It appears that the support of the crowds for Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem and their enthusiasm for his teaching were a threat to the religious authorities. But dealing with Jesus without causing a riot looked impossible with the tens of thousands of visitors to the city during a religious festival. So it was convenient when one of Jesus’ closest disciples, came to the authorities with a solution – he would betray Jesus at a quiet moment at night when the crowds had gone and Jesus was on the Mount of Olives alone praying.
Why did Judas betray Jesus? Was it for the money? Was it because Jesus was not the Messiah he was expecting – he did not seem to be overthrowing Roman authority and bringing freedom for Jewish people? Was it because he was jealous of Peter or John? Luke tells us it was because Satan entered into him.
After three years of following Jesus and all the challenges that involved, Judas gave up on Jesus. Nearly every time Judas is mentioned in the gospels we are reminded that he is the one who betrayed Jesus, even when he was first called by Jesus. None of the gospel writers leave us in suspense about who is the betrayer.
But when Jesus tells the disciples that someone who has betrayed him is with them at the meal it seemed to be a surprise to the other disciples. Although we know it is Judas they did not, ‘they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this’. They had been living and travelling with each other for several years and despite this could not tell who was the one who would abandon Jesus.
Tomorrow we will hear about the ways in which the other disciples let Jesus down in the hours leading up to his death. Yesterday we heard about how the crowd who cheered Jesus on Palm Sunday later deserted him and shouted for his death. Judas may have betrayed Jesus but the crowd and the individuals within it soon did too.
Where are we on this walk towards Good Friday and Easter? Where will we be in the weeks following Easter? How can we remain loyal and ready to listen to Jesus in the face of fear, jealousy, disappointment or distractions?
Jesus, you know what it's like to feel abandoned lost and afraid. Walk with us And show us how to walk with others, who live in fear, who face death through hunger or war. Show us how to pray for those we do not know and will not meet, but who are always loved by you. Walk with us Jesus, Amen.