Jerusalem was brewing with discontent, beneath the asymmetric dual rule of Rome and the chief priests revolutionary fever was beginning to ferment. So sticking with Jesus was risky business.
Others had turned away from Jesus when his teachings got a bit too radical for their liking. The Pharisees would occasionally join Jesus for a little bit of banter, trying to entrap him into saying or doing something they could arrest him for. Some of these Pharisees were won round to Jesus’ cause, others sat on the fence, waiting to see which way the wind would blow.
Judas stuck with the disciples, and stayed as part of Jesus’ core group of followers, but he had serious doubts. He was worried about the trouble Jesus was causing with the authorities.
One night a representative of the chief priests cornered him on his way home. He had all sorts of questions, they wanted to know what Jesus was up to, what he was doing, where he would be. They knew he had entered Jerusalem, they were even laughing about the palm leaves and the donkey. What kind of leader rides on a donkey.
He wasn’t sure whether to be offended by the scoffing tone they used to mock Jesus, or afraid of the trouble they could cause if it all went wrong with Jesus and he was left carrying the can. After all, he had no idea what Jesus’ plan was, he never answered any of the disciples questions properly he just told some stories, asked them to consider the lilies and be like little children. This was hardly a manifesto to risk his life for.
So he decided to play safe. After the humiliation he’d been dealt by Mary shaming herself in front of everyone, and Jesus taking her side, Judas struck a deal with the ruling authorities. He could make some money and stay onside with the men in charge.
Judas didn’t like to think of his actions as betrayal, that was far too crude a way of putting it. He was simply keeping his options open. He would join Jesus and the disciples for dinner the next evening. This way he could keep in touch with his friends but at the same time be ready to jump ship if it all got a bit too dangerous.
All the chief priests wanted was to know where Jesus would be the next night, what harm could slipping them that bit of info do? Jesus had encountered the religious authorities several times in the past and even when it got a bit tense nothing disastrous had happened. It might also give Jesus the nudge he needed to break out of his rather elliptical behaviour and lead the revolution everyone was hoping he would lead.
If he wasn’t going to do it properly what point, Judas thought, was there in risking his life to follow him.
But this wasn’t the way this king operated. He was betrayed because he had accepted the worship of a sinful women. Betrayed by a man who chose the way of his world over the way of the king.