The Sanhedrin was seething with fury. For three years they had endured the arrogant blasphemies of the young pretender named Jesus. They watched how He manipulated the people with His declarations and demonic miracles, intentionally ridiculing the leadership that God Himself ordained to rule over His chosen nation. He encouraged the rebellion of the people, flaunted the breaking of sacred commands, and garnered the support of the people by catering to their weaknesses. The nation of Israel had come upon challenges before, but this false prophet trumped them all.
Once again, at the Passover no less, Jesus had the nerve to come to the Temple. He proclaimed His lies in the very courtyards of the holy palace of the Living God. The foolish crowds were mesmerized. There were even members of the leadership that tried to argue on His behalf, but now He had gone too far. His twisting of the Word of God, His disregard for the Sabbath, His disrespectful contempt for thousands of years of tradition, His preference for sinners over men of ritual holiness and doctrinal purity, His claims to speak for God Himself, His talk of a Kingdom…He was a threat to the nation! There were rumors that He wanted to be king! The Romans wouldn’t put up with it, and neither would the high Jewish court.
The man had to die.
It was the only way to save the nation.
The plotting and plans of the religious leaders had been going on for months. They put the word out across the land that Jesus had a target on Him. It was imperative that they find some way to accuse Him. They had to catch Him in His words. They had to find proof that He was heretic. But this Jesus was cunning. It was as if Satan himself inspired the slippery words of the Carpenter. He tripped up the most brilliant lawyers in the nation and left them baffled.
The other problem was that He was hard to find. He had no synagogue of His own, and He had the oddest preoccupation of wasting His time wandering out with the mob, sleeping in their hovels and preaching among their weeds. He trekked around Israel like a gypsy…what with His calloused feet and His bedraggled band of so called “disciples.” Every one of them was the typical, ignorant type whose lack of education made them easy to fool. What would they do when their beloved Master was gone? Not one of them had the charisma to pull off what this pretentious carpenter from Galilee could do. As soon as He was dead, they would go running, and everything would calm down again.
Now that the Passover Feast had come around again, they finally had Jesus right in their grasp. The only problem was that the crowds made it impossible to arrest Him. He was annoyingly popular. The mob actually believed the rumor that He had raised His friend from the dead in Judea. Other stories were floating around about ten lepers that were healed. It didn’t matter how outrageous His claims were, as long as the crowds thought the miracles might be true, they had to wait. If they tried to arrest Him, there was sure to be an uprising. When the Passover mob cleared away, they could make their move. They would take Him by stealth and force and kill Him. They weren’t quite sure how they would pull it off, but their obsession to do so made it all but certain.
The day of the Passover Feast was two days off. The streets of Jerusalem were crammed with people. Jesus and His disciples would spend the daylight hours among them. Early in the morning, the people would rise to find Jesus, eager to listen to Him at the Temple. He fed a hunger that they didn’t even know they had before. In the evenings, Jesus would journey across the little valley of Kidron and up to the Mount of Olives that overlooked the city. They would spend the nights there in rest, only to go back over to the people again in the morning.
In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, something quiet and sinister was going on in the mind of one of Jesus’ disciples. His thoughts had turned to darkness. Luke says Satan himself entered him.
The Bible never explains why Judas did the terrible thing he did. It doesn’t explain how Satan worked his evil upon the rebellion of his heart. It only tells us about the unimaginable betrayal. At some point in that week, he slipped off, away from the Lord and the disciples and the crowds. He slithered his way to the chief priests and asked, “‘What are you willing to give me to deliver Him up to you?’” Imagine the evil glances as they weighed out thirty silver coins. That was about four month’s wages.
The ground should have rumbled. The earth should have cracked. The sun should have covered its brightness with mourning. Someone should have wailed, “THE LORD OF THE UNIVERSE HAS BEEN BETRAYED!”
And perhaps in Heaven, they did.
Judas had seen the miracles. He had heard all the bright, clear lessons and walked with Him on the endless journeys. He spent nights in the cold with the hard earth for a bed. He followed the Lord everywhere and was invited into His inner circle! But when the time was ripe, he went scampering off to treachery. How could he? HOW COULD HE! How could he betray the Lord for a purse of coins? We don’t know why. It makes no sense. But he did.
Imagine the malicious delight of the religious leaders. Imagine how they sneered as they plotted with one of Jesus’ own men. Suddenly, the deed that seemed so complicated had become so simple. They had a scout on the inside. They wouldn’t have to arrest Him in public, where they would have to face the crowds. They could get Him in the night and outnumber Him. By the time the crowds learned about the arrest, it would already be too late. The leaders could issue a proclamation, and the crowds would have to accept it. They would humiliate and silence this troublemaker once and for all. Nobody would dare challenge their authority again.
In the midst of all their sin and rebellion, these men simply could not see how even their evil intentions were being used to bring about God’s unspeakably beautiful plan. He had ordained that Christ would offer up His life at the high point of the Passover Feast. This celebration honored the time when God brought salvation to Israel from the oppressive Egyptian Empire by the blood of a lamb and through the Red Sea. Now, God was making a new way, the fullest form of salvation, the final, ultimate victory. The blood of Jesus would make the way to salvation through the breaking of His Body. The religious leaders were prepared to wait until the crowds were gone. But Judas’ betrayal insured that it would happen on God’s exact appointed day.