Matthew 26:14-16 ”Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.”
The Pharisees and the Sadducees were rival Jewish religious groups at the time of Jesus. Think of them like two different denominations. These two groups were always disagreeing. The Sadducees were pretty liberal. They didn’t believe in the resurrection, they didn’t believe in the afterlife and they didn’t believe in angels. The Pharisees, however, believed the Old Testament clearly taught about angels and the afterlife. The Pharisees and Sadducees never looked at a religious topic the same way.
On one issue, however, these two groups perfectly agreed. What was it that brought together these two groups? They both wanted to kill Jesus. They both equally hated Jesus.
They were jealous of his great following and great power. Who else could heal at will? Who else could feed thousands from almost nothing? Who else could control the weather? Who else could give sight to the blind? Who else could make demons tremble? Who else could raise the dead? The religious leaders despised Jesus and they despised his message.
The leaders preached a message of salvation by religious works. If you do enough good stuff God will pay you back with salvation. Jesus commanded all people, including the prideful religious leaders, to repent of their messed up theology. Salvation is not payment for religious works. Salvation is a gracious gift from God. The Pharisees and Sadducees hated this message. They wanted to earn their salvation. If you can earn your salvation then you can boast. They enjoyed boasting. The message of Jesus ruined their lives.
The Pharisees and Sadducees were supposed to be shepherding the people of God. They were simply to communicate the heart of God to God’s people. Instead of sending people to God, they were trying to figure out a way to murder the One sent from God. The leaders are too proud to follow Jesus. It is better, in their mind, to kill Jesus.
The leaders have a problem. How do you murder someone who is deeply loved by the people? Also, how do you murder someone without a hit to your approval ratings? They wanted to murder Jesus swiftly before most people knew what had happened. The Pharisees knew they couldn’t try to corrupt one of the disciples. This would be far too risky. If they asked one of the disciples they would risk word getting out about their intentions. They assumed all the disciples would die protecting Jesus. How could they kill Jesus without killing their reputations?
A solution comes to the religious leaders on this Wednesday. The solution is far better than they could have ever imagined. Judas Iscariot walks in the door. This single action made their year. The Pharisees didn’t initiate this conversation. No one pressures Judas to come. It’s not like his family have been kidnapped and they will only release them if Judas betrays Jesus. It’s nothing like that; Judas simply decides to betray Jesus. He just shows up. Here’s how the Bible communicates this heart wrenching event, ”Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.”
For a reason we will never completely understand Judas Iscariot decides to betray Jesus. Judas was a man who had witnessed most of Jesus’ miracles. Each of us can only dream of the day we can see Jesus face-to-face. Judas, however, saw Jesus every day. He rubbed shoulders with the One who made the universe. Judas learned from the Word of Life. He ate with the Prince of Peace. He traveled with the King of Kings.
How much did Judas charge to sell-out Jesus? Judas accepted an embarrassingly small thirty pieces of silver. Common slaves were sold for thirty pieces of silver. Judas did not consider Jesus’ life to be anything valuable.
Our heads should hang low this Wednesday. This is a sad day. Judas is in hell because of his tragic decisions. Jesus will be murdered. One of his best friends stabs him in the back. He will twist the knife in the back of Jesus this coming Friday. It doesn’t make sense. Why would Judas do something so terrible to a man who only ever loved him? It doesn’t make sense. Sin doesn’t make sense. We hold our heads low this Wednesday.
Allow yourself to enter into this day. Yes, that’s right. Would you please be somber all day? Our Savior was sold-out by one of his closest friends for virtually nothing. The religious leaders who should have been washing the feet of Jesus were instead excited they had figured out a way to murder him.
Wednesday is a sad, disappointing day.