It was good to be back at Wednesday Night Worship this week after not meeting last week since it was Spring Break. We began a 2-week series called "30 Pieces" based on the life of Judas Iscariot. We gave a student the opportunity to win free registration for our upcoming Disciple Now weekend by showing a picture of Leonardo Da Vinci's famous painting "The Last Supper" and asking them to guess which disciple is Judas Iscariot. It is a pretty tough guess if you have not been told and while the student made a good guess it was wrong. We then went into a worship set that included "Salvation is Here" (Hillsong United), "Beautiful" (Phil Wickham), and "God Is Able" (Hilsong United).
I began the night giving a little background on Judas Iscariot. The name "Judas" literally means "Judah lead". This means that his parents had hopes for him to be led by God. Judas was a common name then and there were even two disciples with this name. Of course they are always distinguished between the two. "Iscariot" is not his last name, but probably denotes that he was from the region of Kerioth-hezron. Judas was the only apostle that was not from Galilee. In every gospel list of the disciples (Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19, and Luke 6:14-16) Judas is listed very last in the list. The list in Acts 1:13 does not even list him. We then looked again briefly at Da Vinci's "The Last Supper". There are few things to note that are very interesting. Of course the original is in terrible shape because it has not been preserved the best. The building it is has been used for many things over the years. At one point in history it housed soldier and they would throw their boots at Judas. Da Vinci went to extreme detail in the painting and one thing that can be noticed is that Judas has knocked over a salt shaker which probably is in reference to the near-Eastern expression "betray the salt" which means to betray one's Master. You can also notice that Jesus and Judas are reaching for the same piece of bread. Also you see that Judas is clasping a money bag that either signifies the 30 pieces of silver that he has already obtained to betray Jesus, or the fact that he was the treasurer. Here is a close-up of Judas taken from a copy of "The Last Supper" by one of Da Vinci's students Giampiertino.
We then took a look at the events surrounding the betrayal in linear order.
-John 12:1-8 - Mary washes Jesus' feet with perfume that was extremely costly. The disciples and specifically Judas complain that the perfume could have been sold for 300 denarii. This would have been the equivalent to 11 months wages. Judas wasn't the only one that complained as Matthew 26:8 says the disciples complained. However as John pointed out Judas specifically, he was probably the main one. Jesus, as He rightfully can, called Judas and the disciples out on it.
-Matthew 26:14-16 - Immediately after Judas went to make a deal to betray Jesus and received the 30 pieces of silver. The people had been wanting to kill Jesus and probably had made it well known that if someone would help them out they would pay them. Judas would have been aware of this and probably after being called out by Jesus he decided to go for it.
-John 13:1-4 - Satan had tempted Judas but did not force him to betray Jesus. It isn't possible for Satan to force anyone to do anything. If you say that it is a cop out for your poor decision. Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray Him, and still washed his feet anyway.
-John 13:21-30 - Jesus predicts that someone is going to betray Him. The disciples are completely confused by this as they have no clue the true heart of Judas. How is it possible to be around someone day in and day out and not know that they are a traitor? Probably because Judas did a good job of hiding his true self from everyone. The disciples started asking Jesus if it was them that would be who betrays him. Matthew 26:25 points out that with intent to deceive everyone else Judas even asks if it is him. After this Judas immediately leaves the upper room and goes to meet the Sanhedrin. It is at this point that now that Judas is gone that Jesus institutes the Lord's Supper and shares many great things with His followers.
-John 18:1-4; Matthew 26:47-49 - He knew that Jesus would be at the Garden of Gethsemane because Jesus went there often to pray. He came with a group of people that included the Roman Cohort which was 600 soldiers. So there was a huge crowd of people who came to arrest Jesus. Judas told them that Jesus is the one that he kissed. A kiss was a sign of homage, special honor, and respect. The thing is though Judas did not respect Jesus or he would not have betrayed Him. Also in John it says that Jesus came forward. So there was really no need in Judas giving Him the kiss. We know what happens from here that Jesus is arrested, beaten, and murdered. Judas regrets his decision and makes the choice of taking his own life.
So in thinking about this series title Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Today this would value $327. Judas betrayed Jesus for $327. Essentially in todays terms he betrayed Jesus for an XBox and some games. According to Exodus 21:32, 30 pieces of silver is the price of a slave. We look at Judas as the worst sinner of all time for doing this awful deed, but truth is you and I do the same everyday. As in the Song "Down Here" by Shaun Groves says "I've kissed for less than 30 pieces". Everyday we sin and most of the time it is for a small moment of selfish pleasure. We sometimes make the mistake of looking at the fact that we are not committing what we call the "big sins" but ignore the "small sins" in our life that we must turn away from. The beautiful thing about it all is that when Jesus and Judas meet in Matthew 26:50, Jesus does not call Judas by name, or call him something like "backstabber" or "betrayer". Instead Jesus calls him "friend". Jesus met him, called him friend, and willingly gave himself to be arrested and murdered on the cross. He also calls each one of us "friend". Not only did he call Judas "friend", but he died for him and each one of us on the cross. That is why we have reason to celebrate and worship. He still calls us friend and was willing to die for us.
So don't compare your sins to others to make yourself feel better. Realize that each day you sin and in that moment of sin you betray Jesus for something far less valuable than 30 pieces of silver. But thankfully we have a Savior who is willing to forgive and loves us greater than any betrayal we commit against Him. When we begin to grasp this reality then our lives will begin to look drastically different.
Here is the song "Down Here" by Shaun Groves that inspired this message and series. In the second verse he sings the "I've kissed for less than 30 pieces".