Before the Passover, Jesus was a guest in the house of Simon the Leper who lived in Bethany. What transpired in Simon's home is forever etched into our memories: A woman proclaimed her love for Jesus by pouring over him the valuable contents of her alabaster jar. But not every heart shared such love, so Judas left Simon's home with the intention of working for the enemy (Matthew 26:6-16). Depth of love and bitterness of betrayal were together in one home but God would use the betrayer to pour His love into countless others.
The chief priests also believed they had a use for Judas - they would use him to deliver Jesus into their hands. Hiring Judas to lead them right to Jesus sounds like a breakthrough. At the same time, it is a curious move since Jesus was not a man in hiding. From the moment he entered Jerusalem, he could not have been more visible - everybody knew where he was!
On Sunday Jesus entered Jerusalem surrounded by crowds shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" People throughout the city were saying, "Who is this?" (Matthew 21:6-11) On Monday Jesus entered the outer court of the temple and made his whereabouts known by throwing out the con-artists and crooks (Matthew 21:12-13). On Tuesday he was back in the temple teaching in parables that stung the self-righteous and hard-hearted. The chief priests were there but they did not arrest him (Matthew 21:23-22:14).
Why was Judas necessary? What intelligence could he provide that the Jewish rulers did not already have? Our clues reside in Simon's home and in the Passover preparations. As the contents of the woman's alabaster jar ran out over Jesus, he said something to the scoffers: "In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for my burial." As the disciples received instructions for the Passover, Jesus said, "My time is at hand." Jesus was walking to the cross and the chief priests needed Judas to tell them this. Even though Jesus was accessible all week, the rulers feared him. Yes, they feared the people, but they feared Jesus more. Jesus had authority to command demons, restore limbs, silence storms, cure illness, and speak truth in every word. They could not arrest him until he decided it was time, and Judas knew it was time.
Judas was necessary. Through Judas we marvel at the way Jesus used unspeakably great power not to save himself but to save people like you and me who were powerless in the grip of sin. We are also amazed at Jesus' iron will that led him to the cross so that we could have the same endurance. Finally, Judas reminds us that Jesus endured betrayal and shame for you and I so that we could endure the same for others.
"The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again" (John 10:17-18).