In the Old Testament Joseph, who prefigured Christ, was betrayed by his older brother, Judah — the father of the tribe whence came King David and through which the Messianic prophecies were fulfilled — when Judah sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt for so many shekels of silver (see Genesis 37-38, and also Psalm 68:2-29 and Acts 1:13-20).
From that tribe of Judah came Our Lord, Who was betrayed by another Judah, a man who is more commonly known as Judas Iscariot (“Iscariot” refers to Kerioth, a town in Judea). This Judas handled the money for the Apostles and became offended by the extravagance of Mary Magdalen’s gesture of love toward Jesus:
John 12:1-8 1 Jesus therefore, six days before the pasch, came to Bethania, where Lazarus had been dead, whom Jesus raised to life. And they made him a supper there: and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that were at table with him. Mary therefore took a pound of ointment of right spikenard, of great price, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
Then one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, he that was about to betray him, said: Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and having the purse, carried the things that were put therein.
Jesus therefore said: Let her alone, that she may keep it against the day of my burial. For the poor you have always with you; but me you have not always.
Immediately after this, Judas met with the chief priests to betray Our Lord for thirty pieces of silver. Here is St. Matthew’s version of History:
Matthew 26:6-15And when Jesus was in Bethania, in the house of Simon the leper, There came to Him a woman having an alabaster box of precious ointment, and poured it on His head as He was at table.
And the disciples seeing it, had indignation, saying: To what purpose is this waste? For this might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.
And Jesus knowing it, said to them: Why do you trouble this woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For the poor you have always with you: but me you have not always. For she in pouring this ointment upon my body, hath done it for my burial. Amen I say to you, wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, that also which she hath done, shall be told for a memory of her.
Then went one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, to the chief priests, And said to them: What will you give me, and I will deliver him unto you? But they appointed him thirty pieces of silver.
For thirty pieces of silver was Our Lord betrayed, as prophesied by Zacharias:
Zacharias 11:9 -12I will not feed you: that which dieth, let it die: and that which is cut off, let it be cut off: and let the rest devour every one the flesh of his neighbour. And I took my rod that was called Beauty, and I cut it asunder to make void my covenant, which I had made with all people. And it was made void in that day: and so the poor of the flock that keep for me, understood that it is the word of the Lord. And I said to them: If it be good in your eyes, bring hither my wages: and if not, be quiet. And they weighed for my wages thirty pieces of silver.
St. Luke explains how this vile betrayal happened: a devil entered into Judas:
Luke 22:3-6And Satan entered into Judas, who was surnamed Iscariot, one of the twelve. And he went, and discoursed with the chief priests and the magistrates, how he might betray Him to them. And they were glad, and convenanted to give him money. And he promised. And he sought opportunity to betray him in the absence of the multitude (see also John 13:2).
But Jesus already knew this would happen, as we know from this earlier exchange with His Apostles, after He revealed that we must eat His Body and drink His Blood. He knew what Judas would do with the free will God gives to all men:
John 6:64-72The words that I have spoken to you, are spirit and life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning, who they were that did not believe, and who he was, that would betray him. And He said: Therefore did I say to you, that no man can come to Me, unless it be given him by my Father.
After this many of his disciples went back; and walked no more with Him. Then Jesus said to the twelve: Will you also go away?
And Simon Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed and have known, that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God (see also John 12:26-29 and Matthew 26:25).
Jesus answered them: Have not I chosen you twelve; and one of you is a devil? Now he meant Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon: for this same was about to betray Him, whereas he was one of the twelve.
After the Last Supper (commemorated tomorrow, on Maundy Thursday), Judas led the high priests to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemani, and let them know Who He is by greeting Him with the words, “Hail, Rabbi” and kissing Him. Jesus responded, “Judas, dost thou betray the Son of man with a kiss?” (Matthew 26:48-49).
After Jesus’s arrest, Judas returned to the chief priests and threw the thirty pieces of silver at them, repenting of his deed. The priests consider it blood money, so refuse to put it in the Temple’s coffers. They instead buy a potter’s field — the “field of blood” — to be used for burying strangers. Judas went and hanged himself, and his body burst open like the potter’s vessel that Jeremias spoke of as a symbol of faithless Israel.
Today and during the Sacred Triduum, the Matins and Lauds of the Divine Office are often sung in a haunting service known as the Tenebrae service (“tenebrae” meaning “shadows”), which is basically a funeral service for Jesus. During the Matins on Good Friday, one by one, the candles are extinguished in the Church, leaving the congregation in total darkness, and in a silence that is punctuated by the strepitus meant to evoke the convulsion of nature at the death of Christ. It has also been described as the sound of the tomb door closing. During the Triduum, the Matins and Lauds readings come from the following day’s readings each night because the hours of Matins and Lauds were pushed back so that the public might better participate during these special three days (i.e., the Matins and Lauds readings heard at Spy Wednesday’s tenebrae service are those for Maundy Thursday, the readings for Maundy Thursday’s tenebrae service are from Good Friday, and Good Friday’s readings are from Holy Saturday’s Divine Office).
Legend says that the tree upon which Judas hanged himself was the Cercis siliquastrum — a tree that is now known as the “Judas Tree.” It is a beautiful tree, native to the Mediterranean region, with brilliant deep pink flowers in the spring — flowers that are said to have blushed in shame after Judas’s suicide.