Today’s Palm Sunday originated from people waving and laying palm leaves on the ground crying out Hosanna! Hosanna to the son of David! To greet Jesus as He entered Jerusalem. Palm Sunday is the beginning of Jesus’ Passion Week of suffering and ends with the resurrection of Jesus Christ this coming Sunday.
Through the story of Judas Iscariot today, let us reflect on the great opportunity that God is giving us.
1. Judas Iscariot was chosen
Jesus prayed all night before choosing His 12 disciples which included Judas Iscariot (Luke 6:12-16). Jesus is God and yet He chose Judas and loved him. He was even considered trustworthy enough to be in charge of the treasury box hence he was probably very close to Jesus and was involved in everything that Jesus did.
2. Why did Judas choose to betray and sell his teacher?
1) He was displeased and disapproved of Jesus
Many scholars claim that Judas was of the Zealots. They were fervent, dedicated and very zealous for the nation’s independence from the Romans. In Judas’ perspective, Jesus’ pace and ways of ministry must have seemed ineffective and slow for his purposes. But Jesus did not have the same agenda. Many times, Jesus took the opportunity to warn Judas that He is aware of Judas’ disgruntled heart and how his grumbling attitude had also influenced the other disciples too (John 6:66-71).
Do we also have the same disgruntled attitude of disapproval and displeasure? Could we be a “devil’ like Judas (John 6:70)?
Judas’ attitude became apparent during the incident when Mary poured the alabaster vial of perfume on Jesus (Matthew 26:7-8). She was giving Jesus her best. The vial of perfume costs at least 300 denarii, 3 months’ worth of work. Jesus’ disciples who were the closest to Jesus and should have believed Him the best, instead of commending her, sat back and criticised her offering. Was what she did such a waste? The perfume was her thanksgiving to Jesus for saving her life. We need to ask, am I like the woman or the disciples?
John 12:4-6 reveal Judas’ true intentions. Outwardly, he seemed to be speaking for the poor but inwardly, Judas was only concerned about himself and his own gain. For he had been secretly pilfering from the money box (John 12:6).
When we start thinking from our human-centredness and perspective, it is an opportunity to examine ourselves. One of the ways to see if we are God-centred is to listen to our own thoughts and our speech especially when we are grumbling and gossiping or defending ourselves. When it starts being about me, myself and I, and everyone else will be at fault and is to blame for my situation. When this happens, we must instead question ourselves why have I become the focus? Have we become like Judas, disapproving and displeased?
We have already read in John 12:6 how Judas pilfered from the money box. 1 Timothy 6:10 tells us the love of money is the root of all evil and James 1:15 says that greed when conceived, gives birth the sin and when sin is accomplished will bring forth death. John 13:2 writes that the devil had already put into Judas’ heart to betray Jesus. The first thing he asked the chief priest was how much will he be receiving for betraying Jesus. Judas decided to sell Jesus at the Passover meal (Matthew 26:14-16). He had already received the 30 pieces of silver and was now looking for a good opportunity to hand Jesus over.
There is such a contrast between Judas and Mary. Mary was saved by Jesus; her demons were cast out; her life was changed. Ever since then, she was probably seeking for an opportunity to show Jesus her gratitude. When she finally decided that her precious alabaster jar of perfume was the best gift she could give, she sought the best opportunity to present this gift to Jesus. When the opportunity finally came, she gave her offering with all her heart and dedication. And Jesus elevated her thanksgiving to one that was given for His burial. He further commanded that what she did be told to everyone wherever this gospel goes. In contrast, Judas was seeking the best opportunity to betray Jesus. This woman brought this 300 denarii worth of perfume to offer to Jesus while Judas Iscariot sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.
What is the opportunity that we are seeking today? Are we even looking for an opportunity to spend time with the Lord and give thanks to Him, like this woman?
In all likelihood, Judas was the only one from the district of Judah, the capital city while the rest were all Galileans (according to the Jewish Encyclopedia). This could be one reason Judas looked down upon other disciples. Also, he could have felt superior because he was in charge of the finances. But when Jesus went to important and special places, He often only took Peter, James, and John, and that must have affected him. Judas did not understand why Jesus was on the earth and what was the purpose of His work. He could not overcome his own ways, his thoughts and expectations.
But even so, Jesus gave Judas 3 chances to repent:
i) During foot washing (John 13:10-11)
Judas knew that Jesus was talking about him, but he did not repent.
ii) During the meal, Jesus said one of them will betray Him. (John 13:21-22; Matthew 26:21-22,25)
Jesus confirmed directly to Judas that He knows of his betrayal, but He did not repent. (Matthew 26:25)
iii) When Peter asked John to ask Jesus again (John 13:23-25; 27-28)
Jesus said that whoever He gives the morsel to is the betrayer, but instead of repenting, Judas took the morsel from Jesus’ hand and went out (John 13:30).
Has there been any time in your life that you had known it was a sin and still committed it? We must pray that if we have the seed of doubt, of grumbling and unbelief, God will take it out, that God will crush that seed from taking root in us.
What is the end of Judas Iscariot? After the betrayal, he felt remorse. Upon returning the 30 pieces of silver, he went to hang himself (Matthew 27:3,5; Acts 1:18). And even the tree which he hung himself on rejected him; and he fell and his intestines gushed out. It was such a horrific tragic end for Judas.
Judas missed the opportunity to turn things around. Jesus gave both the woman and Judas opportunities. The woman grabbed the opportunity to repent but Judas did not. Today, what is the opportunity you and I are looking for; what is the opportunity that Jesus is giving us? Let us spend this week and make our decision. If we have not repented of our sins, let us take this opportunity to repent and come to the Lord!