The next few posts are going to be a running devotional, reading through the Gospel of Mark, with short commentary and prayer. I will post several of these over the next few days, leading up to Easter.
Mark 14:10-11 “Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him” (New Revised Standard Version)
What motivated Judas to betray Jesus? In Matthew, it seems as if Judas is looking for some kind of gain in order to betray Jesus. In Mark, the reward money seems like an afterthought. In both Luke’s and John’s gospel, the blame is placed on Satan, who enters Judas. The passage we find in Mark comes immediately after a story of a nameless woman that anoints Jesus was very expensive ointment. During this exchange, “some were there who said to one another in anger, ‘Why was the ointment wasted in this way?’… and they scolded her.” John’s gospel names Judas as the one that was angry, “not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief” (John 12:6).
So what do we make of Judas? Was he possessed by the devil, not acting of his own accord? Was he under some sort of demonic control? Was he simply scheming for a way to make a little money? Was he, as some posit, disappointed that Jesus was not gathering an army? We don’t know what motivated Judas, but when I read “Satan entered him,” I understand this to mean that Judas was tormented. I may not understand how or why Judas betrayed his friend, but it seems clear that Temptation overwhelmed him.
And I understand that. I understand what it means to fall. I understand what it means to fail someone I love. I understand what it means to come up short when tested. I may never know the heart of Judas. I don’t need to. I know my own.
Holy and gracious God, I have betrayed you. I have forgotten your commands. I have ignored your pleas. I have turned away from the path that Jesus has shown us, and chosen my own path. Forgive me. Strengthen me in my weariness. Though I do not deserve it, I seek the power of your love, forgiveness, and grace. Amen.