Wednesday of Holy Week

The Readings for the Day
found at

Isaiah 50:4-9a
Hebrews 12:1-3
John 13:21-32
Psalm 70

The Problem of Judas

by Marjorie George

I didn’t mean for it to come to this. I thought I was doing the right thing. But I pushed too hard, I demanded too much, I was oblivious to the effect my actions were having on you, on us. I got stubborn.

Is that the confession of Judas? Was Judas a scoundrel, a traitor, ambitious for only himself, the pawn of the devil? Was Judas willing to sell Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver because he was just plain greedy? Or was Judas pushing a plan that went dreadfully awry?

In today’s gospel reading, John implies that Jesus knew all along what Judas would do. Jesus identifies the traitor by giving him a special tidbit, a piece of bread dipped in sauce. John says that it was at that point that Satan entered Judas; this was the moment when Judas succumbed to his own misguided strategy. 

Some biblical scholars believe that Judas did not want Jesus to die at all. Judas was a fanatical nationalist and wanted an earthly king, someone who would ride in on a great steed with power to wipe out the Romans and free the Jews from their oppression. But Jesus didn’t do it that way. Judas must have grown increasingly distressed at Jesus’ slow and ambiguous way, those silly parables, all that time being spent with people who had no power or money to contribute to the revolution. Judas never did understand the way of Christ.

So in a last-ditch effort, Judas forced Jesus’ hand by delivering him to the authorities. Surely Jesus would save himself and his people. Surely he would not go meekly to a disgraceful death on a cross. But Judas underestimated the lengths to which God was willing to go to bring his people – all his people, not just the Jews – to himself. God was willing to take the harder route, the longer route, the route that may take millennia to fulfill.

Judas was wrong. When he saw clearly his part in the tragedy, he tried to redeem himself by taking the blood money back to the authorities. They had no patience for Judas and told him it was his problem, not theirs. Matthew says that Judas then threw the money on the ground and went out and hanged himself (Matt 27:3-5).

Most of us can say that we have made messes such as this. At times we have been so assured of our own rightness that we were unwilling to dig for – or wait for – the deeper truth. We have been oblivious to our sharp words and insistent manner. We have thought we knew the best way to do it. We were wrong.

I pray, Lord, that when I make a mess because I have insisted on my own way, I will have the grace to seek your forgiveness and ask for your help.  In the words of Psalm 70:

Be pleased, O God, to deliver me;
O LORD make haste to help me (vs 1).

You are my helper and deliverer;
O LORD do not tarry (vs 6).

Questions for reflection:

1. If you had been one of the disciples, what would you have thought about the way Jesus undertook his ministry?

2. When have you been tempted to take the situation into your own hands without waiting for God’s plan to unfold? How did that work out?

3. When you have made a mess of things, how do you make amends to those you may have hurt?

4. What stands out for you in the story of Judas’ betrayal?