Devotion Forty Three
Wednesday April 13, 2022
This is a week to remember the last days of Jesus’ life as well as his whole life and ministry. One of the key figures in the stories of the end of Jesus’ life is Judas. His legacy is significant. The kiss of death. Thirty pieces of silver. He is considered the traitor. The guilty party. Even the one responsible for Jesus’ death because in the gospel story he contacted the religious authorities who wanted Jesus killed. And betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver with a kiss.
Thirty pieces of silver. I was curious about just how much money that was. In the story before the betrayal to the authorities, a woman anoints Jesus with oil that was very costly. Maybe a year’s wages. The disciples think this money should have been given to help the poor. So, this thirty pieces of silver. Is it a lot? Is Judas going to use it to help the poor? Apparently, it is a paltry sum. Even a ridiculously small amount. Maybe like the wages that would be paid to a shepherd, at the bottom of the income (and social) scale. The amount is supposed to be a stark contrast to the value of the oil used to anoint Jesus.
So how is it that this character, Judas, is so remembered? So infamous? The 30 pieces of silver and the kiss of death iconic cultural references seen again and again in literature, the media, and the arts, as well as in sermons and speeches? Why is this so remembered when it was such a meager sum of money? And did Judas’ betrayal really lead to Jesus’ death? Probably not. Jesus was not hiding. The authorities would have found him one way or another. He was a public figure. So why is Judas so prominent? I don’t think it is because of his effect on the plot of the story.
I think it has to do with his character. The whole matter of his being one of the twelve and betraying Jesus has significance. One of the inner circle. One of those closest to Jesus. And he turns Jesus in. You really never know who you can trust. Including yourself.
And in the story, Judas does this for those thirty pieces of silver. It didn’t take much. To satisfy his greed? To make him feel worthy and valued? Like he was important? To express his opposition? How sad is that?
After all that time with Jesus. And he still didn’t get the good news of the gospel. He still didn’t see the reality of God. He still couldn’t accept the unconditional love.
And Jesus chose to give up his life – for Judas. And for us. The wildness of mercy!
May we be aware of the ways we betray the gospel, ourselves, and others. And may we be ever conscious of the power we give to money. The gospel offers us life, meaning, value, purpose, beyond anything that can be represented by silver or gold. May we say ‘yes’ to the wildness of mercy offered to us by Jesus. Amen.