The Gospel Of Saint Matthew – Chapter 26
14 ¶ Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,
15 And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.
16 And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.
17 ¶ Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?
18 And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.
19 And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover.
20 Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.
21 And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.
22 And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?
23 And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.
24 The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.
25 Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.
In these Bible verses, Matthew recounts the betrayal by Judas in a slightly different way from yesterday’s reading from the Gospel of John. Firstly, we see Judas go to the chief priests to see what they will give him to betray his Lord. This is calculating treachery, the love of money putting such evil into Judas’ heart as will outweigh all love and all obligation. Through Judas, we see the absolute evil to which greed and the love of money can drive a person.
The amount agreed upon is significant. According to the Book of Exodus, thirty pieces of silver is the amount to be paid by the owner of an ox to the owner of a slave if that ox gores the slave (Exodus 21: 32). This is how Judas values Jesus, as a slave.
The thirty pieces of silver also recalls the Book of the Prophet Zechariah (11: 12), which speaks of the Lord’s judgement upon those who reject the covenant with God and who bring about sin and division among the people.
We also recall the selling of Joseph by his brothers into slavery.
Matthew does not give a detailed account of how the disciples are to identify the man who will take them to the room which Jesus has arranged for them to eat the Passover meal, which will be the Last Supper. Compare this with Mark’s account which we heard on Palm Sunday (Year B):
13 And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him.
14 And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?
15 And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us.
What is clear is that the room is already arranged by Jesus, and that the man the disciples are to find knows Jesus as the Master, or Teacher. We think again of how Jesus has kept the arrangements a secret from his disciples, perhaps through the knowledge of the plot against him and the desire of the Sanhedrin to have him killed before the Passover.
Knowing that he is to be betrayed, indeed has been betrayed, Jesus sits down to a meal with his friends. He announces that he has been betrayed, and the true disciples are deeply sorrowed by what they hear. They must feel that Jesus knows them through and through. Surely he cannot be accusing them? We see that they desire so very much to be loyal.
Jesus says: ‘He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.’ In this verse, we see again the full horror of Judas’ betrayal, since, for the Jews, to share the same dish, to dip hands together in the same dish, was the maximum expression of intimacy and trust.
Judas is damned. ‘Master, is it I?’ he says, knowing full well what he has done and will do. Jesus replies: ‘Thou hast said.’ Jesus shows that he knows all that is happening. Through the words he chooses, he additionally reinforces to Judas that it is Judas’ words and actions which condemn him. Jesus does not need to accuse Judas explicitly, only to confirm to Judas that what he, Judas, has done he has done and what he knows he knows.
There is no point trying to lie to Jesus. Jesus sees directly to what we know in our hearts. Are we true or false? May we ask for the grace to be fit to share his banquet.
‘Doubtless this is what one reads in the Proverbs of Solomon: “If you sit down to eat at a ruler’s table, observe carefully what is before you; and know that you must prepare a similar meal.” For what is the ruler’s table, if not where there is taken the body and blood of him who laid down his life for us? And what is “to sit at”, if not to approach humbly? What is “to observe carefully what is before you”, if not to ponder worthily so great a favour? What does it mean, “know that you must prepare a similar meal,” if not what I have said already, that as Christ laid down his life for us, so we too ought to lay down our lives for our brethren. In the words of the apostle Peter: “Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow in his steps.” This is “to prepare a similar meal”. This the blessed martyrs did with burning love. If our celebration of their mystery is not an empty one, and if we approach the Lord’s table in the banquet in which they too ate and had their fill, then as they prepared such a meal, so should we.’ St Augustine