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Was It Providence That Provoked The Betrayal, Judas Overplaying a Strength, or Both!

Updated: Apr 11

I can't seem to get beyond what really drove Judas toward an act that we have always and obviously the disciples, thought of as betrayal, as opposed to simply a major strength overplayed, thus becoming a weakness.

Allow me to unpack my thoughts, though unconventional for one raised as an evangelical, Bible believing Pentecostal.

Judas was selected as the team's treasurer, thus no doubt skilled with money. He was also a connector type, myself one, a necessary role for reaching a "The Tipping Point" according to Malcolm Gladwell. He perhaps moreso than the other eleven, had audience with the religious power brokers, even though hanging out publicly with their greatest threat.

A negotiator also, though as in this case, the Pharisees got by with a mere 30 pieces of silver, between $250 and $300 in our day. Surely, if it was just about the money, he would have held out for more? Something was behind his betrayal much more than money.

Again my point here is not to defend Judas' error in judgement, but to look deeper at this man than my historically literal approach to scripture has afforded. Often out of blind reverence for this sacred book, we miss the deeper messages of scripture, the things that most capture our shared human tendencies.

In John, Chapter 12 we see Jesus back with Mary and Martha, along with a resurrected Lazarus. Who else is there, Judas!

You might recall this moment when Mary, full of gratitude for their recent gift of life extended, annoints Jesus feet, drying them with her hair in a very intimate moment. Surely Judas was aware of the amazing accomplishment rendered by Jesus, this brother also present, once dead for four days!

Mary annoints Jesus's feet with Spikenard, oil that was to her precious, though it would cost only about forty-five dollars in today's money, back then the day-wages of a common laborer.

So why, rather than understanding the love being shown, the deep gratitude for the extended life of Lazarus, does Judas lead off with, "‭‬Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?"

Was he so cold toward this family, yet allowed to hang with the disciples, when the Pharisees were so often ridiculed?

John after the fact records these words: "This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein." Most of us would tend to agree with John.

Jesus, the Word made flesh, surely knowing all his thoughts, responds to Judas in his usual, "put your swords away manner."

"Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always." If betrayal was in that moment on Judas' mind, surely he would have fearfully connected the dots, knowing that Jesus was on to his plan.

John read Judas one way, Jesus another. Not only was Jesus by now likely aware of Judas' potential for betrayal, but I think he was also doing an undercover work of grace in Judas' life, unbeknownst to John. He would do the same with Peter and Thomas, even you and I!

He knew that there would come a day in Judas' life when it would seem "better for him to have never been born."

A few hours after his brilliant strategy to force Jesus' hand, which in Judas' mind would set off a series of acts far greater than the ressurection of Lazarus.

If this connecter, negotiator "friend" could just get Jesus in front of the right people, in the right setting, he would surely call down 10,000 angels, delivering Isreal, overthrowing Ceasar, righting the political alignment that had so infected the temple grounds, finally getting down to the real business of the Kingdom!

I believe he was deeply determined to get Jesus back on mission. I myself, have spent 50 years trying to better position the Kingdom of God, the Body of Christ, only of late coming to an understanding that providence trumps strategy. No momentary political pun intended!

I truly get this guy, Judas!

Judas would soon repent of his error in judgement, not only repenting, but confronting is accomplists. He would try desperately to right the damage done, casting the 30 pieces of silver back at the feet of the priests. It was they who would sustain the betrayal, themselves well learned in the Law of Moses, but blinded by their twisted alliance with the power players of their day.

Did Judas then just go out and hang himself, as written in Matthew, or as Luke implies in Acts 1:18, he first purchased a field with his money?

Luke writes to reinforce his sense of Judas' greed, though Matthew

records that the priests later purchased the field. Matthew then gives credit to Jeremiah for prophesying the purchase of a Potters Field, though actually it was Zechariah in chapter 11:12-13.

Another contemporary better than I addresses the discrepancy between these gospel writers:

After 35 years of bible study, ex-teacher, part time mechanic, engineer, Paul Manning shares, that "hanging was achieved by tying one end of a rope around the neck with the other end attached to an overhanging tree and jumping over a precipice. He would fall headlong and the rope would pull him sharply to a stop causing a severe rectal prolapse.

The apparent discrepancy is really in the other part of the story in which one record says that Judas bought the land whereas the other says that the chief priests purchased the field with the money he threw down.

The idea that Judas gleefully bought himself some land and then hung himself in it shortly afterward makes no sense. It is far more likely that he threw down the money and then went and hanged himself just as it is explained in Matthew 27, following which the chief priests bought the field in his name, thereby washing their hands of the transaction that had previously taken place."

My point being that reading scripture literally, even out of a reverence reinforced by loyalty to the Saviour, can cause one to miss some deeply inspired nuance such as the dynamic relationship between Jesus and his "friend", Judas.

Jesus knew Judas' potential for error, his tendency toward going overboard in his accountable use of funds reflected in his outburst toward a grateful Mary. He also knew his heart for Isreal and distrust for the religious leaders of his day. A deadly combination that made Judasthe perfect candidate to fulfill God's long intended provision of a Lamb slain. An act that for once and forever would both deliver those under religious condemnation, their primitive belief requiring appeasement of a wrath filled God, as well as those who could hardly grasp a love so deep that it would give its very life as a convincing demonstration.

To our Creator, who was Christ, we like Judas are well worth such lavish love, warts and all!

Whether in his final thoughts as he hung from a noose self-knotted, of while laying in a pool of blood with bowels on the ground, I believe Judas was reconciled. Without him, the remedy we know of as Calvary, a true tipping point, the tree which Moses' "serpent" moment foretold, could likely never have happened.

God, who is love, works in ways easily missed if religion is your only filter!

If God so loved Judas as to attend to him in his final breaths, you too, regardless of your on error and rebellion are also loved.

Again, I get this guy, as well as both the denying Peter and the doubting Thomas.

God came not into the world to condemn us but that through Him, we might have life, and life more abundantly.

Now to get back on mission, and the mission is love!

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