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Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. (Matt. 26: 14-16)Judas is one of those Bible characters we know very little of. His character is bathed in mystery. For most he is simply the guy who betrayed Jesus and we leave it at that. Even Matthew tells us very little about Judas. The first time Matthew introduces us to Judas is in chapter 10. Jesus calls his twelve disciples, including Judas, and it says he “gave them authority over unclean spirits so they could cast them out and heal every kind of disease and sickness.” Jesus said to them: “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near!’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.”
So far we know three things about Judas. First, Judas was a disciple of Jesus. Second, Judas was a preacher. And third, Judas had power to perform miracles. If he were here today we would ask him to be our youth director. We would ask him to be our head elder. We would ask him to be conference president. Because to the human eye this guy was legit. He was the real deal. A disciple, a preacher, and able to work miracles.
The very next time Matthew introduces us to Judas is in Matthew 26:14. “Then one of the twelve, the one named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me to betray him into your hands?” So they set out thirty silver coins for him. From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray him.”
What happened? How did Judas go from preaching, and healing, and demon casting to betraying Jesus? It doesn’t make any sense right? How did this happen? I believe Judas answers this question himself. Look again at what he says, “What will you give me to betray him into your hands?”
There it is. In Judas mind Jesus was tradable. In Judas mind there was something worth more than Jesus and if could only get it he would be happy. It’s so easy to sit back and criticize Judas the traitor but the funny thing is that Judas is a type of the human race. Humanity runs back and forth looking for satisfaction. Humanity runs east and west searching for happiness. Men slave away hunting money and power. They search and search endlessly for something. And the strange thing is they never stop searching. They never find what they are looking for. One girlfriend or boyfriend isn’t enough. One drink, thee, seven – they aren’t enough. And each time we search we come up disappointed, empty handed, disillusioned and yet many are unwilling to give Jesus a try. And even within the church there are so many who are uncommitted. Jesus is cool and all but he’s not that serious. He’s tradable. He can be sold. And so long as we believe the lie that there is something better than Jesus we can rest assured that sooner or later we will betray him.
Is Jesus tradable for you? Let me ask you, what would you exchange him for? What would you trade him for? What would you swap him for? And it’s so easy to say nothing but when it comes down to it how many disciples of Jesus have betrayed him? How many preachers have turned their backs on him? How many miracle workers have denied him? And it all boils down to this one statement, “What will you give me to betray him into your hands?”
For Judas it was money. For others its sex. For others its success, popularity, or a night out at the club. For many it’s even religion, theology, and Bible knowledge. And so long as we refuse to embrace the reality that Jesus is untradeable we will always be walking on the edge of betrayal.
So Judas betrayed Jesus. Thirty pieces of silver. But it would be foolish to think that Judas betrayed Jesus simply for 30 pieces of silver – it really isn’t that much money. He had something else in mind. The Bible doesn’t tell us what exactly but Ellen White suggests that Judas was hoping Jesus would take the throne by force and then thank him for it thereby making him number two in the kingdom. But whichever way we look at it the fact remains that Judas wasn’t really into Jesus. Jesus was just a means to an end for Judas and when it came down to it he was tradable.
But the story doesn’t end there. Matthew revisits Judas in chapter 27 saying “Now when Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus had been condemned, he regretted what he had done and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood!” But they said, “What is that to us? You take care of it yourself!” So Judas threw the silver coins into the temple and left. Then he went out and hanged himself.”
How sad. And yet, this is exactly what happens to everyone who trades Jesus for something else. We come up empty handed. Disappointed. Broken. Those who betray Jesus for their own desires end up being betrayed by those very same desires when they realize that they didn’t satisfy as much as they thought it would. And the end result is always dissatisfaction, brokenness, and loss.
But go back to Matthew 26. Verse 26 says: While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it, gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat, this is my body.” And after taking the cup and giving thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood…”
My body, my blood. Jesus knew what was about to happen. He was about to suffer death itself. Why? It’s there in verse 29: I tell you, from now on I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” The death of Jesus is what would enable us to someday be in his father’s kingdom. Jesus gave his life for us because to him we are not tradable. He wasn’t willing to trade us for something better. There was nothing better! There is nothing better to God than you. You are the most valuable thing God has in this world. You are un-tradable.
“What will you give me to betray him into your hands?” Judas asked that question. So do we. Jesus never asked that question. When Satan offered him all the kingdoms of the world he didn’t take it. Nothing is so valuable to him than you. And the more we recognize that. The more we embrace that reality. The more we experience the incomparable love that God has for us and allow our lives to be drowned in that love the more we will realize the same thing about him, that he is worth more than anything this world has to offer. So stop chasing every temporary high. Stop believing the lie that Jesus is tradable. It’s time for the maddening search to end, for the endless thirst to be quenched. No more emptiness, no more disappointment, no more disillusionment. No more lying in bed at night asking yourself, What’s missing? The answer to the thirsty cry of your soul is there in the person of Jesus who loves you with unending love.