Today in Holy Week is known as Spy Wednesday. This day invites us to remember how Judas Iscariot went to the Sanhedrin to bargain a price of Jesus' head. This day we remember how Judas turned on Jesus.
Often when we think of Judas we think of a horrible man, and that is what he is because he betrayed God Himself, but I want to look more closely at Judas and what made him commit one of the worst deeds in history.
When you and I think of Jesus and the twelve disciples we think of Jesus, eleven pretty nice guys and one seedy character named Judas. It is as if it were Jesus, eleven saints and Hitler. This is an easy picture to make in your head, but let me argue that it's likely way off.
"Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to Him those He wanted, and they came to Him. He appointed twelve... designating them apostles... that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. These are the twelve He appointed: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder); Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alfphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him." Mark 3:13-19
Notice that Judas fit right in with the other eleven (other than the fact that Mark says right out what Judas would later do and the fact that he gives Judas his full name like Lee Harvey Oswald so as not to confuse him with another Judas). Judas was designated an apostle. Judas went out and preached and drove out demons and spent three years personally with Jesus.
So, Judas was a man that preached and drove out demons; he was part of Jesus' inner circle. Don't miss that all of the twelve gave up what they had and what they were doing to follow Jesus, even Judas did this.
Judas looked like a very nice guy and one that you and I might have respected had we known him. Notice this story from Matthew:
"When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, 'I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.'
They were very sad and began to say to him one after another, 'Surely not I, Lord?'
Jesus replied, 'The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me." Matthew 26:20-23
Notice that none of the disciples suspected Judas. Bartholomew didn't respond to Jesus' statement by saying, "Dude, it's got to be Judas. Definitely Judas, everyone knows that guy is a jerk!" No, no one suspected him. Even after Jesus said it's the guy who dipped his hand into the bowl with Him (which basically meant the guy sitting next to me sharing my salsa bowl), even after that they didn't suspect Judas. Even as Judas got up in the middle of the meal to go betray Jesus they didn't suspect Judas.
My point is that sometimes we read the Bible and think, "I'm more like the good guys than the bad guys", I'm telling you that you're not and I'm not either. Judas, though John tells us that he secretly stole from the money box, probably would look and act a lot like us in church, if fact likely better.
So, how did Judas become the traitor?
Saint Augustine says that sin is disordered love. Judas obviously loved money more than Jesus. Judas sold Jesus out for money, and not very much money at that. 30 pieces of silver was Judas' asking price for the life of Jesus. 30 pieces of silver was the price someone had to pay if a slave was gored by a bull (Exodus 21:32). Judas sold Jesus' life for the price of a dead slave.
Judas likely loved the idea of Jesus when he thought it would come with political power and wealth, but when Jesus started talking about dying Judas bailed. Judas didn't love Jesus enough, he loved what he thought Jesus could do for him but not Jesus Himself. Judas didn't hate Jesus and may have really liked Jesus as a friend, but Judas loved money more.
This is what we need to meditate on today on this Spy Wednesday: do we love Jesus? What kept Judas from staying faithful to Jesus was that his love for money trumped his love for Jesus. Like a man that says he loves his wife but really loves his mistress more, Judas preferred money to Jesus. It's not enough to like Jesus. To stay faithful to Jesus we must love Him above all else.
Disordered love is deadly. Disorder love left Judas "doomed to destruction" (John 17:12). Disordered love threatens us, too. It's not enough to change your life to follow Jesus, Judas did that. It's not enough to preach and cast out demons, Judas did that. Spy Wednesday implores us to love Jesus above all else, to trust that Jesus has something better for us and is that something better.
Do you love Jesus? Or, what would you trade for Jesus? Think about that and ask Him to give you sufficient love for Him today.