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Preparation for Jesus’ Death, Pt 2,
by Scott Sperling
14Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand Him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. 16From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand Him over.
17On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
18He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” 19So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.
20When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21And while they were eating, He said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”
22They were very sad and began to say to Him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?”
23Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24The Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” 25Then Judas, the one who would betray Him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?”
Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you.” (Mt 26:14-25 NIV)
Matthew here documents Judas’s treachery: “Then one of the Twelve – the one called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests and asked, ‘What are you willing to give me if I hand Him over to you?’ So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand Him over” (vss. 14-16). This passage begins “Then…”, which implies a connection to the previous episode. Recall that in the previous episode, the disciples, led by Judas (see John 12:4), chastised Mary for anointing Jesus with perfume, on the grounds that it was a waste of money. The chastising of Mary was driven by Judas’s greed (see John 12:6), as is Judas’s betrayal of Jesus. Judas makes clear his motive in betraying Jesus, because right off, he asks the chief priests: “What are you willing to give me if I hand Him over to you?” (vs. 15). “There is no disguise in this vile question. Judas unblushingly reveals his base motive in offering such a bargain” (Pulpit Commentary). “No small part of the sins of the world can be traced to avarice, and many, and many a time since the days of Judas, has the Lord Jesus been betrayed among His professed friends by the same base propensity” (Barnes).
The price that the chief priests were “willing to give” was “thirty silver coins”. This price, ironically, was the price of a slave (see Exod. 21:32). No doubt, the chief priests chose this amount purposely, for they knew their Torah. “And it is not unlikely that this sum was fixed on by them to show their contempt of Jesus, and that they regarded Him as of little value” (Barnes).
Recall that previously, the chief priests were unwilling to arrest Jesus during the feast days, because of the crowds (see Matt. 26:5). Here, however, Judas was to provide them with an “opportunity” to arrest him during the feast days, but away from the crowds. Judas unknowingly cleared the way for Jesus’ death to be on the Passover, so as to be our Passover, as was God’s plan.
As the feast days came, there was much to do, for Jesus desired to celebrate the Passover with His disciples: “On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ He replied, ‘Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, “The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.”’ So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover” (vss. 17–19). Jesus, of course, had no residence in Jerusalem, so had to borrow a room for the Passover feast. This was not unusual, for many travelers went to Jerusalem during the Passover, all needing rooms to celebrate the Passover. Jesus sent the disciples to ask for a room from “a certain man”, no doubt another follower of His. The “certain man” must have considered it a great privilege that His Master would “celebrate the Passover with His disciples at his house.” And this Passover, for Jesus, was greatly significant, for His “appointed time was near.”
“When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, He said, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me’” (vs. 20-21). Jesus grabs the attention of the disciples for an astonishing announcement, by saying, “I tell you the truth…” The sad declaration was: “One of you will betray me” (vs. 21). “The usual subject of discourse at that ordinance, was the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt (see Exod. 12:26-27), but the great Passover is now ready to be offered, and the discourse of that swallows up all talk of the other” [Henry]. “This was a most unpleasant thought to bring to a feast, yet it was most appropriate to the Passover, for God’s commandment to Moses concerning the first paschal lamb was, ‘with bitter herbs they shall eat it’ (Exod. 12:8)” [Spurgeon].
Jesus’ statement troubled the disciples: “They were very sad” (vs. 22); or as the KJV translates: “And they were exceeding sorrowful”. Part of the reason for their sorrow was a fear by each of them that he himself would betray Jesus: “They were very sad and began to say to Him one after the other, ‘Surely not I, Lord?’” (vs. 22). It is commendable that they looked to themselves first for fault, rather than to others. “Though they were not conscious to themselves of any inclination that way (no such thought had ever entered into their mind), yet they feared the worst, and asked Him who knows us better than we know ourselves” [Henry]. “Sincerity and charity will make men search and suspect themselves rather than another, as here the Apostles say not, ‘Is it Judas?’, but ‘Is it I?’… The sincere man dares not trust the deceitfulness of his own heart, but brings it to the Searcher thereof, and relies upon His testimony” [Dickson]. “We know not how strongly we may be tempted, nor how far God may leave us to ourselves, and therefore have reason, not to be high-minded, but fear. It is observable that our Lord Jesus, just before He instituted the Lord’s supper, put His disciples upon this trial and suspicion of themselves, to teach us to examine and judge ourselves, and so to eat of that bread, and drink of that cup” [Henry]. Apparently, Judas’s thievery (see John 12:6) was undetected by the disciples. “Note, it is possible for a hypocrite to go through the world, not only undiscovered, but unsuspected; like bad money so ingeniously counterfeited that nobody questions it” [Henry].
Jesus had spoken a number of times about the coming events (see Matt. 17:22; 20:18: 26:2), even of being “betrayed”, but He had never (to our knowledge) disclosed that the betrayal would come from one of the Twelve. Next, He emphasizes that the betrayal will come from someone close to Him: “Jesus replied, ‘The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me’” (vs. 23). “This language means that one of those who had eaten bread with him had violated the rights of hospitality by betraying Him... [In that culture,] eating one’s bread ties your hands and compels friendship” [Robertson]. “The fact of eating together made in the Easterns’ view, the treachery more monstrous” [Pulpit Commentary]. “External communion with Christ in holy ordinances is a great aggravation of our falseness to Him. It is base ingratitude to dip with Christ in the dish, and yet betray Him” [Henry].
Jesus continues: “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born” (vs. 24). Here, Jesus is saying that His death by crucifixion will come whether Judas himself betrays Him or not: “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him.” Jesus here is encouraging Judas to change his mind and heart. Jesus graciously desires Judas’s repentance. Jesus even tells Judas that, whether Judas betrays Him or not, God’s will shall be done: “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him.” Judas can choose not to be a part of the betrayal. Jesus warns Judas of the dire consequences of the betrayal: “But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born” (vs. 24). “This He said, not only to awaken the conscience of Judas, and bring him to repent, and revoke his bargain, but for warning to all others to take heed of sinning like Judas; though God can serve His own purposes by the sins of men, that does not make the sinner’s condition less woeful” [Henry].
But Judas does not heed Christ’s warning, nor accept the opportunity to repent of his actions. Instead, he adds hypocrisy to his list of failings: “Then Judas, the one who would betray Him, said ‘Surely not I, Rabbi?’” (vs. 25). “Judas appears to have been the last of the twelve to ask the question, ‘Is it I?’ Those who are the last to suspect themselves are usually those who ought to be the first to exercise self-suspicion” [Spurgeon]. Note that, significantly, Judas did not call Jesus “Lord”, as the others did, but “Rabbi” (or “Teacher”). Jesus was no longer Judas’s Lord.
Judas must have been quite surprised when Jesus answered: “Yes, it is you” (vs. 25). The Lord sees; He knows our hearts, and future plans. He always gives us opportunity to change our sinful plans, and encourages us to walk in His way. And when we do stumble, He freely offers forgiveness for our sins, made possible by the gift of His death, the sacrifice of His own body in our place, for our sins against God, the Creator.