Written by, Michael W. Pursley
The complexity of his actions, the far-reaching extent or measure of its effects, the utter badness of his betrayal of Jesus, a close friend, prevents such a supposition; it is inconsistent with his past avarice. The acceptance of so paltry an amount is conclusive to my mind that money was not the primary object.
I believe that the mind of Judas could have been at this time animated by an actual demon; this consideration alone suits our Lord’s description, “Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself (I, even I the Holy One of God) not choose you, the twelve (you the twelve to myself -ἐξελεξάμην) , and yet one of you is a devil?“
I know that there are many who are willing to believe that this diabolic or demoniacal influence Judas experienced was merely a passion. –That it was something which swept over the mind in gusts, something which could happen to anybody, especially to those who operate impulsively, whereby their will is overcome.
However, even though a certain impulsiveness or compulsion may certainly have been involved, I think that we can see that the simple passion of avarice was not the basis of such a state, or of such a plan. This action was not that of simple passion; it is rather the want of passion. What I am saying is that what took place did not happen from a passion that came in gusts; rather, it was the working out of a heart existing completely under the control of one stronger than itself. As such, it could happen to any one of the sons of fallen Adam. For in its context, was not Peter a second Judas? Did he not betray his Savior with curses, as have we?
In the narrative as it took place, I maintain that the actions and passions involved were symptomatic and systemically part of a larger issue, an issue of a different kind, of a more malevolent kind of issue. Everything about the narrative I believe demonstrates that the motives which led Judas to the betrayal of the innocent Lamb of God, were inherent and came to the fore of his mind gradually and methodically until in the end, when the purpose and the course of action took possession and control of his thinking.
We do not see from the narrative any suggestion of an emotional outburst, such as what we saw just earlier with the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her bottle of expensive ointment, where it is exclaimed,” Why this waste?” (Matthew 26:8-10).
However, if the inconsequential acquisition of a mere thirty pieces of silver will not explain the deed of Judas with any reliable conclusiveness, what then, does explain it?
First, let us admit that unless it is revealed to us through some act of Divine Providence, we will never know the entire mind of Judas, even in heaven. For the mind is God’s providence and he will reveal what he reveals, but there are certain tantalizing clues that may point as to what the intent of Judas’ motive might have been.
1. There was an atmosphere which permeated all of Judas’ actions, and that was one of “self-interest.” Judas kept the money the disciple collected (see John 12:39). To this extent we see from the above passage referenced in Matthew 26, that the concern for Judas was the collection of funds, which was considered paramount, even over the overt and public act of charity for their Master and teacher. If one thinks about the dynamics of this situation, as well as the thoughts and words of Judas and the disciples, this was an exceptionally disrespectful denigration and lack of consideration of one’s own Rabbi.
2. There was also a heightened sense of mission among the disciples, including Judas. As Jesus and John the Baptist had readily propounded, the Kingdom of God had come, and the Kingdom of God has come with power. This power was obviously concentrated in the person of Jesus. The fascinating aspect for Judas was that it was a raw physical power which could be conferred to his deputies, namely his disciples. Like them, Judas must have experienced the power of the “force.” And this had to be a power which both amazed and awed all of them, including Judas (see John 10:17).
Obviously, this period was both a heady and scary time for the disciples. Things were happening faster and faster on all fronts. The fact that there was an unpredictable end coming, an end for the quiet world which they well knew, was obvious. For Judas, seeing the end coming like a freight train, must have especially galling. To watch Jesus, being undiplomatic to the powers that be; to watch Jesus, instead of courting the powers of Israel, confronting, denouncing and making enemies as fast as he possibly could, must have seemed to Judas like a lesson in self-destruction.
Seen in this context, Judas must have been beside himself; an emotional wreck. I am sure that he must have quantitatively analyzed that over here is raw power, and over there, the Judicial, legislative and Executive powers; why must Jesus needlessly antagonize all of these levers of power? But by the time of the betrayal, Judas must have also realized that these two cultures were never going to homogenize. There was too much hatred between the two; with each side irretrievably irretractable; each side vociferously proclaiming its irreconcilable differences. Each side trying to lay its own axe to the roots of the other’s tree. It was now apparent, one side in the end, had to win. Dominance and submission, must now be the name of the game.
3. There must have been another angle playing around in Judas’ mind. It was the fact, that with the confirmation of power, there were at least two new implications which presented itself. As he thought about it, it was now obvious that Jesus had enough power to wipe out both the Jewish leadership, and the Roman occupiers. How so? If Jesus was who he said he was, than his power, was both unlimited and inexhaustible. Which meant… the Jews didn’t have a chance. Which also meant that Jesus would have all the power of Government, and that he would be the defacto second David. It also meant that the Romans didn’t have a chance either, and that would mean that the populace, thankful that they had a savior from the evil empire, would see their way to crowning him king; without any problem. Further, with Jesus’ ability to heal the sick, feed the poor, and raise the dead, the thought of an everlasting kingdom no longer looked so far-fetched. And with Jesus’ hatred of the leadership, and compassion for the poor, this whole thing might look like a cake-walk, if put together carefully.
4. But what if he was wrong? What if the scenario failed? Obviously, all he needed was a fuse; Jerusalem was already a powder-keg. But what would happen if he stood up for Jesus in dramatic fashion and Jesus called him down? Not only would it be completely humiliating, but his credibility would be forever shot. And further, it was entirely plausible that Jesus would do exactly that. Hadn’t that just happened the day before? (see John 12:7) That was a situation which had worked out very badly. No Jesus didn’t want to be pushed… He always pushed back, and in ways that were never foreseeable. No this was a situation that had to be handled delicately. For if Jesus did not cooperate, the Jewish leaders would take out their wrath on all of them, but especially on the one who had caused them grief. No, for Judas the scenario had to be seen as both initiated by him alone, but in complete compliance and cooperation with the Jewish leaders own wishes and desires. That way if something did go wrong with the Jews, they might take it out on the others, but for him, he at least had his own get out of jail free ticket. If he could just find a way.
5. Was there was yet another interesting implication? Since he had been given power, and was in solid with the disciples, there was also the consideration that there would be plenty of power sharing with the disciples in the New Kingdom. Who cares if Jesus loved like the top three disciples, of which Judas was not? He was at least part of the top twelve, and besides, all the money of the New Kingdom would pass through his hands. The permutations of those kind of sums was mind-boggling; for with the money, lies the power. This meant that the faster he, Judas, did something, the faster he could get rich. Maybe he would write a book on it; “Investing tips with Judas,” or say, “Investing for Eternity,” or maybe even, “How I Landed the BIG ONE.”
6. How could he, Judas, therefore force Jesus into a certain position, in which Jesus would have to defend himself, take charge over his worst enemies (the Pharisees and the Priests), while not necessarily compromising his own position with the Lord? Yes, how could he do that, and yet at the same time, keep himself off the hook with the now ruling parties, –just in case if things happen to turn out badly? This must have become a time-consuming question, as well as an emotional one, for it involved betrayal. And while he could justify betrayal in any number of ways, the fact of the matter was, that it was betrayal none the less. Fortunately, he had seen that Jesus was good at forgiving, and if he had a good excuse ready, perhaps he could smooth it out. Besides, if things went altogether badly, at least he had the cover of plausible deniability.