by David Morson
After the verbal conflict between Jesus and the Temple Authorities yesterday, the Chief Priests were determined to arrest Jesus and have Him put to death.
They could not do this in the open because of the large crowds listening to Jesus’ words and who according to Mark were,” spellbound by His Teaching”. They were also aware that Pilate, the Roman Governor, who was in Jerusalem for the Passover would expect Caiaphas as High Priest to keep the festivities peaceful.
Their actions then, were both motivated by anger at Jesus’s criticism and jealousy, but also fear of some sort of disturbance or popular unrest instigated by Jesus’s popularity which would lead to retribution by the Romans. Caiaphas was aware of the popular clamour for a Messiah to overthrow Roman rule. The Passover meant massive crowds were present in Jerusalem and the situation was potentially volatile. That is why he said, “It is better for one Man to die for the sake of the nation”, Their problem in arresting Jesus was answered when Judas came to them and offered to betray Jesus to them. Thus the name, “Spy Wednesday”.
There is no real evidence for why Judas would want to do this.
St Mark tells us that he went to the Priests following the incident where a woman anoints Jesus at Bethany with spikenard, a very expensive ointment, used in funerary arrangements. Some present, and we are not told who, complained that this was a waste and could have been sold for a year’s wages. So, was it anger or jealousy which made Judas go the Priests? St Mark tells us the Priests were pleased and promised to give Judas money, but no mention of the amount. It is in St Matthew’s account of the incident that 30 pieces of silver are mentioned. This was to show the fulfilment of another prophesy of Zechariah which pointedly refers to God’s replacing the unworthy shepherds of the people with Someone who is worthy.
St Luke states that Judas significantly agreed to look out for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowds were present. St John doesn’t mention Judas’ act of betrayal until the Last Supper, but both Luke and John explain his actions by the,” the devil entering his heart”. Other theories postulate that Judas might have been trying to advance Jesus’ Messianic claim by manipulating circumstances, but there is no evidence for this. So, the scene is now set for the climax of Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. But Judas’ motivation in this tense drama, is still a mystery.
It is interesting that St Mark always refers to Judas as ,”one of the Twelve” when he mentions his name, as if to emphasise that Judas was in fact one of the apostles. Discipleship is a big theme of St Mark’s Gospel and whilst not excusing Judas, St Mark is critical of all the Apostles’ lack of awareness of Jesus’ Mission, as He had warned them about His forthcoming Passion and Death on three separate occasions. Then, they would have realised that the woman with the ointment was preparing Him for His Death.
Peter, the Leader of the group denied Jesus three times, and the others could not stay awake with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and abandoned Him when He was arrested. So, Mark sees Judas’s actions as part of a general lack of understanding of Jesus’ Mission which only became apparent to them after His Resurrection on Easter Sunday.