What happens when we get wrapped up in our own way of thinking? What happens when we don’t allow the evidence in front of us to help shape our thoughts? What happens when we think we know best? Judas happens.
On Holy and Great Wednesday the Orthodox Church commemorates the betrayal of Christ by Judas. This is such a profound day that it is a day of fasting just about year round, with very few exceptions. It is a day in which we recall the risk of being blinded by pride.
Judas Iscariot was part of a larger class of Jews that believed the Messiah was going to be military king who would rescue the Jews from Roman occupation. He was consumed by his misunderstanding, and was unable to see the truth of Christ’s divinity and loving sacrifice for the salvation of the world. In selling Jesus to the authorities, many believed Judas thought he was doing a good thing to usher in the war between God and the Romans. Judas thought he was freeing his people. Judas was only partially correct.
Judas’ act of betrayal did usher in a war, but not with Rome. God’s battle was with the devil, and the battle was not for the earthly kingdom of the Jews, but for the eternal kingdom of God. When Judas finally realized what he had done, and that he had been blinded for so long by his own vision for the Messiah, he couldn’t take the pressure. Judas killed himself.
The suicide of Judas may have been more unfortunate than the original betrayal. Like Adam in the Garden, Judas refused to repent and seek God’s forgiveness. He did alone and condemned. Judas allowed his pride, first to sell Jesus for a few pieces of silver, and then to stop his repentance. If Judas had repented, Jesus still would have accomplished what He came to accomplish, but Judas would not be condemned. Pride is a nasty thing that leads only to condemnation.
It is our pride this year for Holy Week that is at war with the Church. So many of us are pridefully arguing to be allowed to enter the Church for the Holy Week services. It is our pride that has blinded us to the health risks of thousands of people gathered shoulder-to-shoulder in dark churches. It is our pride that will not allow us to watch from a distance for the good of others. We must defeat our pride before it is too late.
Judas was unsuccessful in defeating his pride, and we remember his as a betrayer and thief. If we can’t defeat our pride, we risk similar notoriety. As Proverbs teaches, “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16.18) Don’t be like Judas. Be like the woman who repented and loved God with everything she had. She is remembered for her love and repentance.
When Jesus was at Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment and she poured it on his head, as he sat at table. But when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, "Why this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for a large sum, and given to the poor." But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her." Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What will you give me if I deliver him to you?" And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. – Matthew 26.6-16