Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus
The Festival of Unleavened Bread was starting and the Pharisees and others were running out of ideas to trap Jesus. They could not simply arrest him when he was teaching in the temple courts or even when he was simply walking down the streets of Jerusalem, as Jesus was thronged by his followers even during the busy festival season. Any rash action on their part would have caused riots and possibly a city wide curfew during their holy Passover week.
At that moment, Satan entered Judas Iscariot and the former disciple of Jesus went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard to discuss with them how he might help them arrest Jesus. The chief priests were jubilant as they simply had no ideas on how to deal with this problem when out of the blue, Jesus’ own disciple himself comes to them with a plan.
Judas traveled with Jesus throughout his ministry, going to different towns. Scores of people would throng Jesus during the day but Judas knew that at nighttime Jesus would retreat to secluded places to spend time in prayer with his Father. This is the information that the chief priests needed and one that Satan provided to them using Judas. Satan entering Judas does not mean that Judas had no free will, but rather he allowed himself to be used by Satan by hardening his heart and betraying the one with whom he shared bread.
Even my close friend,
someone I trusted,
one who shared my bread,
has turned against me. – Psalms 41:9
The Last Supper
Jesus sends Peter and John for the preparations for their Passover meal. By no means was that a small task as they would have to find a lamb, take it to the temple, sacrifice the lamb, prepare the lamb, find a room and prepare the room for the meal. However, Jesus did not simply give them a task but gave them instructions to look for a sign that would lead them to the room that they had to prepare, probably to further build their faith especially given the turn of events that were to come.
He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.” They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. – Luke 22:10-13
During the meal itself, Jesus was reclining at the table with his disciples, when he took the cup and bread that were in front of him and phrased the coming events in a beautiful analogy.
He broke the bread and gave it to his disciples to eat symbolizing his own body that was about to be broken for all of us. He did the same with the cup symbolizing his blood that was going to be poured out for all of us on the cross.
Maybe the most ritualized act nowadays but the remembrance of his sacrifice is what connects us to Jesus. Rather than having it been marginalized to being a small part of our Church service, we should remember his sacrifice each and every time we sit down to eat and drink. Like the food that feeds us, his body feeds our soul and like the drink that quenches our thirst, his blood quenches our spiritual needs. He died to make us whole again as the ultimate sacrificial lamb.
Just as Jesus had finished this beautiful covenant with his disciples, they began arguing that who would be the greatest among them. The disciples neither understood or (at least for now) cared for the new covenant that Jesus had established but were more interested in their respective ranking in the kingdom of heaven. This was not the first time this had happened as we see different instances of the same argument across the four Gospels.
We often chase after the cause that gives us the most recognition. The everyday mundane works of serving our brother doesn’t even come to our minds. The Gospel of John tells us that when the disciples were arguing, Jesus quietly got down on his knees and started cleaning his disciples’ feet. Jesus had come to serve us and not to rule over us. The same is expected from us that we be there to serve our fellow beings, Church goers and even our family members rather than having a ranking order in our minds.
Jesus called out both Peter and Judas, predicting their upcoming denial and betrayal respectively. After the Resurrection the disciples remembered both these instances that Jesus foretold and their faith grew even more.
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” – Luke 22-31-33
The disciples, all gave their commitment in full confidence but just a few hours later, they all abandoned Jesus as he was left all alone. Like Simon, James and John (Mark 10:38-39) and the other disciples, sometimes we make promises and commitments without thinking of the consequences and when the time for fulfillment comes we take back our words.
He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one……. The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” he replied. – Luke 22:36-38
Why does Jesus suddenly want them to carry sword? Did Jesus really want Simon to strike the men arresting Jesus with this sword? However in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus orders them to put their swords away as
“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him. “For all who draw the sword will die by the sword. – Matthew 26:52
At every instance, the disciples had a knack of interpreting Jesus’ word to mean something completely different. Jesus wanted his disciples to be ready as the world will persecute them for the message that they will deliver. He does not want to us to attack back but be ready to face the world and for the challenges but never does he want us to fight back both verbally and physically. In the subsequent verses in Matthew 26, Jesus tells his disciples that if he wanted protection, he did not need their help but would have asked the Father to provide angels at his disposal. Similarly Jesus does not need us defending him among the people of this world and getting into heated arguments with them but rather to show them his amazing love.
Jesus Prays on the Mount of Olives
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” – Luke 22:39-40
Jesus continuously asks the disciples to pray. Does he want them to pray for himself? He clearly wants them to pray so that they do not fall prey to the temptation of not standing up for Jesus. We all get tempted by many things that this world has to offer but among them we all face the temptation of social acceptance and do not out rightly stand for God. It is easy to stand up to God on Sunday mornings in church or in a country dominated by believers but when the people surrounding us are not followers of Christ, we tend to go with the flow and live our lives just like everyone else.
The disciples would also have faced this temptation when they thought that their leader has been taken away from them. They all could have gone back to their normal lives and be welcomed back by the society but God had much greater plans that he wanted to accomplish through them.
While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him,but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” – Luke 22:47-48
People always ask me this one question about that fateful night. Why did they need Judas to identify Jesus?
This was probably Jesus’ first visit to Jerusalem as an adult (assuming the Gospel of John is not in Chronological order). He was not known by many and to the ones who wanted to persecute him, he was known by his words. They probably were looking for someone who can guide them in capturing Jesus discretely rather than cause a commotion in broad daylight. The risk involved was however great.
Since Jesus was traveling with his band of Galileans, their clothing sense, accents, skin color and other mannerisms would have seemed more or less the same to someone who was residing in Jerusalem. Many of them would have seen Jesus only a couple of times and recognizing such a figure in the dark night would be no easy task. The possibility of arresting the wrong person and having Jesus escape their clutches was something they could not afford. Moreover, it was Judas himself who offered up his services.
During Jesus’ arrest, two different miracles happened. One was Jesus healing Malchus, the servant whose ear Peter had cut off and the second was that as soon as Jesus affirmed his identity, all his captors fell down (John 18:6). Both these supernatural events could not convince the mob that Jesus is someone that God had sent and they still went on ahead with their plan.
When we have given ourselves to evil, no matter what signs and miracles we see, we choose to believe what the world wants us to believe. Let our hearts not grow callous to the extent that we fail to recognize God’s clear plan for our lives.
Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.” – Luke 22:53
- Was Judas destined to betray Jesus? (See article on Is God Unjust?)
- In the Garden, was Jesus having second thoughts?
- Why did Jesus foretell only Peter’s denial and not how everyone else will abandon him?