They needed to get rid of him.

For months they’d tried to convince people he didn’t know what he was talking about, he was losing it, he was blaspheming God. It seemed the more they attempted to trash talk him, the more his credit rose with the people he interacted with.

The crowds loved him! They wanted him to overthrow the current government and install his own in its place.

Then one day a gift was dropped into their lap. One of his inner circle showed up on their doorstep. It was clear he had a grudge, though he didn’t say what it was. Only that he’d deliver. “When the timing is right I’ll get word to you. You show up when and where I tell you and he’s all yours. I’ll lodge charges he can’t beat. You’ll have all the reason you need to truss him up like a goose ready for the barbecue. Then your troubles and mine are all over.”

He didn’t ask for money but they gave him some anyway. Probably to make sure that he couldn’t back out.

It wasn’t too many more days before they got word. In the wee hours of the morning they showed up with their armed police and took him into custody. By the first light of dawn they had put the finishing touches on their plot to kill him and paraded him before the courts. It didn’t take long to convict him. He was given the death penalty.

That man from the inner circle — he was overcome with grief at what he had done. He’d lodged false charges against an innocent man, all for the sake of his own urge to power. But now he couldn’t live with himself.

He went back to the authorities and told them he recanted his testimony. “Too late now for a guilty conscience! Go spend your money!” But he threw the money at them and stormed out. The morning news broadcast reports of a man who’d hanged himself out on the edge of town.

This is, of course, the story of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. It is the story of religious folk who sold their soul to the devil to make sure they stayed close to the seat of power.

How often are we so-called religious folk so consumed with what we want that we’ll betray even Jesus to get it?

We betray Jesus every time we insist the poor get don’t need our help — they don’t need more. Every time we mock those who grieve the death of a loved one or scoff at the soft-spoken.

Every time we refuse to provide food and drink to those who are hungry and thirsty or when we refuse to show mercy, to do justice.

Every time our hearts are corrupted by our desire for more.

Every time we spew hatred and sow division.

Every time we are so consumed with self that we lose site of everyone else.

It is wickedly easy to become the betrayer of Jesus!

The Rev. Camille Josey is the pastor at Silver Creek Presbyterian Church.

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