Judas’ Mistake

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Homily for Palm-Passion Sunday – Matthew 26:14-27:66

April 9, 2017


For 30 pieces of silver…

Is that why he did it?

Is that why Judas turned Jesus in?


An article I read this week talked about 3 primary reasons for betrayal…[i]


The first is excessive greed or ambition.

Thirty pieces of silver…


In today’s dollars, 30 pieces of silver would be about $200

It was comparable to about 4 months’ wages.

So maybe Judas did it simply for the money.


A second reason people sometimes betray others is for a sense of a greater good.


Some scholars suggest that Judas belonged to the group of Jews called Zealots.

The Zealots were an underground resistance movement.

They were waiting for a messiah who would bring about

an all out revolt against the Romans.


Maybe when Jesus didn’t start the revolution

when he arrived in the city gates riding on a donkey –

Judas went to the authorities,

So that the movement could get rid of this false messiah

and rally around someone else who would get the job done.

A third reason people betray one another is to prove how smart they are.

That they can!

Perhaps Judas was jealous of the attention some of the other disciples were getting.


Judas was from Judea –  he was from the south –

the area where the city of Jerusalem was.

He was the outsider.

The other disciples were all Galileans –

they were from the towns and villages in the north around where Jesus grew up.

Perhaps Judas was trying to prove himself.


The so-called “Gospel of Judas,”

unearthed about 10 years ago has yet another reason.

It says that Judas betrayed Jesus

because Jesus asked him to…

that the betrayal was part of God’s plan,

and Judas was being obedient.


The betrayal becomes tragic for Judas.


Matthew says, “When Judas saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented. . . .

He brought back the thirty pieces of silver, saying,

‘I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.’

They said ‘What is that to us?’

And throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed;

and he went and hanged himself.”


The betrayal becomes tragic for Judas,

because he missed the rest of the story, the rest of what Jesus was teaching,

He missed the part about forgiveness….


Where was Judas when over and over again,

Jesus walked up to people and said, “Your sins are forgiven,”

without their even asking for it?


Why didn’t Judas see that when Jesus offered the bread and wine

at that last supper and said “Take and eat, this is given for you” –

that he gave it to him too?


When Judas arrived leading the crowd with clubs and swords,

did he miss how Jesus greeted him?

Jesus didn’t say, “You traitor!”

He called him, “Friend.”


Huston Smith, the scholar of World Religions was once asked

what he thought were the defining characteristics of the major world religions.


For Judaism, he said it is family.

For Islam, he thought the defining characteristic is prayer.

And for Christianity, he said it is forgiveness.[ii]


The first thing Jesus said, when he was hanging on the cross,

was “Father forgive them; for they know not what they do.”


The tragedy is that somehow Judas didn’t believe this promise of forgiveness.


None of the disciples were all that exemplary those last 24 hours of Jesus’ life.

Peter denied knowing him.

The others all left him to save their own skins.


But whereas they were still around to eventually hear

words of forgiveness from Jesus himself,

Judas checked out too soon.


Judas missed the amazing discovery that Jesus still loved him;

That nothing he did would make Jesus stop loving him.

Judas missed the distinctive characteristic of Christianity –

That in Christ there is forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation.

There is grace.

There is amazing grace.



[i] http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/why-do-people-betray/story-IB0CQm5JCbU1d9Xx0E7wYP.html

[ii] http://www.fourthchurch.org/sermons/2008/021008.html


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