Sermon: Maundy Thursday: Judas
The Rt Revd Michael Turnbull
Preached on 5th April 2012
by The Rt Revd Michael Turnbull
Matthew 26.20-30 and 47-50
It must have been an uneasy atmosphere at the first last supper. The Passover was normally a time for celebration of the way God had looked after his people and given a particular vocation. There would have been a well tried set of rituals and a certain solemnity but it was something to look forward to.
But here in this upper room there was the shadow of Jesus leaving his disciples. He had kept talking about this and puzzling them and even disappointing them. Then there was the Judas factor, brought to a head when Jesus identified the one who was to betray him.
Judas is easy to criticise in hindsight. But also easy to see how as treasurer in the group he had a certain power. No doubt there were many other kinds of temptations – the use of short cuts to get things done, the use of money to question Jesus’ plans and always the seductive thought of more money. We do not know Judas motives and they have been nothing to do with money but more to force Jesus’ hand and introduce his power in a political sense. None of this diminishes the folly of such an act of treachery but it might help us to understand why Judas acted in this way and it was only afterwards he realised the scale of what he had done.
Perhaps the steps that led to his ultimate betrayal went something like this
1 Judas lack of real understanding of Jesus mission – it was hard for the disciples to grasp just as it is for us – going against the grain of we like to change things. Like us the disciples had triumphalist hopes
2 Judas deceived himself by believing his betrayal was ‘for the best’
3 He minimised the importance of what he was doing, believing that whatever he did Jesus had the power to overcome it.
4 Possibly greed but 30 pieces of silver was not a fortune
5 Personal ambition – he had ambitions to become the kind of Chancellor in this new Kingdom which Jesus talked about.
6The irony of Judas deciding to come to the First Last Supper at all in view of what he was planning to do.
As we participate in this most Holy Supper – following the commands of Jesus that night, and contemplate the following day – tomorrow and the Cross – remember how easy it is to slip into betrayal mode – however much we look around at others
Our lack of understanding
Our self deception
Our tendency to minimise sin – ‘it doesn’t matter too much’
Our innate greed
Our love of power
So we come to this supper tonight in thankfulness for Jesus’ institution, in penitence for our betrayals and in faith, however hesitant, that, though it lead to suffering, the Jesus way is the best way.