As we continue on this journey toward the cross, Jesus had just finished praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. His disappointment in his friends’ inability to stay awake and pray would find itself overshadowed by the next event on the Mount of Olives.
Mark 14:43-46 And immediately, even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders.The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss. Then you can take him away under guard.” As soon as they arrived, Judas walked up to Jesus. “Rabbi!” he exclaimed, and gave him the kiss. Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him.
Station 2: Jesus is Betrayed by Judas and Arrested
Every story needs a villain, and Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve of Jesus disciples, certainly filled that role. Jesus had a close knit group of friends. The twelve disciples where some of the closest people to Jesus. They regularly traveled together. They worked together in common cause – caring for the poor, helping the sick. They broke bread together, got to know each other’s families. In church vernacular, they “did life together.”
Jesus felt no small measure of grief as he saw his friend Judas approach and kiss his cheek. A kiss was a sign of loyalty in that culture. And yet, Judas turned it into a a signal of betrayal. Peter’s rage as he grabbed his sword and attacked a guard in this moment was definitely an act of defense of his teacher and friend, but I’m sure it was fueled some by a sense of anger and betrayal as well. One of his ministry partners had betrayed their leader.
Think to yourself. Think back to when you’ve felt betrayed by a friend. It hurts… deeply. Betrayal leaves scars. In this case, Judas’ act of betrayal left literal scars in the hands and feet and side of Jesus.
In looking at Judas, I want to focus on an event that happened just a few days before the betrayal in Gethsemane. It helps to establish who Judas really was. In John 12, we read of the account of a dinner party being held in honor of Jesus in the town of Bethany. Mostly likely held at the house of Simon the Leper (based on the other gospels), this party included the twelve disciples, the resurrected Lazarus, and his sisters Martha and Mary.
Here’s the account from John 12:3-8
Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance. But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself. Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
Spikenard was incredibly expensive, imported from India, and used for a variety of medicinal purposes, but was a primary ointment to anoint the dead. Mary would have saved for a long time to afford twelve ounces of spikenard. And she poured it all out as an offering to this man who had raised her brother from the dead. To Mary, Jesus was not just a friend and a teacher. Jesus was the life-giver, the Son of God.
I love the fact that scripture highlights so many women involved in Jesus’ ministry. Make no mistake, women in this time were not highly respected. That she would sit at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10) and seek to learn from him – in fact, even commended by Jesus for doing so – shows the revolutionary mindset of Jesus and his close band of followers. To our Savior, a woman’s place was not necessarily traditional, say in the kitchen, like we find Martha so often. A woman who followed Jesus was not expected to only take a subservient role. Women were seen as Kingdom builders, and later, in the early church, they were viewed often as equal partners in the important work of spreading the Good News.
But back to our story, and here’s where the scriptures get interesting. This account in John allows us to make some distinct comparisons between Judas Iscariot and Mary of Bethany.
Judas, who was in charge of the money, effectively the treasurer of Jesus’s ministry, embezzled and stole, revealing his self-centered nature and a love of money and material things.
Mary, a mere woman, took a precious, expensive, oil and selflessly poured it in in an act of sacrifice.
Judas tried to appear pious before his teacher, expressing his concern, albeit insincere, for the poor.
Mary demonstrated her humility by using her hair to anoint and clean the feet of Jesus.
Judas focused on the material, and like most of the twelve didn’t quite always get what Jesus was trying to teach about the sacrifice it took to follow Jesus.
Mary realized who sat before her, listened to his teachings, and believed Jesus when he said his death was near. Her focus was on the spiritual. Her sacrifice as his follower was shown in a very tangible way.
Judas betrayed his friend and mentor for a measly 30 pieces of silver.
Mary poured out an entire container of oil that was valued, according to the Greek, at 300 pieces of silver.
There is such a distinct difference between these two individuals. Though Judas was known at this time as one of the disciples of Jesus, Mary is the one that actually showed the marks of being a true disciple. The hearts of these two individuals couldn’t be anymore different.
And these two both are forever remembered as having played a part in the time leading up to the crucifixion of Christ.
One is honored. Mark 14:9 records Jesus as saying after Mary’s anointing, “I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”
And of course, Judas died with the ignominy of being forever remembered as a thief, a betrayer, who hung himself in shame after that night where he betrayed his teacher and friend in the Garden of Gethsemane.
To learn more about the Stations of the Cross bring your family and journey to the cross with a 30 minute interactive experience called Embrace the Cross on Good Friday. It is an interactive worship experience. This event is free and open to the public. KIDS ARE WELCOME and there will be activities geared specifically toward them. Sponsored by Ashley Ridge Church and Trinity Church Summerville. Find out more details at this Facebook Event Page.