In telling about the preparations which were made in regards to the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus, Matthew places two stories side-by-side which could not be more opposite. After describing the beautiful deed of Mary (her name given in John 12:3) who poured out the fragrant oil on the head of Christ, he begins to tell the story of the treacherous act of Judas who betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.
What a contrast in the treatment of Christ! Mary is filled with love and takes no thought at the expense involved in declaring her devotion to the Savior. Jesus was worth everything to her! Judas is filled with greed and doesn’t blink and eye when it comes to selling out Christ for a few pieces of silver.
And what a contrast in the consequences of their actions! Mary performed a deed that Jesus said would be admired the world over as the story of His life is told in the proclamation of the gospel. Judas committed an act of disloyalty which would live in infamy. The name Judas has become synonymous with treachery and betrayal.
Let’s follow the story as Matthew recounts it.
I. The Betrayal Initiated (14-16)
Three times Christ had told His disciples that He would be betrayed to the chief priests, scribes, and the elders of the people (17:22; 20:18; 26:2). Now we see who the betrayer is. He comes from the band of 12 men who were intimately acquainted with Jesus. He was “one of the twelve . . . Judas Iscariot.”
The religious leaders of Israel were plotting to take Jesus deceptively so that they might put Him to death (4). All they lacked was opportunity. It was Passover time in Jerusalem and that meant the population swelled five times more than normal. The ecclesiastical leaders were afraid to take Jesus by force during this time lest a riot commence (5). Who could tell what the public reaction might be if they had Jesus arrested?
When Judas came to them with the offer to hand Him over, if the price was right, their plans to take Him took promising shape. What better way than for an insider to inform them of the time and place where Jesus might be arrested so as not to create a riot among the masses of people in Jerusalem for the Passover?!
No sadder story is to be found in the annals of men than that of Judas betraying Christ. There are two facts stated in the text that highlight his grievous act.
1.Judas was not an outsider who hated Christ and took advantage of an opportunity to sell Him. He was a close associate, a friend, a disciple. “Then one of the twelve, Judas Iscariot . . .” (14). Without doubt, his evil act is greater because of his association with Jesus. 2.Judas took the initiative in betraying Jesus. It was not that the religious leaders of the nation did a survey of the 12 disciples in order to find the weak link so that they might exploit him and work on him. Rather, Judas sought them out and volunteered his services. Judas “went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?’” (14-15).
The question “why” looms on the minds of those who read the Gospel narratives, but we are never told directly why Judas betrayed Jesus. In all likelihood, there was a combination of reasons for the betrayal, though it is impossible to diagnose the psychology of Judas.
There is no question that money figured into the betrayal. Money mattered to Judas. There were probably other reasons for handing Christ over to the authorities (as we will soon examine), but he certainly figured on profiting from the act.
When Judas went to the authorities, he said to them, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” Whatever else may have motivated him, it “is clear that Judas was looking for money in return for handing Jesus over to his enemies” (Morris). Verse 15 portrays “a cold business proposition” (France).
The chief priests agreed to give him 30 pieces of silver and it was counted at that very moment (this does not mean it was actually paid to him at that time, though that may be true as well). Thirty pieces of silver was a fulfillment of prophecy (Zech. 11:12). Thirty pieces of silver was also the price of a slave, the price to be paid when one’s ox gored a slave (Ex. 21:32 - ‘If the ox gores a manservant or a maidservant, he shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, ad the ox shall be stoned’). Thirty pieces of silver was worth approximately 120 denarii, five months wages (i.e. if the coin was a shekel; one shekel was the equivalent to 4 denarii; Blomberg).
You will remember that Matthew just told the story of Mary anointing Jesus with the very costly perfume. John tells us that it was worth 300 denarii (approximately a year’s wages) and that Judas was upset that it was not sold so the proceeds could be given to the poor. John then adds: “This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it” (John 12:6).
Do you see the picture? “Disappointed of gain from one source, he now sought it from another” (Morris)! Judas betrayed Jesus for money. This we know. But were there other reasons besides this? It is most likely. Let me put forth some other motives that may have been underlying causes of Judas’ betrayal.
1.Judas may have been disappointed in the kind of Messiah Jesus turned out to be. You will recall that even John the Baptist had some doubts about Jesus when he was in prison (Mathew 11:3). Judas may have had the same frustrations.
Like many others, Judas probably envisioned a Messiah who would overthrow the Romans and set up a Jewish kingdom and reign over the world.
Jesus had the power to accomplish such ends, this Judas knew quite well!
But Jesus was traveling down a path of suffering rather than militancy, and this may have greatly disappointed Judas.
Out of frustration he may have betrayed Jesus, or some even speculate that he sold Jesus in order to force Him to display His great powers and destroy the Romans.
If this is true, then we can understand his disappointment, but this in no way excuses his treachery (Carson).
2.Kin to disappointment is disillusionment. Judas may have initially followed Jesus because “he thought that the man from Nazareth would in due course lead a successful rebellion against Rome. When he found that Jesus was a man of peace, he was disillusioned and took the action that would get rid of him” (Morris). Judas may have figured that he was on a sinking ship and he wasn’t about to go down with it.
All of this is conjecture. The NT does not provide us with a reason for the betrayal other than that of money. But it seems that something more deeply affected Judas than just the desire for money.
The only thing now lacking for Judas to betray the Lord was opportunity. “So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him” (16). Judas had now committed himself. He would be on the lookout for the best time and place for temple soldiers to arrest Jesus.
II. The Passover Celebrated (17-19)
The night of the betrayal was the night Jesus celebrated His last Passover with His disciples. The Passover festival was one of the three major feasts celebrated by the Jews. It was also known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for all leaven was to be removed from the house (Ex. 12:18). The feast originated during the time of Moses when the children of Israel were brought out of Egyptian bondage.
Matthew writes, “Now on the first day of the Feast of the Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, ‘Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?’” (17). Jesus gives them directions and the Passover meal is prepared (18-19).
Two disciples were sent (Mark 14:13) into the city to find a room. Jesus said they would find a man (Mark says he would be carrying a water pitcher) and they were to say to him, “The Teacher says, ‘My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples’” (18). Jesus had either made prior arrangements for the Passover by reserving a place for Him and His disciples to gather, exemplifying careful planning, or He exercised miraculous power at this time and directed His disciples to a man who would be made willing to open His home for Jesus, exemplifying supernatural insight.
A similar situation at His triumphal entry also occurred—21:1-3…
When Jesus said, “My time is at hand,” the disciples or the man who would make the upper room of his home available for them to have the Passover meal, probably did not understand exactly what He meant. To them it may have sounded like the time for the Passover. However, from our perspective, we know exactly what He meant. He meant the hour of His death at Calvary, the most decisive moment in the course of history (Blomberg).
“So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover” (19). Preparation for the Passover would have involved several steps. (1) After procuring the room, they would have taken a lamb to the temple court where a priest would have killed/sacrificed it. The priest would have poured the blood out at the foot of the altar and burned the lambs’ fat on the altar of burnt offerings (Carson). (2) Then the disciples would have roasted the lamb with bitter herbs (Ex. 12:8-9). (3) Other arrangements like purchasing wine and unleavened bread would have then been done.
All of this would have been done in preparation for the Passover. This appears to have been done on the Thursday afternoon (14 Nisan). After nightfall, which would then be Friday according to the Jewish calendar (15 Nisan), they would have gathered to eat the Passover (see excursus in Carson, pp. 528-532).
Normally, families gathered for the Passover meal. Psalms would be sung (the Hallel, Psalm 113-118) and the story of Israel’s deliverance would be told. In this case, the “family” was Jesus and His band of disciples.
III. The Betrayer Designated (20-25)
After sundown and at the commencement of Passover day, Jesus reclined (not sat) at the table with His disciples to eat the Passover meal. We are not sure at what stage in the meal Jesus interrupted with the news that Matthew records, but what Jesus said to His disciples was a bombshell to them.
Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me” (21). You will remember that Jesus had told His disciples several times that He would be betrayed, but He had never said who would be responsible. Now Jesus tells them who His betrayer would be—He says it will be “one of you.”
This came as a big shock to all of them. One of them was horrified that his plan for betrayal was not a secret to the Lord! It was concealed to the rest, for none of them said, “Is it Judas?” He had covered his tracks very well (Morris). Eleven of them were horrified thinking that it could possibly be one of them! Matthew records that “they were exceedingly sorrowful” (22). Rather than being angry, they were sad. Each of them was worried that they might be the one who would defect and betray the Lord. They knew how weak they were in the flesh, so each one began to ask, “Lord, is it I?” Their question is phrased in order hopefully to obtain a negative reply. The NIV renders it, “Surely not I, Lord.”
Jesus answered His disciples question but did so in a general way. He said, “He who dipped his hand with me in the dish will betray me” (23). All them would have dipped their hands in the center food bowl (a common dish with sauce or fruit in it, probably dipped out with bread) so this is not a revelation of which disciple among the twelve would commit the treacherous deed. But it was revelation of other things.
1.The words reveal a fulfillment of prophecy. Psalm 41:9, “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me.” 2.The words reveal a close friendship. To eat together was a sign of close friendship. This man was a companion sharing with Jesus the most sacred feast in Israel. 3.The words reveal what great depths the betrayer had sunk (Ridderbos).
The guilt of the betrayer is set forth when Christ declares, “The Son of Man goes as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (24). The pathway of death for Christ was God’s plan, but the person who sold Jesus into the hands of the murderers was fully responsible for his deed.
That is why Jesus pronounced a woe upon him. He says it would have been good if he had not been born! The betrayer would face eternal torment, everlasting punishment. He is elsewhere called “the son of perdition,” meaning “one doomed to destruction” (John 17:12).
This dispels the notion of universal salvation. If everyone will be saved in the end, then there was no need for Jesus to say it would have been better if he had not been born . . . It also dispels the notion of annihilation. If everyone who is lost will be snuffed out of existence in the end, then they would be reverting back to the state of nonexistence prior to birth. Our Lord’s words would then make no sense.
“Jesus here maintained both human accountability and divine predestination, without diminishing the reality of either” (Ridderbos).
There is one last thing in the text. Judas, like the other disciples, asked Jesus if he were the betrayer. His question has one difference—he did not address Jesus as “Lord,” as did the other disciples, only as “Rabbi.” Judas cannot even hypocritically call Jesus Lord.
Apparently Judas asked this question in order “to feign innocence and thereby remove attention from himself. Perhaps he thought that Jesus was yet unaware of who would betray Him, but in any case he wanted to find out whether Jesus did in fact know” (Ridderbos).
Jesus answered in the affirmative. He said to Judas, “You have said it” (25). We would say today, “your words, not mine” (Blomberg), or “you have said it, not I” (Carson). Judas indicted himself.
Judas then realized that Jesus saw through him. Shortly afterward, Judas left Jesus and the disciples. He did not participate in the Lord’s Supper (John 13:30), instead, he went out to wait an opportunity to sell out the Son of God.
NOTE - The conversation between Jesus and Judas must have been in private because none of the other disciples realized that the betrayer was Judas.
There are several lessons of great importance that need to be stressed which arise out of this passage.
1. It is possible to have membership in the church but not be a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. Judas made a profession of faith. Not only that, he was an apostle. Yet his heart remained black with sin.
What privileges Judas had. He followed Christ in the days of His flesh and thereby was an eyewitness to His great miracles and a hearer of His sermons (Ryle). “He saw what Abraham and Moses never saw, and heard what David and Isaiah never heard.” He was one of the twelve yet he didn’t know the Lord Jesus in a saving way!
No doubt, there are many in the church today like Judas of old. They make a reputable profession of faith, they conduct themselves morally in a good and proper way, but they have never been soundly converted.
Is that true of you? Are you like Judas? Are you a hypocritical professor of religion rather than a genuine possessor of faith?
2. A sin of many in the professing community of believers is that of covetousness. That was the secret darling sin of Judas and the other disciples didn’t seem to recognize it.
Covetousness is as much as sin as adultery or murder. The 10th Commandment says, “Thou shalt not covet.” It is as much a sin as idolatry. In fact, Paul (in Colossians 3:5) likens it to idolatry. He writes, “Put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”
Many professed Christians would never think of bowing down to an idol made of wood or stone but they bow down to the god of gold every day! And like Judas, they are found in the company of Christ’s followers, but they worship another god.
Are you like Judas? Do you love money like he did? Are you more concerned about being rich in this world rather than in the world to come?
3. To die with out Christ means eternal ruin and loss. Judas went to hell because he was lost. By his transgression he fell from his apostleship “that he might go to his own place” (Acts 1:25).
Hell is not a pleasant subject but it is one Jesus spoke of frequently. You may deny the reality of eternal punishment, but that will not change the fact of it. The Bible declares that all who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord will suffer for their sins in hell.
“’Except a man be born again,’ he will wish one day that he had never been born at all” (Ryle). Will that be true of you? Or will you repent of your sins and take Christ as your Lord and Savior today?