Wednesday of Holy Week is traditionally known as “Spy Wednesday,” because this is the day Judas Iscariot made a deal with the authorities to turn Jesus over to them. Why did he do it?
Let us pray today, asking God to keep us from the sin of despair.
We will never know the answer, perhaps, but it isn’t hard to imagine Judas’ mood. The entry into Jerusalem had been a triumph. Their poll numbers were high. The crowds were with them. Jesus could be crowned king and drive the Romans from Jerusalem and all the holy land.
But Jesus spoiled it all, refusing to answer the authorities’ questions in a way that satisfied them, driving the moneychangers from the Temple, angering the Sadducees with talk of the resurrection and predicting the destruction of the Temple.
It isn’t hard to imagine Judas thinking, “He’s going to throw this all away and get himself — and us — killed in the process!” Perhaps he hoped only to “knock some sense” into Jesus with the arrest. Perhaps Judas never imagined that his actions would result in Jesus’ death.
Matthew writes that, “Judas…seeing that Jesus had been condemned, deeply regretted what he had done.” Judas tries to return the blood money given him by the authorities. He tells them, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.”
How different is Judas’ actions from Peter’s? Judas betrays Jesus to the authorities. Peter abandons Jesus to the authorities, denying him “vehemently,” Matthew writes, “cursing and swearing.”
The difference lies, not so much in the sin, as in what the two men do after they sin. Judas despairs. He refuses to believe that God is able to forgive him. He refuses to believe that God is sovereign even over the evil Judas has done. He goes out and hangs himself.
Peter weeps bitter tears of grief and repentance. Matthew does not mention Peter by name again in his gospel and we can only try to imagine the fear and sorrow that are Peter’s companions in the days to come. But in Mark’s gospel, the angel at the empty tomb tells the women who are the first to witness that miracle that they must “go and tell his disciples and Peter.” Peter evidently stayed with the disciples, with the brothers and sisters. He has remained in that communion, however painful it has been, in the community that will go to Galilee seeking the risen Christ.
Let us pray today, asking God to keep us from the sin of despair. And let us pray for all who are in the dark night of despair, that they may find the light of Christ.