Thirty Pieces of Silver

Have you ever thought about the way in which Judas was prepared to betray Jesus? This is more than just a theological question because Judas represents a lot of people who are in government or positions of trust today. The USA has issues with “pay to play” and that goes all the way to the White House (I am looking at you, Barry Soetoro). Australia has very similar issues relating to politicians who have been crooked in one way or another. Even Public Servants are susceptible to the bribe culture. In countries such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia etc. bribery and corruption are simply part of the way that you do business. If you really think about it, there is no difference between the 30 pieces of silver offered to Judas, and the gifts that are given to public officials in order to buy people off, or to have some other influence over government. The bribery itself is a part of the desire to have control over the governance of others, and ultimately to exert influence over people in positions of power.

It is very difficult to understand why Judas chose to betray Jesus. It has always struck me that the 30 pieces of silver was a rather paltry amount for the life of Jesus. It is St. John who tells us a little bit about the background of Judas – he is a thief who was in charge of the common purse. The short sentence does not tells us much about the motivation of Judas, but I think that a bit of historical research might help to place the whole story in perspective.

The historical perspective is centred around the beliefs of the Jews at the time that Jesus walked upon the earth. It was a time of high expectation yet the Jews themselves failed to recognize that Jesus was the one who had come to save them. Why was that? I think that the answer to this question is actually more simple than we might be prepared to admit. The Jews were expecting someone who would be a “leader”.  The fact that an inscription was placed on the cross that read : “This is Jesus, King of the Jews” is an indication of the expectations that existed at the time.  Throughout the Gospels there is mention of how the disciples, and the Apostles in particular did not truly understand the real mission of Jesus. When Jesus told Peter “Get behind me, Satan”, this was due to Peter remonstrating when Jesus mentioned His expected fate – and there was temptation for Jesus in those words of remonstration from Jesus.  The Apostles and disciples recognized that Jesus was the Messiah, but they did not truly understand Messiaship until after the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is at the heart of the behaviour of Judas, and it is at the heart of why Judas decided to betray his Master.

Since Judas had a worldly view of Jesus, and thought that Jesus was going to seize control of the government of Jerusalem, and then drive out the Romans, he was no doubt dismayed when Jesus went around performing miracles and “saving” people. The worldly Judas wanted to be one of the new “Ministers” of a new government. When he realized that was not going to happen, he was very disappointed. Thus, Judas was turned,  and he became the Betrayer of Jesus. In other words, discovering the motivations of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, is the means of understanding why it was that he became the betrayer. There is no doubt in my mind that Judas committed many other sins, thus Judas, even though he was in the presence of God, did not have God with Him, and he was blind to the presence of God in his life.

Now, the question here is: how does this relate to modern day betrayals of trust? The answer to that question is very simple: it is the motivation of greed that leads people to betray the trust of others. Greed is the prime motivator of those who seek to influence others via bribery and corruption.

In each of our countries we discover that government is wracked by scandals involving bribery and corruption. Those scandals occur because people are being tempted all the time to accept a “gift”, or to give a gift with the purpose of influencing the outcome of a process. There are of course other scandals, and I make mention here of the AWU-WRA scandal, which is still being investigated by Victorian Police. The motivation of those involved was definitely greed and a desire to be rich (stay tuned for more information on this and other scandals involving union officials, lawyers and their ilk).

New South Wales has what is known as the Independent Commission against Corruption or ICAC. This Commission has had some astounding results. For one Vietnamese-Australian family who lived in Castle Hill, this Commission brought heartache when their father was caught accepting bribes (I knew the family because they were a part of my parish). The 30 pieces of silver aka the bribe was not worth it in the end.

Things have changed very little since the time of Judas. People continue to betray others for the payment of a small amount of money or for some other form of enrichment. The culture behind such corruption goes back for thousands of years. We are the ones who keep reverting to the behaviours that are attested to in the Bible. This is why we need to understand the motivations of Judas Iscariot. His motivations were not pure.

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