Judas looked down at the scroll in his hands. It had been delivered quietly, stealthily, by a special messenger, to his hands only. He had figured out an excuse to leave Jesus and the disciples so that he could find a dark corner and read what it said. Now to see it in writing made his skin flash cold. It was from the chief priests and the elders, those who had been watching Jesus.
He could tell that they weren’t happy. For the last few days, since they had arrived in Jerusalem. They were nervous when he rode in on a donkey, and told Jesus to quiet his followers. Jesus encouraged them instead. They were furious when he overturned the tables and upset the system that they had carefully constructed. Jesus didn’t care. They were nervous when they saw the crowds gathering around him each day in the Temple. He was growing in his authority, and power, and strength. Jesus deflected it all, and the people loved him all the more.
Judas could tell by watching them that they were angry. Scared. At a loss as to what to do next. But now that he saw their plan in writing, it made his skin flash cold. Could he participate in such deception? He looked up to make sure none of the disciples had noticed him missing and come back looking for him. Assured that they had not, he read the scroll again. Why had they sent it to him? How did they know?
Judas gagged when he smelled the perfume filling the air. A little bit went a long way, but she had used it all. An entire jar. She poured it over his head as he sat at the table. Anointing him. Like Moses did to Aaron. Samuel did to David. A symbol of honor and worship. And it made Judas gag.
It made him gag because the smell was so strong. It made him gag because if she had given that money to him and the disciples, he could have…personally benefited from it. But more than that, it made him gag because this idiotic woman was showing honor and worship to…the wrong person.
It took Judas a long time to admit this to himself. Early on, he thought Jesus was the one. He was the Messiah. He was the Holy One who would restore greatness to the nation of Israel. Judas put his faith in Jesus, his trust in Jesus, and Jesus let him down. Again and again, Jesus fumbled away the power that the people were willing to give him. He wasted money that was given to him. He recklessly spent time with the wrong people, and failed to build the esteem he needed in order to bring back the greatness that Israel deserved. And this week was the worst—Jesus had entered with a head of steam, the ability to parlay his popularity into position and power. But instead of using it wisely, he found ways to make people mad. The chief priests and elders. They could have promoted him—all of them—into positions of power, where Jesus could have begun his climb to the top. But he was in danger of wasting it all.
Just like this woman wasted this perfume. As it ran down his beard and dripped onto the floor, Judas had had enough. “What a waste! We could have sold this and given the money to the poor. Why didn’t you ask us first, you stupid woman.” But Jesus looked right at Judas. Right to his heart. In fact, Judas felt the scroll inside his robes burning, as if Jesus knew it was there. Jesus looked right at him and smiled. “I won’t always be here, Judas. She is preparing me for burial, and preparing the world to see what true greatness looks like.” Judas slammed his fist on the table and walked out into the streets of Bethany. He knew what he had to do.
Judas again found a time to steal away from the rest of the disciples. But this time, his heart beat like it was going to come out of his chest. They could not—must not—see him this time, as he quickly made his way to the secret meeting place listed on the scroll. They looked at him with suspicion as he hurried to meet the chief priests and elders.
As he entered the room, every eye was on him. He got right to business. “How much.” The price was agreed upon. The plan was discussed. The timing considered…not too early as to disrupt the festivities, not too late as to miss their chance.
The entire meeting took only a matter of minutes. Judas rushed back to where he knew Jesus and the disciples would be. But he took long enough to find another dark corner and count out the money. Thirty pieces of silver. Not enough to start a revolution, but enough to make him feel better about the time and energy he wasted on the last failed revolution.
He wrapped up the money tightly so that it wouldn’t make noise when he rejoined the disciples. He snuck back to the edge of the crowd as Jesus continued teaching. The teacher looked up at him and smiled. Judas looked away. What did he know? How could he know? At yet, it always seemed that he did. Judas looked away from the Master’s gaze, as he felt the money in the folds of his robes.