Today’s Lectio Divina: Luke 21: 37-38, 22: 1-6 (MsgB)
He (Jesus) spent His days in the Temple teaching, but His nights out on the mountain called Olives. All the people were up at the crack of dawn to come to the Temple and listen to Him. The Feast of Unleavened Bread, also called Passover, drew near. The high priests and religion scholars were looking for a way to do away with Jesus but, fearful of the people, they were also looking for a way to cover their tracks. That’s when Satan entered Judas, the one called Iscariot. He was one of the Twelve. Leaving the others, he conferred with the high priests and the Temple guards about how he might betray Jesus to them. They couldn’t believe their good luck and agreed to pay him well. He gave them his word and started looking for a way to betray Jesus, but out of sight of the crowd.
These are treacherous days in Jerusalem; Passover, 33 AD.
One has to watch their back lest a friend betrays you, opening the door to who knows what kind of evil and tumultuous times.
Jesus knows full well about the schemes going on behind the scenes. He wisely spends His nights outside the city, protecting Himself and His ministry partners from a night-time raid from the Temple guards.
While we understand by now how and why the Pharisees, Sadducees, and other religious leaders are after Jesus, the real puzzler here is the how and why of Judas, the disciple, the betrayer. For two thousand years now, the discussion over Judas and his surprising actions during this last week of Jesus’ life, makes for much conversation.
What causes Judas to do what he does?
Why would someone loyal to the Master betray the Son of God?
Luke tells us that Satan ‘entered’ Judas. While that sentence describes the spiritual battle going on in Judas’ life, unfortunately it doesn’t help us understand some of the motives going on behind this war in Judas’ heart. Some historians point to the fact that Jesus refuses to play the role of Messiah as defined by many zealots living in Jerusalem during the day. Some believe Judas to be a part of that zealot group which wants Messiah to forcefully overthrow both the harsh Roman rule of Israel and the ‘good old boy’ political network working the established religious system of the day. When Jesus refuses to be a political figure, adamantly walking away from the zealots’ plans of government overthrow, many write off Jesus, looking to other potential leaders instead. The Friday morning courtroom scene with Pilate offering the people either the life of Barabbas or Jesus is a prime example of this on-going conflict amongst the freedom-fighters. Some believe it is Jesus’ refusal to cooperate with this zealot movement that prompts Judas earlier in the week to betray Jesus.
Others wonder if Judas’ betrayal is more of an honest attempt on his own part to push circumstances into place so that Jesus’ promises of messiah-ship might be better accomplished. Some think it was out of a personal zeal to see Jesus and His Kingdom ministry flourish that pushes Judas to take matters into his own hands, orchestrating the conflict so that Jesus could then use His supernatural powers to overcome the bad guys.
Regardless of the motives, Judas does what he does, and in the process, writes his name into the history books as the one disciple of Jesus who fails to make it through these tumultuous times we now call Holy Week.
One thing stands out to me in Luke’s writings here. It’s something we can easily overlook, but as I see it, might be one of the keys to understanding Judas and his poor decisions. In verse 4, we find one short phrase…
Leaving the others.
Back in the Book of Genesis, God’s Word tells us that “it is not good for man to be alone.” While this verse is written to give us explanation on why God made Eve as a partner to Adam, I believe it also reveals a lot about a major weakness of both men and women, especially when it comes to describing our lives as lived outside the perfection of God’s heaven. This weakness of aloneness is one that Satan loves to capitalize on again and again and certainly seems worthy of consideration as we look at Judas’ actions during Holy Week.
When you or I are alone, ‘leaving the others’ as Judas did, we are left to think and rationalize major decisions using just the information we have in our own heads. And I don’t know about you, but when I’m left alone too long without the insight and wisdom which can come from others, my thoughts begin to take on a dangerous combination of self-interest and self-consumption, driving me occasionally to make some pretty stupid and selfish decisions.
Ever been there, done that?
As a matter of fact, if it weren’t for a great wife and a few faithful friends over the years, who knows where I’d be in life right now?
Now don’t get me wrong here. Certainly, there are times when you and I need to get away with our thoughts and reflect with God over private areas of our lives. But caution! When we stay there, leaving others out of the picture for long enough periods of time, that’s the place where Satan loves to meet us as well. And as I see it, this ‘leaving the others’ is the time when Judas began entertaining private thoughts that led to his demise. I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that weeks before Passover 33 AD, Satan began joining Judas in his ‘alone times’, stirring a royal heyday of self-elevating thoughts in his mind.
So, word to the wise.
Stay together, folks. Share those goofy ideas with a few faithful friends before you act on them. Be open to others giving you healthy feedback on some of those creative thoughts that are cooking up in your brain. It might just save us all a few embarrassing, and even dreadful moments down the road.
My prayer: Lord, I read the story of Judas and shudder at thought of Satan entering the thoughts and desires of a man or woman who is following You as a disciple. Holy Spirit, please keep me from ‘leaving the others’ in such a way that my aloneness sets me up for a visitation from the prince of darkness. Keep me in the Light, fully participating with brothers and sisters in Christ, for Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: While times of solitude and aloneness with God are vitally important in our spiritual journey, where am I in danger of pulling away from others, leaving brothers and sisters out of my thoughts? How can I surround myself with other faithful friends so that I not find myself ‘leaving the others’ thus setting me up for a visitation from Satan?
So, what are you experiencing today as we are journeying through this Lenten Adventure?
Over a 48-day period (from Ash Wednesday through the Monday after Easter), you and I will be taking a deeper look at the stories surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus (especially the last week known as Holy Week) as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Our Lenten Journey home page for ease of use.
If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!