Excerpt from the Homily on the Betrayal of Judas, by St. John Chrysostom
Translated by Monk Moses of the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood from the original Greek, in Patrologia Graeca 49.373–80. See this link for the whole text of this beautiful and moving sermon.
Today, beloved, our Lord Jesus Christ was betrayed. It was on this approaching evening that the Jews seized him and took Him away. But do not be dejected, hearing that Jesus was betrayed; rather, be dejected and weep bitterly—not over Jesus Who was betrayed, but over the traitor, Judas. For, indeed, the One Who was betrayed saved the whole world, while the one who betrayed Him lost his own soul. And the One Who was betrayed is seated at the right hand of the Father, while the one who betrayed Him is now in hades, awaiting the inevitable punishment. Thus, weep and moan for his sake; mourn for his sake, since even our Master shed tears on his account. Seeing him, Jesus was troubled and said: One of you shall betray Me ( John 13:21). Oh, how great is our Master’s compassion! The One Who was betrayed grieved for the one who betrayed Him. Seeing him, Jesus was troubled and said: One of you shall betray Me. Why was He disheartened? In order to show His tender love and, at the same time, to teach us that it is altogether fitting to mourn, not for the one enduring evil, but for the one committing it. Committing evil is worse than enduring it; or rather, enduring evil is not evil, but committing it is evil. While enduring evil procures us the Kingdom of Heaven, committing evil results in Gehenna and punishment for us. For Blessed, says the Lord, are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt 5:10). Do you see how enduring evil has as its recompense and reward the Kingdom of Heaven?
...What will ye give me and I will deliver Him unto you? Tell me, did Christ teach you that? Did He not restrain in advance your covetous intention, saying: Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses (Matt. 10:9)? Did He not continually advise this, and also say: If someone shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also (Matt. 5:39)? What will ye give me and I will deliver Him unto you? Oh, what madness! Tell me, for what? With what small or great accusation do you betray the Teacher? That He granted you power over demons? That He granted you the power to put an end to sicknesses? To cleanse lepers? To raise the dead? That He brought an end to the tyranny of death? For these benefactions you give this recompense? What will ye give me and I will deliver Him unto you? Oh, what madness! Or rather, what covetousness! For it is covetousness that produced all this evil: lusting after money, he betrayed the Teacher. Such is the root of this evil; worse than the devil, it excites to frenzy the souls it has conquered and renders them oblivious to everyone, both to themselves
and to their neighbors, as well as to the laws of nature, driving them out of their minds and making them insane. See how much it cast out from the soul of Judas: the fellowship, the intimacy, the common
table, the miracles, the instruction, the counsel, the admonitions—all of that was then cast into oblivion by covetousness. Thus Paul rightly said: The love of money is the root of all evil (I Tim. 6:10)...
...I have said all this so that no one will accuse Christ, saying: “Why did He not change Judas? Why did He not make him sensible and good?” How ought Judas to have been made good? By force or voluntarily? If by force, he would not have become better, for no one becomes good by force. But if, by his own deliberate choice, Judas had wanted to, then Christ would have used all means to amend his will and intent. But if he did not want to take the medicine, it is not the Physician Who is at fault but the one who evaded the treatment. Look at how much Christ did in order to win him over and save him: He taught him all wisdom by deeds and by words; He placed him above the demons; He prepared him to perform numerous miracles; He inspired fear in him with the threat of hell; He impelled him forward with the promise of the Kingdom; He continually censured his unspeakable plans, without making them public; He washed his feet along with the others and shared His table with him. He did not leave anything undone, either small or great, but Judas of his own free will remained uncorrected...
But it is time then to approach that fearful table. Therefore, let us all approach with fitting discretion and sobriety. And let no one be Judas any longer; let no one be wicked; let no one possess venom, bearing one thing in his mouth and another in his mind. Christ is present, and He Who set in order that meal of old also sets this one in order now. For it is not a man who causes the elements that are set forth to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but Christ Himself, Who was crucified for our sake. Fulfilling the figure, the priest stands and utters the words. But the power and the grace belong to God. This is My Body, the priest says. These words transform the elements set forth; and just as the words Increase and multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 1:28) were said once, but throughout all time they give our nature the power to beget children, so also from that time until now and until His Coming, these words that were said once accomplish the perfect Sacrifice on each altar table in the churches.
mingling with the bodies of one another, but uniting our souls with each other in the bond of love. In this way we will be able to partake with boldness of the meal which is set forth. Even if we possess countless righteous deeds, if we bear remembrance of wrongs, they are all to no avail and in vain, and we will not be able to reap from them any benefit toward our salvation.