Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. Matthew 26:6-16 (Gospel of Pre-Sanctified Liturgy on Holy Wednesday Morning) Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent
Good morning Prayer Team!
The “Passion” of Christ refers to His sufferings. The first act of the Passion was the betrayal by Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples, one of His friends.
The sins of Judas are many. The first sin was greed. We read about the greed of Judas in John 12: 3-6:
Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feed of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples (he who was to betray Him), said, ‘Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’ This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to take what was put into it.
The devil is a real presence in the world. He seeks to enter into every person who loves Christ, and he tries to exploit our weakest link. In the case of Judas, it was money. The devil couldn’t motivate Judas to murder Christ, but he Judas’ motivation of greed so that Judas betrayed Christ to those who would eventually see to it that He was murdered. In Luke 22:3-6, we read:
Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve, he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them. And they were glad, and engaged to give him money. So he agreed, and sought an opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude.
The betrayal itself was not an act of violence. Ironically, it was an act of affection. Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, a sign of friendship:
Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying “The One I shall kiss is the Man; seize Him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said “Hail, Master!” And he kissed Him. Jesus said to him “Friend, why are you here?” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him. (Matthew 26:48-50)
Up to this point in the story, the actions of Judas are common to ALL of us. We all have weaknesses. And the devil exploits these weaknesses. He enters into each of us through doubt and distraction, which eventually lead to actions that are destructive for us and those around us. He enters into marriages, into friendships, anywhere there is good, you will find him trying to turn good into bad. And most of our sins are not sins of violence, but sins of affection gone wrong. After all, who is it that we sin against the most? Our families and our friends, the one with whom we are the closest. And while we may never take up a weapon to hurt someone in physical way, we all use our mouths and our minds as weapons to inflict emotional harm on others. In some way, we all betray friends, confidences, courtesies and in so doing, we all betray Christ.
The greatest sin of Judas was not greed, giving into the devil or betrayal. The greatest sin of Judas was his failure to repent. It was his failure to believe in the Lord’s ability to forgive him and to love him again.
When Judas, His betrayer, saw that He was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” They said “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed and he went and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5)
The door to repentance is open to everyone, no matter what we’ve done. It was open to the harlots and tax collectors that Jesus forgave and embraced. It was open for Peter, who three times denied Christ. It was open to the thief on the cross. That door was even open to Judas.
The elements of Judas’ betrayal are foreshadowed in the fall of mankind. The first sin of Adam and Eve was greed. They wanted the one thing that God told them they were not to have, to partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They betrayed God in eating from the tree. And when confronted, they lied, rather than repenting. Had they repented, would the outcome to the story been different? What if Judas had repented?
There is an old English adage that says “Still as of old, man by himself is priced. For 30 pieces of silver, Judas sold himself, not Christ.” Jesus paid the price for our sins by dying on the cross. There are two things we must offer in order to collect our reward, salvation: First, faith, and second, repentance each time we fail to live according to the Faith. It wasn’t betrayal that doomed Judas and it isn’t betrayal that is going to doom us. Repentance means changing direction, from the direction that takes us away from Christ, to the direction that takes us toward Him. Repentance is the key that opens the door to salvation. It could have for Judas. It still can for us.
When Your glorious Disciples were enlightened at the washing of the feet before the Supper, then the impious Judas was darkened by the disease of greed, and delivered You, the Righteous Judge, to lawless judges. Behold, O love of money, the one, who hanged himself for the sake of money. Flee from this insatiable desire, which dared such a thing against the Teacher. O Lord, Who deals righteously with all, glory to You. (Apolytikion of Bridegroom Service on Holy Wednesday Evening and the Service of the 12 Gospels on Holy Thursday Evening, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)
Repent daily! Repent today!
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