The solution to the leaders' desire to get Jesus is Judas, one of the disciples. Enlisting him in their scheme clears the way for Jesus' arrest.
Jesus probably suffered no greater personal disappointment than Judas's betrayal. Sometimes rejection and failure come from within the ranks of those who minister. Success is not guaranteed for those associated with Jesus. Yet such failure is always tragic.
The final act begins on the feast of Passover, also known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Ex 12:1-20; Deut 16:1-8; Jeremias 1967:898-904; Josephus Antiquities 14.2.1 21; 17.9.3 213; Jewish Wars 2.1.3 10). Actually the two names represent different feasts that come right after one another, so often a reference to one really meant both. Passover came on Nisan 14-15, while the Feast of Unleavened Bread came on Nisan 15-21. Passover celebrated the night of Israel's exodus from Egypt (Ex 12), while the Feast of Unleavened Bread commemorated the exodus journey as well as the beginning of harvest season (Lev 23:5-8). During this time pilgrims from all over the region flocked into Jerusalem for a national celebration, rather like a combination of the Independence Day and Thanksgiving holidays in the United States. The combined Jewish feast celebrated salvation.
Yet the leadership is plotting to execute the one who claimed to be the fulfillment of all the exodus deliverance represented. The irony is not to be missed. Luke intends to show the distortion of perspective that accompanies sin, especially when it is the sin of rejecting Jesus.
The only obstacle to the leaders' desire to get Jesus is the people. Their fear of a popular backlash makes them cautious. It does not look as if anything will happen in this holiday period.
But things change rapidly once Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot. Luke's statement reveals a behind-the-scene actor in this drama. Judas does not act alone. Deception has infiltrated the camp. The passage does not explain how this happened or what may have led to it. What is important is that the subsequent events occur because Satan has his way with Judas. No matter what the devil promises, Satan's entry into one's life is destructive; Luke has already offered the illustration of the Gerasene man (8:26-39). For when Satan enters a life, he leads the person in sinister directions.
So Judas goes to confer with the leadership, the chief priests and the officers. Religious officials and temple guards are in view here. Since someone from the inside is willing to betray Jesus, the leaders can now plan to intercept him in a more private setting than the crowd-filled temple region. They must be rubbing their hands together with anticipation: at last Jesus can be stopped. A sum of money is exchanged. The amount is not given here, but the mere mention of money makes the act look even more underhanded. This is not an act of honor for Judas, for the betrayer makes sure he has more to gain than merely the removal of a messianic movement's leader.
Judas's involvement is doubly fortunate for the leadership. First, they can now seek Jesus away from the crowds and take him in private. Second, if trouble arises and their plans go disastrously wrong, they can make the case that one of Jesus' own has been the cause of his downfall. Judas can be blamed for whatever follows. The leaders can say they have just done their duty in dealing with Jesus. So Judas's offer simplifies matters greatly.
With the agreement in place, the leaders only need a good opportunity. Double-dealing has led to betrayal. The Jewish celebration of national salvation becomes the occasion for a plot to arrest and convict Jesus. Once again, irony abounds. The leadership steers a course of murder in the name of righteousness. Sin always distorts reality. In addition, a cosmic chess match comes to its crucial moment. Satan will put Jesus in check, but Jesus will make the final move that means checkmate.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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