above all things, to be honored above all kings. Consider this parable of Christ concerning the kingdom:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44
Our King is the treasure worth everything we have! This week, may we learn from Judas that no earthly price is worth giving away a gift we could have never earned. Set Christ apart in your heart as precious to you this Holy Week.