Why did Judas betray Christ?
The key passage relating to this question is John 12:1-8. Jesus was at Bethany a few days before His passion, at the house of Lazarus whom He had resurrected, together with his sisters Martha and Mary. Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with a very expensive fragrant oil. Judas Iscariot said, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”
The Gospel writer commented, “this he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.” Jesus responded to Judas, “Let her alone, she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.”
Thus, one predisposing factor to Judas’ betrayal was his avarice, i.e. his love for money. This vice had blinded his spiritual vision and distorted his view of the world. He became oblivious to what was really happening between Jesus and Mary. His mind and heart were on just one thing: acquiring more money. Thus, in one way, betraying Jesus fed his avaricious appetite.
The precipitating factor to the betrayal relates to how Judas reacted to Jesus’ gentle chastisement.
Jesus, in his very loving response, was inviting Judas to look beyond the material things, and to appreciate the spiritual. Mary’s act was a blessed outpouring of gratitude, contrition, love and devotion. However, according to Matthew 26:14 and Mark 14:10, Judas reacted to Jesus’ response by immediately going to the chief priests. Being blinded by his passion, Judas had found Jesus’ words offensive. He could suddenly justify his actions by convincing himself that Jesus was being wasteful, dismissive and unreasonable.
Alas, do you see how our passions twist our view of the world and of God? St Paul warns us to be vigilant, and to exhort one another, so that our hearts are not hardened through the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13). In all of this, Judas was also showing another great vice, that of sinful pride.
In reflecting on this, however, Judas’ greatest fault was not that he had betrayed Jesus. After all, the betrayal led to the fulfilling of God’s salvation for humankind through His crucifixion and resurrection.
Judas’ greatest fault was his lack of proper repentance. Had he truly repented, he would have been forgiven, just as St Peter was. Judas indeed became remorseful, but did not achieve the second stage of repentance, which is turning to God in contrition and humility. Instead, he went and hung himself. His spiritual blindness had become such that he lost his way to finding true repentance.
Judas becomes an example for us of what to flee from in our spiritual lives.
Yes, we all sin, and we all have vices. However, if we allow them to become unchecked, and if we remain self-absorbed, then our path to repentance becomes so much more difficult.
Let us instead follow the example of Mary, so that through our repentance, our love, and our devotion to God, our lives become a sweet and precious fragrance accepted by God.
† Fr G. L.
Source: Lychnos April – May 2021