Most jobs today are sustained off of a consumeristic model where goods and money are exchanged, giving us the ability to pay our bills and carry on with life. Non-profits, on the other hand, make the majority of their money off of grants and the generosity of donors. Churches are a bit more niche than that in the fact that their ministries are primarily financed by donors alone.
While Jesus didn’t seem to operate as though money was a big part of his ministry (indeed, he often spoke against riches and saw money as a prime danger in life), he too would have needed it to take care of the general expenses that arose here and there. While we don’t know how much money he had or where it all came from, we at least know that there were three wealthy women who supported him along the way. These finances would all go into the moneybag, which Judas was in charge of as treasurer. And it’s on Judas that we reflect this Holy Wednesday.
We’ve all heard the unfortunate stories of embezzlement that are found in every model of business—consumerism, non-profit, and yes, even ministry. And as it ends up, one of Jesus’ own disciples wrote one of those unfortunate stories. While Judas watched Jesus bring tax-collecting robbers to repentance, he didn’t apply the same convictions to his own heart and would steal from the treasury. How must Jesus’ generous donors have felt when they found out what Judas had done?
And if that weren’t enough, Judas’ unrepentant sin grew to a level of demonization as “Satan entered him,” leading him to betray Jesus for a new kind of money: blood money. Even the chief priests knew this money was sinful and refused to take it back after Judas tried to return it. Such mafia-esque money didn’t belong at the temple—it was unholy.
And then there’s the kiss. Judas made a deal to identify Jesus to the guard by greeting him with a kiss—a compassionate gesture of friendship. Modern horror movies often like to play innocent-sounding childish music alongside horrific scenes. I imagine this kiss was something like that. Many who have endured trauma have been unable to enjoy a good thing because of an associated bad memory with it. If Jesus had been alive longer after his betrayal, would every kiss he then on received trigger a memory of how Judas set him up to be murdered? Perhaps. Though Jesus would have been quick to practice his own teaching and forgive Judas as he worked to heal past this trauma.
We can associate ourselves with Jesus much more than we thought as we look at his relationship with Judas. In this story we feel the pain of our best friends who left us over night, never to talk to us again. In it, we remember the close friend who betrayed us when we thought they had our backs. In it, pastors recall the ministry leaders that went rogue on them or worked to turn everyone against them. In it, we see that we’re not alone when ministry goes sour. In it, we see that Jesus had to endure personal trauma too.
If we look hard enough, we can feel Jesus’ pain more personally than we thought, and that’s good for us because it helps us know that we’re not alone in our suffering. But there’s another part to this story we are less willing to reflect on because we fear that we might have to incorporate it into our own suffering. For despite what Judas was about to do, Jesus still washed his feet and broke bread with him saying, “Take, eat; this is my body.”