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Thirty pieces of silver

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

Something struck me today as I was thinking about Judas selling out Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.  All of a sudden it dawned on me that I live in world full of Judas’, only the price for selling out has certainly gone up since then.  It made me start to draw a parallel between the hatred the name Judas has attracted over the years, making me want to see if calling present day soul sellers warranted them being called that.

What I found out was a little surprising; but these people these days do deserve to be pointed out.

The price Judas received was the same price Zecharaiah received (11:12) in the dream he recounted, in chapter eleven of his book.  That priestly prophet was paid thirty shekels of silver as wages paid for work well done.  Zecharaiah was paid this amount by “them,” who judged his work as good.  This good work included him breaking to bits a staff he used to shepherd “them” with.  This was one of two staffs he used, with this staff broken being called “Favor.”

Judas’ act, promising to identify Jesus to the temple guards with a kiss, was seen as a favorable sign to the Pharisees.  When Judas broke the Favor that a disciple gave and received from Jesus, they saw this as good.  Still, there needs to be some logistical things worked out, particularly the timing of this agreement, when the payment and the rejection of the payment occurred, as well.  It needs to become clear exactly why Judas would sell out Jesus in this manner.  These are some things that I never have answered for myself; but now they seem important to me, to fully understand the actions of Judas.

Since the exposure on the National Geographic channel about the finding of the lost Book of Judas, a new light has been cast on Judas.  It is a light that, whether or not you can deal with a positive lean set on Judas, he was justifiably a disciple of Jesus, clearly earning the distinction of being “one of the twelve.”  As such, without much being stated in the Bible saying Jesus and his band of missionaries were indeed the prototype of the first church, it could have been no other way.  Jesus was the “archbishop” of his church, with the disciples the twelve bishops, so to speak.

We get a clue of this at many places in the Gospels, but especially when Mary Magdalene washed Jesus’ feet with “about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume.”  It was Judas Iscariot who complained about the waste of such expensive perfume; but, it was not because the money paid for the nard could have been better spent on Jesus and the disciples.  John recalled Judas asking, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (John 12:5)

Now, John immediately made it a point to judge Judas, by explaining in the very next line of his book that Judas didn’t ask this question for truly altruistic reasons.  He wrote, “Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.” (John 12:6)

Ouch.  That sounds like some bad blood between those two; but, maybe that is a much later perspective talking?  Still, assuming that John was not lying about Judas and the taking of money from the money box, this exchange recalled by John shows us that the group was indeed a church, with Judas the treasurer.

In the Book of Acts, chapter one tells about the maintenance of the number twelve, as necessary positions to fill within the church of Jesus Christ.  Following Judas’ suicide, only eleven disciples remained, causing them to select Matthias as his replacement. (Acts 1:26) Then, in chapter four of Acts, we read that: “All the believers were one in heart and mind.  No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.  With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.  There were no needy persons among them.  For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.” (Acts 4:32-35)

With this understanding of the workings of the disciples as a church, it becomes possible to see Judas, as the keeper of the money box, not as a “thief,” but more probably as one in a better position to give to the poor.  In this sense, John was judging Judas a “thief,” because the balance sheet didn’t always match up, based on known expenses and known contributions.  However, it becomes doubtful that Jesus would have known about such acts of thievery and allowed them: a) to continue without rebuke; and b) to continue to allow Judas the rank of disciple, while being a known thief.

Therefore, the matter of missing money might well have been an issue not openly discussed, out of reasons for piety to respect another human being by not calling him out, meaning John leapt to the conclusion that missing money means it was stolen.  Judas could have simply given money to those in need, without asking for approval, because Jesus preached this practice.  In that process, Judas probably gave the impression that he had personal wealth to give (when it was the church’s), stealing that honor.

Still, when we find the Book of Acts to be the measuring stick for the church that the disciples were left with, following its foundation by Jesus, we see an example of how “kiting money” (taking money today, money that is not yours for personal use, with the intent to repay that money at a later date, avoiding discovery) could not have existed.  The example shows that such hidden tricks were controlled by God.

In chapter five of Acts, we read the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira.  Together they sold a piece of property; and instead of bringing all of the proceeds and laying them at the feet of Peter, they kept a little for themselves.  Peter instantly knew the land they sold was worth more than the amount Ananias counted out and laid at Peter’s feet.

Peter then laid into Ananias, by saying, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?  Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” (Acts 5:3-4)

Upon hearing this, Ananias dropped down dead.  Not long after this, Sapphira came looking for Ananias; and when she was also confronted by Peter over the matter, she dropped dead as well.  This “giving up the ghost” over not giving all extra money from the sale of possessions led to, “Great fear seizing the whole church and all who heard about these events,” (Acts 5:11) meaning: a) they were a church; and, b) theft was reason for God to strike you dead.

This means Judas might not have been so snake-belly low while he lived and served Jesus, as a disciple.  At least not as John (and others, in hindsight) remembered.  If we can grasp that straw, it becomes reasonable to question just why Judas would sell out Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

As the treasurer of the church of Jesus Christ, working a financial deal that would benefit him would actually be a benefit for the whole group.  Thirty pieces of silver (even today) would have been nothing to sneeze at.  None of the disciples were working jobs that paid them wages; but they all had their needs met.  People like Martha and Mary Magdalene were sponsors of their ministry, as being totally committed to the financial backing of those needs, for Jesus and the disciples, while the excess monies they collected went to such things as feeding the poor who gathered to hear Jesus preach.  They were all completely invested in the ministry of Jesus Christ, so any financial gain would have been for the whole, never for the individual.  Had it been, Jesus would have known and/or God would have stricken them dead as thieves and traitors.

Now the Book of Judas paints a picture of Judas as the one disciple who seemed to want to grasp more of what Jesus had to offer, as a Rabbi and as the Son of God.  According to the translation of that book made available by National Geographic, Jesus spoke privately with Judas about matters the other eleven were deemed unable to understand.  At one point in these discussions, all of which were stated in the foreword to have occurred over three days, one week before the Passover dinner that would become the Last Supper, Jesus explained to Judas the meaning of a dream Judas told Jesus he had.

In this dream, Judas told Jesus, “In the vision I saw myself as the twelve disciples were stoning me.”  This means Judas saw the number twelve as a fixed number, which would remain even if he departed.  To this, Jesus responded (a little later in the discussion), “You will become the thirteenth, and you will be cursed by the other generations—and you will come to rule over them. In the last days they will curse your ascent to the holy [generation].”

The short of Judas’ dream was that a future state of the church would come to exist, with the twelve disciples being twelve “priests.”  When Jesus asked Judas to describe these priests, he said, “some sacrifice their own children, others their wives, in praise [and] humility with each other; some sleep with men; some are involved in [slaughter]; some commit a multitude of sins and deeds of lawlessness. And the men who stand [before] the altar invoke your [name], [39] and in all the deeds of their deficiency, the sacrifices are brought to completion […].”

In the Book of Judas, following this description of the twelve priests of Judas’ dream, it says, “after they said this, they were quiet, for they were troubled.”  That is understandable, when you can see the modern state that the churches have become.

How common has it become to have churches, those claiming to be in the name of Jesus Christ (i.e.: Christian churches), become known to call upon their children to kill and be killed as members of God’s army, to fight in a “just war?”

Have not we had a parade of evangelists over the years who have all come forward (in the face of unwanted exposure) to admit to the willful sacrifice of their wives, for the momentary pleasures of a prostitutes or another woman in an extramarital affair?

In this ultra-political age, we readily see how “men of the cloth” have come to join in groups, as unified political forces (movements for specific personally desired gains), praising one another, while acting the humble servants of the Lord.  The Catholic Church has paid millions in settlement claims, with priests and bishops serving prison time, after having made public admissions of their addictions to homosexuality, specifically in relationship with child molestation accusations.

Then, when Jim Jones and the Branch Davidians are remembered, as church leaders who would rather lead their members to slaughter than true salvation, we see how one example after another makes this part of the Book of Judas truly prophetic of our times.

Obviously, “they were troubled” over this dream for different reasons, as Jesus then asked Judas, “Why are you troubled? Truly I say to you, all the priests who stand before that altar invoke my name. Again I say to you, my name has been written on this […] of the generations of the stars through the human generations. [And they] have planted trees without fruit, in my name, in a shameful manner.”

This means that Judas was silent in thought, trying to imagine how a world could ever actually become so corrupt.   Jesus was silent from seeing how his rejection by the Jews, who were unable to see Jesus as God’s promised messiah, was small when compared to the greater rejection he saw would come.  The cornerstone of Christianity, Jesus recognized as the Son of God, from which churches in his name would be built, growing and spreading around the world, that transformation would be corrupted.   The original Church of Jesus Christ would be found, at the end of time, bearing no fruit from that tree planted.  Certainly, that is reason to pause and reflect.

Still, the Book of Judas shows Judas was a dedicated disciple to Jesus, until the end, when Judas betrayed Jesus, just as Jesus prophesied at the Last Supper.  It may be that a slightly different scenario was the reality back then, unlike the history we have been taught about Judas since then.  For years people believed that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, simply because the Catholic Church came to that conclusion.  Just as the Church changed its position on Mary, perhaps too the views on Judas have been skewed somewhat.

Just as Jesus was a willing sacrifice for the betterment of humankind, Judas also was a willing sacrifice.  Jesus allowed himself to be crucified by not offering any statements in his defense.  In today’s legal atmosphere, when loopholes and technicalities are the mainstay of defense attorneys, saying nothing in your defense is akin to legal suicide.  However, we do not see Jesus’ non-defense as suicide; but, we do see Judas’ suicide as a sign of complete dismay over the way things backfired.

We see Jesus almost as if he skillfully planned to have Pilot wash his hands of his execution.  On the other hand, we see Judas as a schemer whose evil plan fell apart.  Just as Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, he forgave them because the evil sin was part of God’s plan.

Knowing that Judas would be reviled by believers of Christ for centuries, as the Book of Judas reveals, when it states that Jesus told him so, it begins to make sense that Judas could have acted to betray Jesus on purpose.  Judas could have been acting on instructions from Jesus, after volunteering to serve the Lord in any way that he could.  Had it not been for Judas, seeing how frightened the Pharisees were to risk killing a man the people clearly saw as a prophet of God (if not the Son of God), the trigger of such an important event as the Passion of Christ would have waited for someone, had Judas not been the one.  Christ had to die, and he repeatedly told the disciples he would, simply so he could be resurrected and return to be with God.  Judas was serving Jesus by being his betrayer.

It is important to remember that Peter was not a saintly disciple, in particular when compared to the actions of Judas.  Peter would demonstrate challenges to Jesus’ authority, prove to have a lack of faith, let anger move him to cut the ear off a guard, and deny he knew Jesus three times (cursing and swearing oaths each time) before the cock crowed.  Even as an Apostle, Peter would meet the spirit of Jesus along the road as he fled Rome in fear, rather than face up to his persecutors.

As odd as it may sound, Peter’s denial was also serving Jesus.  Had Peter not found such grief following his being reminded by the cock’s crow, of how Jesus had known of his denial beforehand, he would not have become such a fervent founder of the Church of Jesus Christ in Rome.  Peter had to “find Christ in his heart” through denial.  After that total commitment, Peter was willing to walk back into Rome and suggest to his killers that he be crucified upside down, because he was not worthy of dying like Jesus died.  Another form of suicide not recognized?  Perhaps Peter was a Judas parallel, with both examples of how easy it can be for Christians to fail Christ?

The act of Judas, throwing the thirty pieces of silver on the floor of the temple following the arrest of Jesus, can show how he ultimately did not do it for the money.  While the temple called this “donation” blood money, they still took it and put it to some use, rather than stick it back in the temple vault.  Judas was not feeling guilt over having taken the money; he was feeling shame for having betrayed Jesus, such that he knew Jesus was going to die.

Judas also knew he could not return to be with the other eleven, because they would most likely kill him.  That would be especially dangerous, since at least John and Matthew were not favorable about Judas (in their writings), probably already thinking Judas was a thief.  Rather than face the stoning he had dreamed about, putting his death on the hands of the other eleven, he would save them by killing himself instead.  Judas could not face walking the planet as a marked man, just as Cain had been condemned to do.  Judas could have not done what he did for the money.  His needs were met.  He did not keep the money.  He felt deep remorse.  There is just no logic to explain that his act was an act of selfish motivation or revenge.

Thomas stood up before the disciples, while they were at the site where John had baptized Jesus (Bethany beyond Jordan).  The group had gone there to avoid the Pharisees attempting to stone Jesus.  Thomas said, about a return to Jerusalem, “Let us die with him.”

I see that as an oath sworn by all of the disciples on that day, to defend Jesus to the death.  While Jesus was tortured, forced to bear his own cross (until a strange African was compelled to carry it for him) and left to die at the hands of the Romans, eleven disciples had forgotten that oath to die with Jesus.  Judas, on the other hand, knowing Jesus would die, acted to die with him.

While all of the other disciples would later die, for having known Jesus and standing by their beliefs in him as the Son of God, they were trembling with fear at the time of Jesus’ death and unable to live up to their words.  It shows they were filled with so much fear they could not act as if Jesus was indeed the Son of God, without proof.  The resurrection would become the proof they needed, which would finally move them to become completely dedicated to the Spirit of Christ.  In this sense, Judas was the one who indeed best understood what Jesus was trying to say, although, like the others, he still could not fully grasp that Jesus was God.

When you take what the Book of Judas says, in particular that dream of Judas that was explained by Jesus, and then go back to the prophet Zechariah’s chapter 11, the parallel becomes clearer.  The experts on biblical understanding have given chapter eleven the heading, “The Doomed Flock” (New American Standard Bible).  That dream was also a dream of corrupted priests at the end of time.

In Zechariah’s dream he wrote, “There is a sound of the Shepherds’ wail, for their glory is ruined.” (Zec. 11:3)  The Shepherd holds the same function as a priest, just as Jesus held the same title (as Shepherd), figuratively and literally as the leader of his church.  In other words, the priests were to be seen crying (loudly), because they will have been exposed for losing their glory as Shepherds.

In response to all this crying by said “holy men,” God told Zechariah to “pasture the flock doomed to slaughter.”  These people are then seen as doomed to die; and as such, Zechariah wrote that God would punish no one who kills them.  It is then at this point of pasturing this doomed flock that Zechariah has in his hands two staffs.  One he says is named Favor and the other is called Union; but Zechariah becomes weary of pasturing the flock, killing a few at a time.  Following these deaths, he takes the staff called Favor and chops it into pieces, “to break my covenant which I had made with all the peoples.”

It was at that point, when the covenant was broken, that some of the flock saw it broken and knew it meant the covenant was the word of the Lord, which had been broken.  Zechariah was moved to say to them, “If it is good in your sight, give me my wages (as a Shepherd); but if not, never mind!”  This means the killing of a few evil shepherds and the breaking of the staff of Favor, seen as God’s covenant being broken, was seen by the people as good.  Thus, they paid thirty pieces of silver to Zechariah, as his wages for doing the Lord’s work.  Judas, likewise, was doing the Lord’s work, while breaking the protection of Favor, for the same amount of silver.

This was when the Lord intervened and told Zechariah to “throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.”  (That has to be God’s sense of humor speaking)  This is when Zechariah wrote, “So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the Lord.”

This is precisely what Judas did, after he had been paid the wages the Pharisees deemed as the value of good work done against God.  It is also what Matthew said the Pharisees did with the “blood money,” which was too dirty to put in with the good money, which they kept in reserve.  They spent the 30 shekels on a potter’s field, which is a plot of land used to bury indigent people.  Therefore, they gave the “blood money” to the poor, as a dishonor to God.

At that point, Zechariah broke the staff of Union into pieces, which was said, “to break the brotherhood of Israel and Judah.”  This is symbolic of the breaking of the brotherhood that existed between the disciples, before Judas agreed for a payment of wages to break the covenant of God – thou shalt not kill.  After Jesus was openly betrayed, as Jesus had prophesied would happen, Judas was separated and no longer a brother.

God then told Zechariah, “For behold, I am going to raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for the perishing, seek the scattered, heal the broken, or sustain the one standing, but will devour the flesh of the fat sheep and tear off their hoofs.  Woe to the worthless shepherd Who leaves the flock! A sword will be on his arm And on his right eye! His arm will be totally withered And his right eye will be blind.”  (Zec. 11:16-17)

This is not a good forecast for those, like the Pharisees, who would pay people to anger God.  God will not be sending an avenger Shepherd to harm the taker of thirty pieces of silver, however; he will be sending Jesus (as shown in The Revelation) to bring great harm to those who shame God and Christ.

This means that for all the bad press given to Judas over the years, as the taker of some coins for betraying Jesus, the tables will have been turned when the end is near.  Look at all of the examples we saw before, when we were examining Judas’ dream.  Plenty of silver has been paid to the Jimmy Swaggart’s and Jim Bakker’s of the world; but the difference is they do not throw those coins back at the temple.  They do not give the money to the poor.  They meet their needs first and foremost.  Now, we hear how Oral Robert’s son had to step down from the leadership position he held at the university his father created, due to his wife spending wildly and lavishly on herself, the children and her husband too.

The Roman Catholic Church has made the pope a veritable superstar, as far as sales of paraphernalia, t-shirts and trinkets are concerned.  Now days the pope travels on tours like the Rolling Stones, playing to huge crowds.  This celebrity status spreads to all surrounding the pope, making the hierarchy of that church claim (as Jesus prophesied to Judas), “We are like angels.”

Unfortunately, for them, Jesus then prophesied to Judas about such claims, saying, “On the last day they will be put to shame.”  Those who sell their souls for material gain will be left to pay the price when the end comes.  That is unless they do as Judas was quoted to have wished, seeing valuable salve being wasted on personal use, when, as money, it was best used when “given to the poor.”

In this day and age a chasm has developed between the have’s and the have not’s.  When an attraction to a religious ministry comes from it being a wise career choice, with tax shelters and benefits leading to simply a steady job, if not a completely lavish state of wealth, fame, and praise, we have reached the end times of which Jesus spoke.  The tree of Christianity is showing strong signs of no longer bearing fruit (see the story of Jesus and the fig tree for more about what happens to fruit trees no longer bearing fruit).

Today, the tales of true altruism are rare finds.  We hear huge dollar figures mentioned as what was donated to a charity to help, or huge dollar figures about how much Ted Turner, Bill Gates or Warren Buffet will give to some foundation; but unrecorded (without receipts) donations that are regularly being spread among the poor, bringing them true hope for the future, are harder to tell.  Churches are this last line of assistance for the poor, but there are just so many poor people these days.

Today it seems the shoe has been fitted for the other foot.  Our Shepherds have become the multi-billionaires of the world, who hold the poor at arm’s length, only willing to give what becomes an equal tax credit, and only to those organizations that act as representatives of the poor.  Between them and all of the intermediaries that these gifts have to sift through before reaching the true hands in need, the vast majority is rapidly preparing to join the ranks of the poor.

Those organizations of wealth (and naturally their leaders and operatives) are the true betrayers of Christ.  They would sell a soul in a heartbeat for a quick return on investment.  It is so much about the money to them that they are who deserves the moniker of Judas.  That is at least, given the name based on how we have been raised to recognize the symbolism of that name.  However, since it looks more and more like calling them that would be just one more inaccurate dishonor to Judas, perhaps we should simply call them all Doomed Shepherds?

R. T. Tippett

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