Have you ever completely given yourself over to an idea or cause only to find out later that it was not as you thought? Have you fully devoted your life to a spouse or way of life only to feel betrayed by how situation plays itself out? Have you ever started a job imagining it to be simple and easy only to later discover that it was a much more difficult task than what you originally intended it to be?
I’ve been study the Gospel of Mark and a strange revelation occurred to me as I read about the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot. We see in Mark chapter 14 that a woman (identified in John 12:3 as Mary, the sister of Martha) comes to Jesus with a jar of very expensive perfume. The amount of perfume in the jar is equal to more than a years worth of wages at the time, and the woman brings it to Jesus, breaks it open and pours it out onto his head, as an anointing. She realizes who Jesus is and she knows that no expense is too great to honor him. On the other hand, some of the disciples who are present, who in their usual clueless way, are befuddled and indignant about her actions. They are angry. They want to know why this woman would waste such a valuable commodity, which could have been sold and the money used to help the poor. Judas was undoubtedly among those protesting.
We know that Judas was one of the twelve disciples chosen by Jesus himself. We know that Judas had seen the miracles that Jesus performed. We know that at this point, Judas had spent about three full years of his life with Jesus. He had witnessed miraculous healing, listened to Jesus preach to the people and scold the religious, he had even seen Jesus raise the dead. So why, immediately following this incident with the perfume, does the Bible say that Judas leaves the others and goes to the chief priests to betray Jesus? (Mark 14:10-11)
Judas, like many, if not all the other disciples, had a different view of what the mission of Jesus on earth was. Some scholars believe that prior to Judas joining Jesus as a disciple, that Judas may have been part of a group of insurrectionists bent on overthrowing the Roman rule of Judea. We see throughout the Gospels that the people in the time of Jesus, including his followers, were waiting for a messiah that would do just that. In fact, the rejection of Jesus by the religious elite was often because they did not see him as the leader that they were waiting for to lead such a revolt (and of course their sins of greed, dishonesty, pride and so forth). But they all had it wrong, and so did Judas.
Judas had spent three years with Jesus believing that the revolution was on the horizon. He felt that all things that Jesus and the disciples were doing were leading up to this goal. He was a diehard, and he had devoted his life not to the Jesus of salvation for all, but to the Jesus of the revolution and renewing of physical Israel. He had missed the point entirely and had placed all his hopes on what his own selfish desires saw as the answer. He had walked away from allies, family, friends, and possibly reputation, to follow this radical leader who was supposed to change the world for his countrymen and free them from their bondage. He was a patriot and I believe that what he saw as a waste of money by the pouring out of the expensive perfume, was the final straw that pushed him over the edge and towards betrayal and ultimately death.
We know from John 12:6 that Judas was a thief and that as the keeper of the money for the disciples, he often helped himself from the money that they had. This cannot be discounted, but the idea that he would betray Jesus (and the other disciples who could have also been killed by his betrayal) for as small a sum as thirty pieces of silver is hard for me to swallow. Historians believe that the silver would be equal to somewhere between $5,000 and $12,000 in today’s money. While this might seem like a lot of money at first glance, is it enough for someone to give up something that they had devoted their entire life to? Is $12,000 enough money to betray something that you had spent every day for three years working on? I don’t think so and I doubt that it was the motivation for Judas either. His motivation could have been frustration that his plans were not proceeding as he had hoped. His pride could have been his downfall when he realized that he was going to be a laughingstock to all his compatriots that he had left behind to follow Jesus.
Ultimately, whatever the reason, the root of what brought Judas down, was the realization that Jesus was not the man that he had thought he was. Judas’ heart was too hard and sinful to understand the true meaning of what was going on all around him. He missed the point by imagining that God was going to give him exactly what he wanted and pictured. Rather than understanding that God was blessing Israel, and humanity as a whole, in a far greater way than what he wanted, Judas had placed his hope in the immediate instead of the eternal.
I have the mind of Judas at times as I am sure we all do. It is easy to get caught up in our daily trials and struggles and forget that there is something much larger going on behind the scenes. There is an eternity at play and our earthly part in it is minuscule. Our vision of today, while valid and often painful and hard, is impaired. God has a plan for each of our lives and we are in the place we are in for a very specific reason. When our outlook becomes small and focused we can begin to get caught up in the immediate and forget or miss the providence of God all together.
Let’s learn from Judas and strive to get out of the sinful mind-set of “our will, right now” and into the righteous mind-set of “His will, in His time”.