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what made Judas tick?

Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?" And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. (Matthew 26:14-16 ESV)

Judas is an enigma, and many have sought to understand why a disciple so close to Jesus would so decisively betray him. (Peter denied knowing Jesus, but Judas actively betrayed him.)

What motivated him? We see it in this one phrase, "what will you give me...?" John noted (John 12:6) that Judas was in charge of, and would skim from, the disciples treasury.

It seems so crass, so low, that for money -- 30 pieces of silver to be exact -- someone who had followed Jesus intensively for three years would just chuck it all and sell a friend to the authorities. He just cashed out his investment of time and relationship with the Lord, turned it into cold cash, and became a turncoat.

When he realized what he did, he took his life. (Like Peter, couldn't he have come and asked for forgiveness? Why didn't he trust that Jesus could, and would, make it right?)

Here's the core of his belief, and it is closer to us than we might imagine: "what will you give me..."? For Judas, being a disciple and following Jesus meant personal benefit primarily. Money seems to have been his "personal benefit of choice." It could be fame, pleasure, security, family stability, power, health, or whatever.

We all have some self-interest in following Jesus, but if that does not diminish over time and be overtaken by a love for Jesus for his own sake, then we are in danger of becoming judas-like.

I've seen this so often in ministry, and in myself: If God doesn't give me __________ , then I'm out of here. Most of us will flex a bit, or flex a lot, when God gives us contrary things. But all of us, I'm afraid, have some areas that if God severely disappoints us, we are really tempted to cash out and take our chips elsewhere.

"If my kids don't turn out right... if I don't have enough wealth or health... if I am deeply humbled... if I lose a loved one... if I don't get what I want out of it all... then I want out!"

"What will you give me?" is the question of those who serve Jesus primarily for the sake of personal benefit, and not for the sake of him who, in himself, is infinitely good, glorious, beautiful, and wise.

He deserves to be loved, not betrayed.


Pilgrim said…
This is sorta scary, but I see myself in this post a lot of the time. Thanks for pointing it out and calling it what it is.

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