The Judas Trigger
"Then one of the Twelve – the one called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over."
What triggered Judas to betray Christ?
This contact described in Matthew 26 was not the actual betrayal; it was the agreement to betray Christ at some opportune moment in the future.
Let’s step off this page of history for a moment, to discuss a couple of things about my life that add to this offering.
First, loss brings disappointment for unfulfilled hunger. We miscarried a baby in 1991.
My wife expected to bring home a baby, but she miscarried. She went home from the emergency room with empty arms.
But not for long. She went on a mild shopping spree and used the checkbook to fill her arms when her uterus could not.
It is human nature to compensate ourselves when disappointing loss strikes us.
Second, the game of chess fascinates me. The strategy used in a game of chess gives us an insight to the mind and heart of God; that He plans and then executes plans formed long ago. The greatest strategy ever created was getting Jesus from the womb to the tomb, while weaving Jesus through the numerous prophecies He created to give further proof to those willing to believe the truth.
Jesus, being God incarnate, was not under the same curses as mortal man. He never should have died.
God the Father had to have Jesus killed by crucifixion to carry our sins.
To do this, He used ordinary people to get Jesus to Golgotha.
While we like to think that only mean people put Jesus on the cross, good people helped the process too.
Does that sound terrible; that ‘good’ people helped put Jesus on the cross? God is good, no? He planned the cross.
Jesus submitted to the cross and didn’t save himself when he could have.
Yes, followers of Christ helped put Jesus on the cross, and I submit that one woman specifically triggered the event that caused Judas to betray the Christ.
Judas was apparently chosen ‘before the founding of the earth’ to be the Great Betrayer. In the KJV, John 17, Jesus called Judas ‘the son of perdition.’
Does this mean God turned Judas into who he was? No.
Romans 8 says: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
I believe this means that God can know the minds of all people before they are born.
God knew before Judas’ birth, that Judas was willing to betray Christ. Judas just needed a reason.
The woman with the alabaster jar gave Judas the reason.
There are four gospels. The three gospels written by direct witnesses contain the account of the woman with the alabaster jar. John 12 specifically identified the woman as Mary, sister of Lazarus and Martha. The Gospel of John also named Judas as the one who objected to Mary anointing Jesus with the expensive perfume.
Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold, and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as a keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
This is when Matthew 26 says:
Then one of the Twelve – the one called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
There are two ways to interpret this word “then.” One can look at it in either a chronological perspective; that Judas’ trip to the priests just happened to be what happened next.
Or one can look at the phrase following the word “then” as a cause-and-effect reaction; the direct result of Mary anointing Jesus, depriving Judas of the opportunity to steal yet again, and then Jesus openly rebuking Judas for challenging Mary’s devotion.
And it is clear to me that Mary’s display of devotion disgusted Judas. Greedy people hate devotion to God.
When Judas saw Mary with the alabaster jar, he probably suspected that it was perfume, and he expected Mary to give it to Jesus, which would be sold for cash and the money deposited in the money bag that Judas carried for the group. His hopes for easy money were dashed when Mary anointed Jesus from the bottle.
Now to the point; when Judas’ hopes for quick money were dashed, he looked for a way to revive his expectation for profit.
Just as my wife went shopping when we miscarried, Judas also sought to replace the loss he had just suffered, but with a twist:
The thirty pieces of silver provided more than just spending cash. Judas had finally outsmarted the One who robbed him of the money he intended to steal from the poor. And it helped even the score for all the times Jesus had rebuked him and the other disciples. Several times in scripture Jesus had sharp words for the disciples.
Judas thought he got the money and his dignity back in one visit to the priests.
In Matthew 26:23, Jesus said, “He who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.”
Though this act of dipping sounds innocent, consider our manners at a party at an appetizer table. Well-mannered people just don’t go for dip when someone of higher stature is dipping in the bowl. Again, I’m no expert at this cultural nuance, but this seems like arrogance on Judas’ part. According to verse 23, Judas was the only disciple to do this the entire meal.
I suspect Judas considered himself more an equal to Jesus than a disciple. I refer you to the couple of times that the New Testament records conversations between Jesus and Judas (Matthew 26 and Mark 14). While the other disciples called Jesus “Lord” in the latter part of his ministry, Judas called him ‘Rabbi’ up to the end, which is a tell-tale sign.
God knew Judas. He knew what it would take for Judas to get up the nerve to go to the priests. God‘s plan of salvation needed Judas to do more than just think evil thoughts and steal donated money. God’s plan of salvation needed Judas to betray Christ to the priests, so he could hang on the cross and become the risen Christ.
It seems that greed and a desire for revenge for public humiliation propelled Judas to visit the priests.
Greed and public humiliation, triggered by a woman with a jar of perfume and a grateful heart.
God never tempted Judas, but God used Judas’ greed to put Jesus on the cross to purchase our salvation. Scary, yes? But God is God.
Eric J. Rose