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  • Writer's pictureKendall Ellis

Passion Despite Riches

This is a preview for the third sermon in the series “Passion: When God’s Love Meets Our Betrayal”  To watch the recording of any of the sermons in this sermon series, visit our website.


“Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.” -Mark 14:10-21


I’m generally a rule follower, but there’s one rule of the elementary school cafeteria that I often ignored: no trading food. 


It’s not that I disliked what I was eating. I packed my own lunch, so I knew it was all stuff I liked! But once a week, there was at least one friend who saved up some extra allowance to buy the really special snacks: Fruit Gushers, Oreos, an extra slice of pizza. And if you were lucky enough that particular day, you might have something they liked enough to make a trade. Move over slimy turkey sandwich…helloooooo Cool Ranch Doritos!


As Americans, I guess you can say capitalism runs deep in our culture. So much so that we learn as early as the school yard how to barter for what we want. This is resourceful of us, if nothing else. But the constant desire to “trade up” for “the next best thing” leaves us in a hollow, never-ending search. And this has dire consequences when it bleeds out of the commercial economy and into our spiritual lives.


This is what we see happening in the events of Holy Wednesday (Mark 14). Judas, one of Jesus’ best friends, is looking to “trade up.”

Mark’s gospel doesn’t give us many details about the trade. After everything Judas witnessed as a disciple, we don’t know why Judas was feeling like there was something more out there that Jesus couldn’t provide. We don’t know what negotiations looked like as Judas determined his price with the chief priests. We simply don’t know how Judas could seem so easily bought.


This misunderstanding puts us in good company with the rest of the disciples. As they sit down to the Passover celebration meal together, everyone is shocked to learn from Jesus that one of them has betrayed him. The disciples murmur around the table, “Surely, you don’t mean me?” (Mk. 14:19)


But what if God does mean us?


We may not be literally paid off to betray Jesus the way Judas was. But in the attitude of Lenten repentance, perhaps we can be honest that this world is full of many opportunities in which we might try to “trade up” for something at the cost of bankrupting our spiritual relationship with God. 


Even though I’ve never actually watched Fight Club, the famous quote rings in my ears, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” Intentionally or not, we are prone to trading just about anything–time, work, money, attention, and status–to try to come out “on top” by our own power. Turns out lessons from the school cafeteria are hard to shake.  


Thankfully, the most potent part of this story isn’t Judas’ bad trade. It’s the fact that despite the bad trade, Jesus still invites Judas to the party. Despite Judas’ misplaced love for riches, Jesus breaks bread with him–both literally in the meal that day and metaphorically with his life on the cross later that weekend.


No matter how many times we try to "trade up," God meets us by trading His riches for poverty. It is my prayer this Lenten season that we will reflect on what is of true value in our lives–Christ Himself–so that we might choose the better. It is only through Christ’s grace that we become rich through him.



Reflection Questions

  1. Reflect on the Bible: Who is the most surprising character in Mark 14: Judas, the other disciples, or Jesus? Why do their actions stick out to you?


  1. Reflect on your life and faith: How are you tempted to “trade up” for something that competes with Jesus in your life? What’s your price?

  2. Reflect on God's grace: How do you feel God inviting you back to the communion table with him? If you’ve made a bad trade recently, how might God be calling you to surrender those worldly riches back to Him?


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