Nothing more to gain. Nothing more to lose.
“You’ve gotta let me in!”
“Get out of here, you lunatic!”
“Please! I need to see the council! Any priest!”
To the bustling crowd outside the Royal Stoa the unusually uninteresting sight of the man raving at the door before the temple guards barely registered. The past night had been most eventful with rumours of the arrest of that Galilean teacher, the one people claimed was Messiah. The buzz was that he was standing trial before the Roman procurator at the Praetorium. This madman, on the other hand, was of no consequence.
On the contrary, he had everything to do with what was going on. This man’s name was Judas.
“What nonsense is this?” A priest bellowed from the courts beyond as he made his way to the guards.
Judas saw his opportunity then. But as he sprang forward he was tackled to the ground by a guard. “Unhand me!” he snapped.
“Ah, yes…” Disdain dripped from the priest’s voice as Judas stared up at him. “I remember you.” With a wave the guards made way.
Judas pushed himself to his feet. “Sir, there’s been a mistake. That man, Jesus, I heard what you’re doing to him. He’s innocent.”
“Is he? You didn’t seem to mind with your theatrics at Gethsemane.”
Did he remember! But for Judas he could never forget. Betraying wth a kiss, who does that?! He had gone too far this time. How could he have done this? How could I?
“But you can’t!” The priest stared him down. “Are you trying to tell me how to do my work? Know your place, man–”
“To Sheol with it! I-I didn’t know what I was doing!”
The priest slammed a foot on the floor, the sound echoing in the hall. “You would be wise not to insult my intelligence. I know a man with an eye for the bottom-line when I see one. I was there when you came to us. You came of your own will. You wanted to know what we would pay you if you handed him over to us. You knew well enough what we were going to do, but it was just the 30 pieces of silver you desired. That says more about you than it does about us.”
Judas shut his eyes.
All his life, he always looked for the angle that would profit himself. As a businessman it was a skill that helped him. Money would answer all things, but only the smartest could get it. The risk of loss could only be avoided by overstepping the rules.
When the news of the Nazarene reached him, he knew that this was the salvation Israel needed. In the man’s voice was the authority of royal breed. This was somebody he should follow, he knew. Somebody that would be king. Somebody that it would be profitable to be close to.
And amazingly, Jesus made him one of the Twelve. Judas kept the purse for them. Jesus had taught a radical message, but the actions that followed it were alien to Judas’ sentimentalities. Wouldn’t you lose if you turn the other cheek? How can the greatest be slave of all? How does this philosophy usher in a kingdom? How can trusting God solve the pressing problems facing them? As these doubts festered, there were also moments when they seemed to make sense.
Jesus had performed miracles before his eyes. Judas and the rest of the Twelve had cast out demons by the authority Jesus gave him. It had been truly remarkable. Clearly God was with him. But why did it still seem weird? Would they be nomadic followers of this man forever? What did the future hold? This could not be the totality. Even Solomon had written in his proverbs that wisdom was profitable to direct.
Judas stuck with the best that he knew: look out for number one.That’s when Judas started stealing from the purse. It was in little bits that no one could notice. But what choice did he have? This Jesus Movement was clearly going nowhere, so why not make the best profit out of it while it lasted?
And Jesus wasn’t helping matters. He just would not change his message to get the support of the clergy. What leader does not understand the rules of diplomacy? Why would Jesus continue to walk among the poor and lowest of society? None of these were the foundations of a kingdom!
The last straw was at Bethany. A woman broke an alabastar box, pouring expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet. How could she waste a year’s worth of wages on the feet of this man? And when Judas voiced his opinion Jesus took the woman’s side.It had been the last straw. Such weakness could not overthrow the Roman occupation. The Jesus Movement was either already over, or it needed a push to take the radical violent turn it needed. It was now or never, but Judas would not miss out on what gain he could accrue.
30 pieces of silver.
Never before had such a bargain felt so empty. It mocked him, reminding him of the despicable traitor he was.
He pulled at his hair. “I don’t care about the money.” He grabbed the bag from his girdle and lifted it before his face. “This, this is blood money.”
“Watch your tongue here,” the priest lowered his voice.
“If he is sentenced, his blood will be on my head.”
“You did not seem to mind when we gave you. What is this? Are you remorseful now? Are you suddenly a believer in that demon-possessed miracleworker? You, a close confidant of the blasphemer, you handed him over for a price. The deal is over!”
“I know. Just take it. Please. It gives me no peace.”
The priest folded his arms. “That is your problem. Not mine. Get out of my sight, and take a bath or something.”
“No! Please!” He smashed the bag to the floor and it burst open, spilling and sending coins bouncing in every direction. “Take it back! I don’t want it!”
“GET THIS LUNATIC OUT OF HERE!”
The guards manhandled the screaming man and tossed him down the steps and into the streets.Where is your profit now, eh?
His thoughts mocked him. he could not face the Twelve ever again. Where could he go?
Friend, is this how you betray me?
Jesus had known. Why did he allow it to happen?
Why did I?
Nothing more to gain. Everything to lose.
The only option left in his mind was the noose.
Judas’ story is a tragedy for the ages. There are many suggestions as to why he betrayed and handed Jesus over to be killed. But one root we can point to is the hold ‘Money’ had on his life.
Fear of poverty or of the loss of what has been acquired can cause a person to pursue and hold on to money and all its provisions for life. It becomes a master, dictating one’s mood and causing impulsive decisions. The worst kinds of such impulsive decisions can be made in our lowest moments. Like Judas hanging himself.
It can cause people to make decisions completely inconsiderate of what is right, just for the sake of a profit.
Fear makes us shortsighted, as if there are no options except those presented before us.
But what fear does not do is to remind us that the things it is causing us to hold on to are fickle and will fade away eventually.
This is not the life God has in mind for us.
Jesus came and died and rose to give us a New Life that is abundant. It triumphs through and over all circumstances. Even in the valley of the shadow of death it fears no evil, confident that “God is with me.”
With the life of God, Money and the good life become no longer a master or a desperate pursuit but a tool to be used and enjoyed with purpose, to be a blessing to all.For Judas, the 30 pieces of silver meant nothing to him after the fact. They coud not give him the peace he needed and that his soul desired. His fear and guilt blinded him from the salvation that God was providing for him, being worked out on a hill not so far away.
Don’t let them blind you.
P.S.: I called him the man of Kerioth because one of the most accepted translations of his name, Iscariot, is the Hebrew Ish-Kerioth which means Man of Kerioth. Kerioth was a town in Judea.
Some believe it was also a take on the name of a militant anti-Roman Jewish group called the Sicarii, and that Judas may have been a member. This would support some of the assumptions of his possible frustrations with Jesus’ non-militant approach. But some believe the Sicarii did not exist until after the time of Jesus.
In this story, I tried to base elements of his character solely or majorly on what is contained in scripture. This does not presuppose that my explanations is more correct than any other. But the lessons the Bible posits are what is most important.