Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus
22 Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching,2 and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus.5 They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 6 He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.
Observations & Reflections
The setting of the betrayal of Jesus is during the weeks of the Unleavened Bread which is part of the Passover week (not Easter). The days of the Unleavened Bread were commanded by the Lord as the first portion of the Passover in Exodus. The festival instructions from Leviticus & Deuteronomy gives the detail.
3 You shall eat no leavened bread with it. Seven days you shall eat it with unleavened bread, the bread of affliction—for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste—that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 16:3)
“These are the appointed feasts of the Lord, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the Lord‘s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. But you shall present a food offering to the Lord for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.” (Leviticus 23:4-8)
Thus Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was not by accident. He meant to arrive in Jerusalem just before the Passover week. Likely this is because Jews from all the other nations would be present. Out of all of the weeks of the year this week would give Jesus the most exposure to the Jews of the world. This is also why the religious leaders were so desperate to get rid of Jesus.
Luke’s gospel takes a very strong turn in chapter 22, when Judas agrees to betray Jesus. Was was clear previously that the religious leaders wanted to get rid of Jesus but they were not able to because he was so well-liked and they could not catch him in a trap by blaspheming or creating trouble against the Roman government. This is now plan C; infiltrate the group. Essentially, Judas is now turning into a double-agent. The interesting thing is that it appears to be Judas’ idea to betray Jesus. Matthew’s gospel gives just a bit more insight as to Judas’ motivation.
14 Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. (Matthew 26:14-26)
Mark’s gospel give a little more insight as to Judas’ possible other motivations. Recall that Judas was in charge of the treasury for the 12 disciples. He was a man who loved money, hence why he negotiated Jesus’ betrayal for money. But even more deeper, Mark shows that the betrayal happened right after Jesus allowed a woman in Bethany to wash his feet with an expensive bottle of perfume. The disciples (probably led by Judas) were outraged by the wasted value of the perfume.
Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. (Mark 14:4-5)
Their outrage may have also been heightened by the recent behavior of Jesus, driving everyone out of the Temple after entering Jerusalem as a king but not immediately having the kingdom of God “suddenly appear.” It’s quite likely that they were low on money and low on morale. If Jesus wasn’t going to usher in the everlasting reign then what exactly was he going to do? Judas had obviously seen enough.
Judas betrayed Jesus for a rather small sum of 30 pieces of silver which would be valued today at between 1,000 & 3,000 dollars (based on best historical data points. Not exactly a next egg. It would seem then that Judas was hard-up for money and ready to rid himself of Jesus and his strange behavior.
[Featured image is a 1909 painting by P. Molnár, titled “The Thirty Pieces of Silver”]