Most of us dream of changing the world. We may volunteer for worthy causes—or send money to them if we can’t serve; we protest injustice; we urge others to vote, even if we don’t vote ourselves; we hit “share” on Facebook when we see a post we think might advance a pet cause. However, few people succeed in making a large impact on the world. Most of us are not rich enough or famous enough to gather sufficient influence to affect more than our small corner of the world. Jesus’ disciples were no different. They followed Jesus because they were convinced that He was the Messiah—or at least a good facsimile of the Messiah. They knew the Messiah would change the world, but they didn’t understand what sort of change it would be. Perhaps they were plagued by impatience. Why didn’t Jesus get on with it? Why didn’t he declare himself to the masses and set up the kingdom? Why didn’t he change more than Galilee?
It was nearing Passover, a time of celebration. It had been a busy week for Jesus. He knew he wasn’t welcome in Jerusalem, especially after he clashed with the temple salespeople. He knew, even as he taught the crowds in the temple courts, that the movers and shakers of Jewish society did not welcome him. He knew they were waiting for him to slip up and say anything that could be interpreted as blasphemy or treason, and they actively tried to trap Jesus by asking loaded questions. But as the week came to an end, it was time to prepare and eat the Passover meal. That was the day Judas changed the world.
We don’t know a great deal about Judas. He was not one of the inner circle of the disciples, and seems to be mentioned as an afterthought most of the time, sometimes with the tagline of “the betrayer.” John tells us that Judas was in charge of the moneybag, the treasurer of the disciples, and a thief. He liked to help himself to the disciples’ funds, all the while criticizing the way others spent their money, pretending to be compassionate toward the needy (John 12:1-6). Was it greed which prompted the betrayal? Perhaps.
I think Judas knew that Jesus was the Messiah. Judas probably thought that if Jesus was arrested, he would reveal himself, vanquish Rome, and set up his own government. Then, as one of the chosen few, Judas could use his relationship with Jesus for his own gain. Judas intended to change the world—for himself.
Luke tells us that Satan entered Judas, who was already predisposed to Satan’s influence. Judas went off to find the chief priests and the temple guard to make them an offer to betray Jesus—if the price was right. How much to buy a Messiah? Thirty pieces of silver, worth several weeks’ wages at the time, but in God’s kingdom, worth less than pavement. The plot was accomplished; with a kiss Jesus was betrayed.
And here Judas’s cunning plan went wrong, as cunning plans often do. Instead of Jesus revealing his power, he was sentenced to death and crucified. That was not what Judas thought would happen, not what he wanted. This was not the change he sought.
Matthew tells us that Judas, overcome with remorse, tried to return the money, and threw it at the chief priests. Then he went out and hung himself. He never knew that Jesus was about to overcome death.
The crucifixion, for which Judas was the catalyst, ended in the resurrection. So, you might say that Judas changed the world for the better—more than he ever dreamed!
Let us rejoice in God’s perfect plan to change the world!