When I read this section of Luke (22.1-6), I think of the song “Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap)” because that really is what Judas is doing. Actually, I suppoose we could call them “devilish deeds” based on what Luke says in v.3 (“Satan entered Judas”) and, relatively speaking, he did these deeds “dirt cheap.” At the same time, we now descend into the darkness, the darkest part of the life of Christ. Events will put certain things in motion which will lead to the arrest, trial, and execution of Jesus in under 24 hours. The first of these events is Judas’ betrayal.
The Avidity to Kill Jesus
In verses 1-2 we see the great desire of Jesus opponents to kill Jesus. Luke puts his historical touch on this by noting that the Feast of Unleavened Bread was drawing near. This puts this in an historical context, in real space-time. Indeed, Jesus was a real man who really died in human history. He was not a myth nor a legend. Luke further note this is called the Passover also. Intended for Greeks who perhaps were unfamiliar with all the Jewish customs, Luke adds this note. Strictly speaking, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover were distinct from each other, nevertheless they were regarded as one celebration. We note the Passover, the commemoration of what God did for Israel in bringing them out Egypt (Exodus 12) when he slew the firstborn child of all in Egypt but passed over the people of Israel who had the blood on the doorpost. Indeed, Christ is our Passover lamb (1 Cor 5.7) and those covered in the blood are passed over, free from the full wrath of God.
It was at this time, roughly corresponding to March in our calendar year, that the chief priest and scirbes were seeking and desiring to put Jesus to death, whether by legal or quasi-legal procedures. As the narrative unfolds, we will see they pursue the latter. While the Pharisees and Sadducees were some of Jesus stiffest opposition, it is the chief priests who hold the political power to actually pursue execution of Jesus. Hence, they, with the scribes, take the lead. But there was one hiccup in the road: the people. These powerful men were truly powerless because of the people. What could they do?
The Agreement to Kill Jesus
Enter Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve who followed Jesus. He was the son of Simon of Iscariot (see John 6.71; 13.26). The term Iscariot is often used to distinguish between this Judas and another Judas in the company of apostles (see Luke 6.16; John 14.22) and points to his hometown of Keriot in southern Judah. An interesting note is that Judas was the only apostle who was not from Galilee. By some accounts, Judas was an important disciple: he had control over the money and seemed to be near Jesus at the last supper since Jesus was able to give him the morsel (John 13.26). It is this man who betrays the Lord. The enormity of the betrayal is seen in the language of Luke when saying he was “one of the twelve.”
Judas comes to the enemies of Jesus and discusses with them what is to be done and how Judas might betray Jesus to them. Luke only tells us that there were “officers” present. These were the commanders of the temple guard, no doubt acting as body guards for these high priestly men. Imagine their joy (v.5) when we finally reach an agreement. How exactly it went down and what exactly the discussion consisted of is not known. But there was some talk, some negotiation about price and deliverance of Jesus to them. But finally an agreement is reached and Judas casts his lot in with these men and their wicked work. And now all they have to do is wait. Wait for the right moment when Jesus is alone, by Himself, away from the people.
I know what your asking yourself. Its the same I rack my brain over. Why? Why did he do it? Again, by accounts he was a disciple of position and promise, good with money, perhaps a leader. The ideas abound. Some say Judas was disappointed with what Jesus was doing. After all it was Judas who raised his voice over the anointing of Jesus (John 12.4). Disappointment that the grand vision of the kingdom perhaps drove him to it. Of course, if we stay in that account in John 12, we see Judas was a thief. Maybe he was just a bad guy who was tired of the lack of cash flow coming in. Still others try to paint a different light on Judas and say he was merely trying to get to exert His power and hasten the coming of the kingdom. Maybe if he pressed Him, Jesus would finally start acting like the Messiah the Jews had hoped for. Still others have suggested that perhaps Judas, for whatever reason, began to doubt that Jesus was truly the Messiah. Perhaps Judas thought Jesus was a false Messiah and the true Messiah was yet to come. Still others say Judas was tired of Jesus indifference to the law and His association with “sinners” and His violation of the Sabbath. There are even those who say Judas was the hero of this whole ordeal and merely doing what Jesus had talked him into. Again, I say, speculation abounds.
What’s the reality? The reality is Scripture is relatively silent on the exact motive of why Judas did it. Luke says Satan entered him. The prince of the powers of darkness was able to sway Judas to his camp and use him to “guide” (Acts 1.16) these enemies of Jesus to Him. The Pulpit Commentary says, “For one to whom such splendid chances were offered to fall so low, is an awful mystery.” Perhaps the greater question is did Jesus know? Jesus was the one who look into the hearts of men. Did He know that Judas was or would be a thief, take a bribe, turn out to be a betrayer? Did He know and still call Judas to “follow me”? Set before Judas (and indeed us) are the paths of life and death, sin and fellowship with the Creator. And he chose the wrong path. It is vivid and terrible example of the fundamental choice men and women have before them.