“Judas with the Bag”: The thirty pieces of silver paid for betraying Jesus

Holy Wednesday

Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.  Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.  

Not that I say this because of need, for I have learned, in whatever situation I find myself, to be self-sufficient. I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.

If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that. Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains.

Luke 22: 1-6 ; Philippians 4:11-13; 1 Timothy 6:8-10

Holy Week Prayer: Our Father,…give us this day our daily bread. Let us always trust in you for our provision and not the lure of riches in the world. Amen Ora Pro Nobis.

Why do we call it ‘Spy Wednesday’?

The Betrayal by Judas, detail of tile from Episodes From Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, reverse surface of Maesta’ of Duccio Altarpiece in the Cathedral of Siena, 1308-1311, by Duccio di Buoninsegna (ca 1255 – pre-1319)

It is called ‘Spy Wednesday’ for exactly what we think it means: It’s a reference to Judas’s action in Matthew 26: 14-16

“Then went one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, to the chief priests, and said to them: What will you give me, and I will deliver him unto you? But they appointed him thirty pieces of silver. And from thenceforth he sought opportunity to betray him.” Thus a spy entered there midst.

We are wise not to forget that this simple act of betrayal was accomplished merely with trust, a kiss, and a money deal.  The same features of business transactions most of us use everyday, although we might replace the kiss with a handshake.  It would not be a stretch to say that most of us do not think of betrayal when we go about bringing  home a salary or transacting a business negotiation.  But from a global perspective, we really don’t know where the money comes from that pays us.  We really don’t know what has happened in between this gold being generated somewhere and our getting it into our hands and into our bank accounts where it is used even further for shadowy things of which we know only the briefest of accounting from the Bankers and Investors of the rich elite class.  To know for sure where it came from and what it had been used for and in whose hands it had passed, we’d have to, as they say, follow the money trail.  All we know, all we seem most concerned with,  is that society tell us we have made good if the rich who rule us find us solvent in paying our bills when requested and as affluent as they when we mimic them as to the ownership of material things and the experiences with which their advertisers tempt us.  Our society does not look well on the poor prophet who goes about in “goatskins and sheepskins” being honest in character even if it means looking bad and telling the truth in all things. (Hebrews 11:37) They welcome no Ambassadors of Christ who preach the holy scriptures with carpets, parades, and fine state dinners. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

In the story of Judas betraying Jesus, we sometimes focus so much on the betrayer that we lose sight of the betrayal.  And by focusing on the betrayer instead of the betrayal, we separate him from us and elevate him over whom he betrays, as Chesterton points out in this quote below from The Illustrated London News. By putting Judas away from us, we forget how capable of betrayal we are ourselves. That choice is always before us.

Judas with the bag or Jesus with the Cross?

“The phrase “making good,” merely because it contains the word “good,” always carries some shadowy suggestion that the man who has merely done well for himself must also have done really well; done well as in the old creeds and codes of morals; done well in the sight of God and humanity. And that is not merely immorality, it is blasphemy; for it is practically saying that the selfish man is the saint, and Judas with the bag is greater than Jesus with the Cross” – G. K. Chesterton, The Illustrated London News, January 23, 1932

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