The Beginning of Birth Pangs

Matthew 26:14-16

Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests, and said, “What are you willing to give me to deliver Him up to you?” And they weighed out to him thirty pieces of silver. And from then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Him.

Do the words “good opportunity” and “betray him” belong in the same sentence?

“Then one of the twelve;” one of the disciples, one who has seen the myriad of miracles–the feeding of thousands, the walking on water, the calming of the storm and hundreds of healings. One who was sent as a servant to speak the gospel of the Kingdom, and to cast out demons. One who was in the inner-circle of Jesus, who heard the parables, the Sermon on the Mount and the Olivet Discourse, “named, Judas Iscariot.”

He, “went to the chief priests;” the same chief priests who when they, “saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were crying out in the temple and saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they became indignant, and said to Him, ‘Do You hear what these are saying?’” These are the same chief priests who came to Jesus, who was healing people, in the temple and asked him, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?” These are the very same chief priests to whom, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I say to you that the tax-gatherers and harlots will get into the kingdom of God before you,'” and, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.” Matthew tells us, “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together in the court of the high priest, named Caiaphas; and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth, and kill Him. But they were saying, ‘Not during the festival, lest a riot occur among the people.’” They needed a way to get to Jesus, quietly and out of sight of the people. They needed one willing to betray him, one close to him who knew his movements, and “Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests, and said, ‘What are you willing to give me to deliver Him up to you?'”

It’s all about the money! Or was it? “And they weighed out to him thirty pieces of silver.” Our obvious question is, how much buying power was there in 30 silver pieces? That is, how much would that be worth today? Was it enough for Judas to purchase a beach-front Villa in Haifa? Most likely, not by a long-shot. But the true answer is that we don’t know, exactly. We don’t know what kind of silver pieces these were or what they weighed. But what we do know is greater than that which we do not know.

Zechariah 11; “Thus says the LORD my God, ‘Pasture the flock doomed to slaughter. Those who buy them slay them and go unpunished, and each of those who sell them says, “Blessed be the LORD, for I have become rich!” And their own shepherds have no pity on them. For I shall no longer have pity on the inhabitants of the land,’ declares the LORD; ‘but behold, I shall cause the men to fall, each into another’s power and into the power of his king; and they will strike the land, and I shall not deliver them from their power.’ So I pastured the flock doomed to slaughter, hence the afflicted of the flock. And I took for myself two staffs: the one I called Favor, and the other I called Union; so I pastured the flock. Then I annihilated the three shepherds in one month, for my soul was impatient with them, and their soul also was weary of me. Then I said, ‘I will not pasture you. What is to die, let it die, and what is to be annihilated, let it be annihilated; and let those who are left eat one another’s flesh.’ And I took my staff, Favor, and cut it in pieces, to break my covenant which I had made with all the peoples. So it was broken on that day, and thus the afflicted of the flock who were watching me realized that it was the word of the LORD. And I said to them, ‘If it is good in your sight, give me my wages; but if not, never mind!’ So they weighed out thirty shekels of silver as my wages. Then the LORD said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.’ So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the LORD. Then I cut my second staff, Union, in pieces, to break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.”

If you are not an astute student of prophecy, let me help you with a hint; look for literary language like a sailor swears. This is a true story, an actual event in the life of Zechariah, nevertheless, it is also an allusion and analogy, with much metaphorical meaning. Also, the Lord our God can be extremely sarcastic in prophetic passages, it’s part of the genre, even within the narrative passages in the prophetic books. Notice; “Then the LORD said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.'” The word, “magnificent,” used in this text is not irony, nor is it exaggeration or even hyperbole. It can only be explained as sarcasm, in my opinion. The price of which they valued the Lord, 30 shekels of silver, was anything but magnificent. Much in the same way, Judas could have received a thousand platinum pieces and it would still be grossly, extremely, completely undervaluing Jesus.

We see that Jesus being undervalued is part of the point, however we must also understand that it wasn’t about the value to Judas. I don’t think money was the motivator. Though the price should indicate to us how much he valued Jesus–very little. We know that Judas was the treasurer to the twelve based on John’s gospel. We also know from the same context that Judas pilfered the pillbox. He was a common, petty thief but was he looking for one last, big score by betraying Jesus? It doesn’t appear likely, but it is almost possible. Really, based on all the content we have, but for time’s sake won’t see it all, it’s not possible. Again, Judas wasn’t motivated by money but he did make the deal for 30 silver pieces, so money was involved. Let me write it this way; it wasn’t all about the money.

I usually refrain from modern-day comparisons because they are never accurate and can actually warp and distort the sacred Scriptures rather than illuminate them. Nevertheless, I will try to try. Hypothetically, I am a Harley Davidson, Road Glide, enthusiastic emissary. I wear the T-shirts, go to all the swap-meets but more importantly, I ride one every single day, most days, by your house. Hypothetically, you cannot stand Harley Davidson Road Glides, especially mine, because it’s very loud and obnoxious. You live on a corner lot that has a stop sign right outside your bedroom window, hypothetically. You don’t have to wake up for work until 7:00 am but most mornings, I am outside your bedroom window at 6:00, reving my engine and powering away from that stop sign, waking you up, shaking the shutters outside your bedroom window. But I also like to ride by your house on the weekend during your prayer time, returning during your favorite TV show. We have met and I see the disdain in your eyes but that doesn’t compare to the nasty emails that you send me. This has been going on for three years but you love your house, you inherited it from your father who inherited it from his father who built it with his own hands–you are not going to move. It doesn’t appear likely that I will get rid of my motorcycle anytime soon either. I am always with it, we go everywhere together. Nevertheless, one day I come to you and say, what will you give me for my motorcycle? You must think to yourself, “I hate that thing, I want it destroyed, but surely he could make more money elsewhere, from another Harley enthusiast. Why would he offer it to me?” You want it, because you are sick and tired of listening to it and will destroy it. So you offer me a seemingly small price and I accept. Why? After three years, all of a sudden I sell you the motorcycle that you hate, that you thought I loved. But I didn’t. It didn’t provide me with any of the things for which I was hoping. I thought men would be jealous of me and all the women would want to ride with me. I thought it would be cool riding to work everyday but found out it was just cold. I didn’t realize how much work it would be to not only maintain it, but to fix it’s all-to-common problems. I had to work on it three times as much as I rode it. Even now, it appears that it’s about to die, all the signs are there. And you figured this out. Why else would I come to you unless I hated this machine and wanted it gone for leaving me unfulfilled and exhausted? It was supposed to be the good life but all it promised me was turbulence and tribulations. You can see it in my face and by my action of coming to you. Therefore, you pay me, but not much because you know that I want this thing gone almost as much as you do. I hope that helps.

Jesus, and his promises of tribulation and death, are not what Judas expected. He’s a petty thief and a coward, a real earthly focused fellow. But money and motivation aside, there is one thing that Judas, the scribes, the chief priests, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the elders of the people and all apostate Israel had in common, they weren’t believing in Jesus. Therefore, to make a couple bucks and to get Jesus out of his hair, so that he could get back to his life, Judas agrees to deliver Jesus to them for the 30 silver pieces.

“And from then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Him.”

 

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