Skimming the pages of a book about Jesus recently, my eye fell on a caption: “The Messiah sold for thirty pieces of silver.”
I was struck by the enormity of the meaning of that caption and even the absurdity of it. The Messiah, the Savior, the One by whom all things were created, sold for 30 pieces of silver! I am always disarmed by the humility of our Lord who, time and time again, suffered indignities and insults at the hands of his own creatures. In this instance, that it was done by one of his own disciples must have been a source of great sadness for him. The procession to the cross, ugly and violent as it was, had to be triggered by someone, and so it was Judas who set it off. It was to be expected, of course, but that didn’t make it any easier for Jesus.
When Judas left the upper room to betray Jesus, he had already made arrangements with the chief priests, who wanted the charismatic teacher and his ministry destroyed. Jesus had been with his disciples in the home of Mary of Bethany six days before the last supper.
At great expense and with a heart brimming with devotion, Mary had poured perfume on Jesus’ feet and reverently wiped them with her hair. The disciples, and in particular Judas, objected vehemently to her anointing, claiming it was a waste of money that could have been used for the poor. This was hypocritical criticism by Judas, who had already stolen funds from the money bag.
Jesus defended Mary and held her up as a shining and beautiful example. The fact that Jesus took Mary’s side, telling the disciples to leave her alone, must have ignited rage in Judas. He left Mary’s home and went directly to the chief priests and elders inquiring what they would give him if he delivered Jesus over to them. Delighted, they counted out 30 silver coins, a sum equal to compensation for a dead slave. Thus the series of events that would be the most tragic in all of human history, and yet the most important and meaningful, began to unfold.
Though Judas’ conduct was especially hurtful and destructive, the reaction of the rest of the disciples was also disheartening for Jesus. In the end, with the exception of John, Jesus was deserted by his disciples, who fled into hiding behind closed doors.
Their lack of support added even more misery to the crushing weight of the cross that he bore. Starting with Mary’s anointing, only the women in his close circle of companions somehow understood that he needed the reassurance of his beloved friends.
What would my reaction have been had I been there? I like to think it would have been the same as Mary’s. On the other hand, to paraphrase a line from a praise song, would I have been ashamed, hearing my own mocking voice call out among the scoffers?
Even though it all started with 30 pieces of silver and betrayal, Jesus’ lonely path to Golgotha ended gloriously by ushering in the salvation of all humanity.