Wednesday (April 4):
Gospel Reading: Matthew 26:14-25
14 Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. 17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain one, and say to him, `The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.'” 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. 20 When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples; 21 and as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. 24 The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Is it I, Master?” He said to him, “You have said so.”
Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 50:4-9
4 The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary. Morning by morning he wakens, he wakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. 5 The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I turned not backward. 6 I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I hid not my face from shame and spitting. 7 For the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been confounded; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; 8 he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me. 9 Behold, the Lord GOD helps me; who will declare me guilty? Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up.
Meditation: Why did Judas betray his Master? Was his treachery motivated by greed, bitter disappointment with Jesus, or hatred because of disillusionment? It may be that Judas never intended for his Master to die. Maybe he thought Jesus was proceeding too slowly and not acting aggressively enough in setting up his messianic kingdom. Perhaps Judas wanted to force Jesus’ hand by compelling him to act. Nonetheless, his tragedy was his refusal to accept Jesus as he was.
Origen, a 3rd century bible scholar and church father, comments on Judas’ betrayal: “Let us consider what Judas said to the Jewish priests: What will you give me if I hand him over to you? He was willing to take money in exchange for handing over the Word of God. They do the same thing who accept sensual or worldly goods in exchange for handing over and casting out from their souls the Savior and Word of truth who came to dwell with them. Indeed, it would be fitting to apply Judas’s example to all who show contempt for the Word of God and betray him, as it were, by committing sin for the sake of money or for any selfish motive. People who behave in this way appear openly to be calling out to the powers of the enemy who offer worldly gain in return for the sin of betraying God’s Word, saying, What will you give me if I hand him over to you? And they gave him thirty pieces of silver. The number of coins they gave Judas was equivalent to the number of years the Savior had sojourned in this world. For at the age of thirty, he was baptized and began to preach the gospel, like Joseph was thirty years old when he began to gather grain for his brothers (Genesis 41:46). Just as at that time the grain was prepared by God for the sons of Israel but given also to the Egyptians, so also the gospel was prepared for the saints but preached also to the unfaithful and wicked.” [Commentary on Matthew 78.]
Jesus knew beforehand what would befall him. As Jesus ate the passover meal with his twelve apostles he put them under trial and suspicion (one of you will betray me) to teach them to examine themselves rightly, lest they be highminded and think themselves more strong than they were. We, also must examine ourselves in the light of God’s truth and grace and ask him to strengthen us in faith, hope, and love that we may not fail him or forsake him when we are tempted. Do you pray with confidence in the words Jesus gave us to pray: Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:13)?
“God our Father, we are exceedingly frail and indisposed to every virtuous and gallant undertaking. Strengthen our weakness, we beseech you, that we may do valiantly in this spiritual war; help us against our own negligence and cowardice, and defend us from the treachery of our unfaithful hearts; for Jesus Christ’s sake.” (Prayer of Thomas a Kempis)
Psalm 69:8-10, 21-22, 31-34
8 I have become a stranger to my brethren, an alien to my mother’s sons.
9 For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.
10 When I humbled my soul with fasting, it became my reproach.
21 They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
22 Let their own table before them become a snare; let their sacrificial feasts be a trap.
31 This will please the LORD more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs.
32 Let the oppressed see it and be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
33 For the LORD hears the needy, and does not despise his own that are in bonds.
34 Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves therein.