[powerpress]During all of Jesus’ homilies on money and greed and God’s provision, two of his disciples received his words radically differently. One was a former tax collector, Matthew, who had enlisted with the Roman occupiers essentially to extort money from his fellow Jews. But he left his lucrative career to follow a homeless teacher. The other disciple was Judas Iscariot, whose occupation we know nothing about. (Well, I don’t. I didn’t dig very deep.)
Most of us know about Judas Iscariot, the trader, the one who betrayed Jesus, handing him over to the religious leaders who wanted him executed for blasphemy. Something I noted last week, if you remember, when Judas objected to Mary’s lavish worship, is that the gospel writer John refers to him as a thief. As the treasurer, Judas would dip into the money bag and fill his personal account. Not much, mind you. Just a little here and there. You wouldn’t want to set off any alarms.
I don’t know when the disciples figured out Judas had been embezzling ministry funds. Likely it was after his death and after Jesus had died, resurrected, and ascended to heaven. They learned a lot about their fellow disciple after he hung himself in a field.
I will be teaching a new financial course, as I mentioned in “Money Map“. (I’m writing this a few weeks ahead of my post date.) One topic I’ll hit hard on is our tendency toward greed, as Tim Keller so aptly illustrates in Counterfeit Gods. Judas intrigues me. Why did he betray his Master? I was reading in a Bible dictionary, which stated that no one can really know his motives for betrayal. Although, I’d like to offer that at least one motive is quite clear–greed.
Let’s look at John 13. This scene is very familiar to many of us. Jesus is with his disciples on the night before his death.
John 13:1-2 (ESV)
1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him …
Satan had been working through the religious leaders to bring about the death of God’s Son. Something I did not hit on a couple chapters ago is that the Pharisees rejected Jesus because he threatened their position, their power and influence (see John 11:48). In Judas they found an insider willing to trade his Rabbi to satisfy his greed. John points out that Satan had been directing Judas’s heart, as well. Soon, Judas would be subject not merely to temptation to grasp money but would become possessed by the devil himself.
After Jesus acknowledged the one who would betray him, Judas left the men he’d shared company with for three years.
John 13:26, 30 (ESV)
26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. … 30 So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
They would see him again one final time, accompanied by soldiers and religious higher-ups, when they would arrest Jesus in the garden.
Was Judas’ only motivation greed? No, probably not. Perhaps like other followers of Jesus, he’d had other notions of a Messiah, of one who would upend Roman occupation. Maybe he wanted on the inside of such a revolution, one that, if successful, would guarantee some kind of position of power for himself.
And so we circle back to greed.
We view Judas with disdain, scoffing that we would never betray our Lord in such a manner. But I would ask: Have we truly given up the worship of money like the other disciple I first mentioned, like Matthew the tax collector? Or do we sometimes resemble Judas? Instead of scoffing, perhaps we could pray like David:
Psalm 139:23-24 (ESV)
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!