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This rebuke was a mild and touching one; but it affected not the stubborn heart of Judas; it even incited him, perhaps, to execute immediately his before conceived purpose of betraying his Master into the hands of his enemies; for very soon after it had been uttered, he went unto the chief priests, and bargained with them to deliver up Jesus into their power, for thirty pieces of silver; a sum not more than about a third of what the ointment had cost; and from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.
The value of the ointment was three hundred pence; the wages of treachery were thirty pieces of silver. The pence are supposed to be the Roman denarii, and a denarius is estimated at seven pence halfpenny, English money; at which rate the whole cost of the ointment would be over nine pounds sterling. The pieces of silver were probably the Jewish shekels, each of which was of a weight equivalent to about two shillings and three pence; amounting in all to between three and four pounds. A different reckoning, however, has been adopted by some, as appears from the following passage from Jeremy Taylor's Life of Christ, which I quote at length, as containing other opinions on this subject. It will be perceived that the bishop takes it for granted that Mary Magdalen was the woman who anointed
“ It is not intimated, in the history of the life of Jesus, that Judas had any malice against the person of Christ; for when afterward he saw the matter was to end in the death of his Lord, he repented; but a base and unworthy spirit of covetousness possessed him; and the relics of indignation for missing the price of the ointment which the holy Magdalen had poured upon his feet, burnt in his bowels with a secret, dark, melancholic fire, and made an eruption into an act which all the ages of the world could never parallel. They appointed him for hire thirty
. pieces; and some say that every piece did in value equal ten ordinary current deniers; and so Judas was satisfied by receiving the worth of the three hundred pence at which he valued the nard pistick. But hereafter let no Christian be ashamed to be despised and undervalued; for he will hardly meet so great a reproach as to have so disproportioned a price set upon his life as was upon the holy Jesus. St. Mary Magdalen thought it not good enough to aneal his sacred feet; Judas thought it a sufficient price for his head; for covetousness aims at base and low purchases, whilst holy love is great and comprehensive as
the bosom of Heaven, and aims at nothing that is less than infinite."
It has been a subject of surprise with many commentators, that so small a bribe should have tempted Judas to commit so great a crime; and it does seem as if some other motive must have coöperated with the love of money, in bringing his mind to its dreadful determination. Among the solutions which have been proposed of this apparent enigma, is the one which supposes that Judas was impatient of the delay of his Master to assume the state and magnificence of his Messiahship, and that his intention was to compel him to do so, by bringing him into such imminent peril, that he would be obliged to call his followers round him, work some signal miracle to free himself, and then mount the throne of David and of Israel. In this event, he of course calculated that he should come in for his share of those offices and rewards which he had been long pining for, and pining for in vain. Here, also, avarice is the governing motive; only on a much larger scale than in the action as it is simply narrated in the Scriptures.
There is something to say in favor of this explanation, and something too may be said against it. It is safest and easiest to take the bare gospel statement, which merely informs us, that, for the consideration of thirty shekels of silver, Judas covenanted to betray his Master. No motive is expressly assigned for the act; but as he is represented as selfish and avaricious, we must presume that selfishness and avarice moved him to this last and most awful crime.
With regard to the price of his treachery, a survey of human nature and human passions will not authorize us to say
that any sum is too small to tempt habitual and absorbing avarice to any act or degree of wickedness. Earthly, sensual, and contemptible, there is no knowing how low this passion will creep, nor how high it will strike; how meanly it may dig for its dirty food, nor how daringly it may direct its poison.
Having concluded his bargain with the priests, and as he thought secretly, Judas resumed his place among the twelve, and the next that we hear of him is at the last supper. * As they were eating, Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.” At this intimation,
* That is, the supper of the Passover. It has been disputed, whether Judas was or was not present when Jesus instituted his own supper, at the time of this feast; and it is a difficult point to determine. However it was,” observes the author from whom I quoted last, “Christ, who was Lord of the sacraments, might dispense it as he pleased.”
the disciples, innocent as they all but one felt themselves to be, were exceedingly distressed, and they began each one to say unto him, “ Lord, is it I ?” Jesus, who had just before discovered the traitor, by a sign, to Simon Peter and John, answered, and said, “ He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. The Son of Man goeth, as it is written of him; but wo unto that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born." Judas, who, in all probability, saw that his Master's hand and his own were together in the dish, and that he was consequently accused of the treason, but still, perhaps, relying on the secrecy with which he had made his bargain, thought that he now was obliged to say something; and pretending the same innocence as the rest, he asked the same question, “ Lord, is it I?" And Jesus, using no more signs, but directly accusing the miserable culprit, answered, “Thou hast said.” He then added, “That which thou doest, do quickly." Judas, finding that no disguise or equivocation would now serve him, went immediately out. “ And it was night,” adds the historian. Night, indeed! How dark, how sad, how portentous ! There never was another such since the world