Why did Judas betray Jesus?
Here’s how I interpret what the gospel of John says in 12:3-6:
Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages. He 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.
Jesus, the Divine Rorschach / Ink blot test, elicited attraction and aversion from all sides in order to bring it into his Light to thaw it. Judas was on the same trajectory as the scribes, Pharisees, chief priests, elders, disciples, and the other Eleven. Like us today, they were on the path toward death, then. John and the other gospel writers catalogue their intransigence and self-will, their resistance to Jesus’ mission & ministry.
What did Jesus draw out from Judas? My best guess, from the passage quoted above, is that Jesus drew out his precious and terrible insecurity and emptiness. Why else steal?
Secondly, he called forth his manner of lying and pretending: “Look at me! I’m saying good things about the poor! Look over here! I’m for the poor!” Meanwhile he stole. Judas seemed to love his reputation and deny his motives and behaviors hidden in the shadows. Hypocrisy is the fundamental issue among us followers of Jesus. What you see is not what you get.
POINT: Judas did not budge from his trajectory toward death in any of the gospels. He became complicit in Jesus’ death and, at least in Matthew’s account, hanged himself. Somehow it ends in death because, if we don’t deal with hypocrisy, insecurity, and emptiness (or whatever fuels our resistance), we make others pay the price for our unwillingness to do something about our wounded resistance to Christ.
GOOD NEWS: God fashioned a remedy out of mortality itself that the cause of our downfall might become the means of our salvation! All the “stuff” we can’t face now, can become part of our deeper immersion in the life of the Risen Christ. Amen!
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