Matthew records where Judas goes to the chief priests and asked, “how much would they give him if he delivered Jesus to them?” They told him 30 pieces of silver. So, 30 pieces of silver was the going rate of betrayal. Who knows why Judas wanted money? Maybe he wanted to take a vacation; maybe he saw the latest camel that went 0–15 mph in less than ten seconds; maybe he was contributing to his 401K; maybe a kid needed to go to college; or maybe he was ready to get out of ministry and start all over. Again, we don’t know why Judas wanted the money, but we do know that it only took 30 pieces of silver to get him to betray his rabbi, his teacher—the Son of God.
Could you imagine going down in history as the one who betrayed Jesus? In fact, Jesus even says that it would be better for him to never have been born. But, before we cast human judgment on Judas, let us search our own heart to see if we have ever been guilty of betraying Jesus or if we are presently guilty of betraying him. In reality, I’m pretty sure we are all guilty of betraying Jesus in some fashion. For instance, Peter after vehemently telling Jesus that he would die for him, denies him. Peter denied Jesus, betrayed his Savior, for what? The price of his life—for he feared for his life.
The biggest difference between Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s betrayal happens after the event. Judas goes out and out of deep sorrow, shame, and guilt tries to give back the silver and then hangs himself, whereas, Peter after denying Jesus three times (realizing what he has done) goes out and weeps bitterly as a sign of conviction and brokenness. In either case, both men had a going rate for betrayal.
So, what do we learn?
- If not careful, we all have a going rate for betraying Jesus. For Judas it was greed that prompted him to take the 30 pieces of silver, for Peter it was lying to protect his life. Both greed and living became idols that trumped the lordship of Christ in their lives. They both loved something more than they loved Jesus. The tendency of betrayal find its root in the idol factory of our hearts. Whatever is or becomes more important than Jesus and his purpose in our life, becomes the element that leads to betrayal. Greed, pleasure, worldly success, happiness, security, comfort, self-centeredness, self-absorption, image, religion, fear, etc, are all idols, which, if allowed, can overtake the lordship of Christ in our life. What idol lurks within our hearts that could possibly cause us to betray Jesus in word or deed?
- To prevent betrayal we must let the Spirit guard our heart. To prevent betrayal, we must let the Spirit guard our hearts and fill our hearts that we might not let the idols of our lives trump the lordship of Christ. As Paul writes in Galatians 5:16–17, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” We must ask daily, hourly, for the Lord to fill and empower us with his Spirit.
- If we do betray him, let’s be quick to repent and receive his grace and love. Remember, Jesus died for his betrayers! And guess what, we are all his betrayers! We, just like our primordial parents, exchanged the lordship of God for our own lordship. We, just like Judas and Peter, have traded Jesus and his primacy in our life for greed and self-protection. However, Jesus because of his great love and grace died for us and desires to forgive us. Rather than waddle in guilt and shame, which can lead to a host of things such as depression and isolation, let us practice confession and repentance. As John writes, in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God’s grace is greater than all our sins…including our sin of betrayal.