Friday, March 26, 2010

Thirty Pieces of Silver

Last Monday night, we saw the eighth grade presentation of the Passion and death of Jesus Christ. Afterwards, my children were filled with questions.

What does "betrayed" mean?

Why would Judas give Jesus to the soldiers?

Was 30 pieces of silver a lot of money?

The first two questions I could answer, more or less, on my own. But I had no idea whether 30 pieces of silver was a lot of money.

I encouraged BigBro to ask our friend, the Seminarian. When he didn't know, I did a quick search on the internet, but the answers were wholly unsatisfactory. They ranged from $19.20 (which seemed awfully exact to me) to a sum in the tens of thousands. There seemed to be no clear consensus among the masses on the web.

Emailing Father brought me the sort of common-sense advice I should have known from the beginning. "Try a study Bible." The footnotes in our family's New American Bible say this:

"The price of the betrayal is found only in Matthew. It is derived from Zec 11:12 where it is the wages paid to the rejected shepherd, a cheap price (Zec 11:13). That amount is also the compensation paid to one whose slave has been gored by an ox (Ex 21:32)."

A quick read of the relevant sections in Zechariah and Exodus show that this amount, thirty pieces of silver, was considered a contemptible amount, nothing more than the value of a slave.

I told my son what I had learned.

"Why would he do it, then, Mom? Why betray Jesus for such a small amount of money?"

I wonder. Does the betrayal seem less atrocious if he were motivated by greed? If he were promised riches beyond his imagination, would it make his choice easier to understand? Easier for us to accept?

Princess' innocent question strikes through my heart. "Why would anyone betray Jesus if they know him and love him?"

Why indeed?

Why do I betray him every single day... and for even less than a measly 30 pieces of silver? When I am impatient and cut someone off while driving, when I am selfish and choose to read my email instead of reading to my kids, when I am judgmental and and pass along some juicy bit of gossip, I betray Jesus.

Perhaps Judas' betrayal would seem more understandable, more forgiveable if he had been motivated by greed. To me, the small price he was paid makes Judas even more human. I don't betray God in thousands of little ways because of some huge financial incentive. No, it's plain old selfishness, vanity, and pride that lead me to betray Him.

The big difference between Judas and me? I'm learning to ask for forgiveness. I know that there is no sin so great that it can't be forgiven. I know that there is no chasm that His healing hands can't reach across.

I know that my betrayals don't have to be the last word written about me.

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