Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Wednesday in Holy Week 2021


Today's story is very short, but it is a turning point in the events which lead to Jesus' death. Judas Iscariot makes the fateful decision to contact the Temple authorities and offer to betray Jesus. Luke tells us that "Satan entered into him", which can make it sound as if Judas didn't have any choice in the matter, but was suddenly inhabited by evil. In other places it is implied that this was all just part of the plan, but that turns Judas - and all of us - into mere puppets, and doesn't explain why God would deliberately set events up this way.
In reality Judas' turning against Jesus was probably a long slow process, and his motivation is never really explained in the Gospels. Did he feel disillusioned? Had he hoped Jesus would be an earthly king, and now saw that wasn't how it would work out? Did he genuinely think he was doing a good thing, that Jesus was a dangerous troublemaker after all?  Did he really betray Jesus for money? In Matthew's Gospel, (27.1-10) he repents of what he has done after Jesus is arrested, and gives the money back, but it is too late.Filled with remorse he either returned the money to the Jewish leaders and hanged himself, according to Matthew’s Gospel (27.5), or died in a bizarre accident “falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out” Acts (1.18) Mark, Luke and John don’t say what happened to him at all.

The lack of explanation for Judas' motivation can seem frustrating and puzzling, but in a way it is good that the Gospels aren't specific about it. It emphasizes the mixed motives we can all have for doing the things we do, and the way in which we can all do things which seemed right at the time but which we later look back and shudder at. 

Luke 22.1-6

Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people.

Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.

Questions to ponder
  • Have you ever had the experience of discovering that someone you thought was a friend had betrayed or hurt you? Have you ever let down a friend? What happened afterwards?
  • Think about your money. Are there things you would never spend your money on even if you had unlimited funds?
  • Imagine you could have a conversation with Judas, before or after he agreed to betray Jesus. What would you want to say to him?
  • Do you think anyone is unforgiveable? Read Ruth Etchell's poem, below, and see how you feel about it.

In Hell there grew a Judas Tree
Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss
Cimabue (1240)
Where Judas hanged and died
Because he could not bear to see
His master crucified

Our Lord descended into Hell
And found his Judas there
For ever hanging on the tree
Grown from his own despair

So Jesus cut his Judas down
And took him in his arms
"It was for this I came" he said
"And not to do you harm

My Father gave me twelve good men
And all of them I kept
Though one betrayed and one denied
Some fled and others slept

In three days' time I must return
To make the others glad
But first I had to come to Hell
And share the death you had

My tree will grow in place of yours
Its roots lie here as well
There is no final victory
Without this soul from Hell"

So when we all condemned him
As of every traitor worst
Remember that of all his men
Our Lord forgave him first

D. Ruth Etchells

Join us tonight for our podcast service of Compline
You can find the podcast here. There is also a service of Compline in church at 8pm

The reading tonight is Luke 22.1-6 (see above)

You might like to find a candle to use through the week, if you have one.

You might also like to listen to the YouTube clip below before you start the podcast, or some other music you have which you like.

There's more information about this hymn in a blog post I wrote several years ago here.


Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Look at some coins and notes together and think about what they could buy. Make some play money or make some rubbings of coins by putting paper over them and rubbing the paper with a crayon. Talk about what would you buy if you had unlimited money? Are there things it would be wrong to buy, even if you could afford them?

Make a card to send to a friend who you can't be with at the moment.

Make a friendship paper chain- you don't need special paper chain sticky paper to do this. Just cut strips of any paper you have around and glue the chains together. Write the name of a friend on each link before you glue it together.

 There are ideas on today's  Pinterest board. 

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