It is Tuesday of Passion week and earlier that day the Jewish leaders had sealed their rejection of Jesus by seeking to trap Him in something that would allow them to have Him put to death. However, they could not, and Jesus denounced them with seven plus woes of condemnation for their hypocrisy, after which He forsook the temple. Because they would not allow His Spirit to fill it, it could not stand, and accordingly He predicted its destruction. Now, on the Mount of Olives overlooking the temple mount, He has also completed a discourse prompted by questions from His disciples about that forthcoming judgment. Transitioning to His approaching crucifixion, Matthew relates how Jesus again predicted that during the approaching Passover He would be delivered up to death. At the same time, the Jewish leaders were looking for a sneaky way to get rid of Him—but not during the Passover, so as to avoid a backlash from the many who supported Him (Mat 26:1-5). What does Matthew explain happened to fulfill Jesus’ prediction in spite of the Jewish leaders’ express desire to not put Him to death during the Passover, and yet still according to their own free will? See Mat 26:14-16. How does this help us to understand how God is able to sovereignly accomplish His will without violating the free will of men? Although the Jewish leaders were tested by the circumstances that arose, did God force His will upon them to act as they did, or did the circumstances simply elicit a response that reflected what was already the intention of their hearts? What does this remind us about the importance of a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith? Cf. 1Ti 1:5. If our hearts are not right towards God, will not the circumstances of life always lead us into sin that damns our souls? What does this also teach us about the greatness of God Who is able to sovereignly accomplish His will not by forcing His will upon others, but even as He allows all those created in His image the free will to choose according to their own desires? How much greater is a God who will always receive the penitent and is able to sovereignly accomplish His will while extending His hands in mercy and love to the wicked than a god who accomplishes his will by simply predestinating some to salvation and some to damnation as if they had no will in the matter?
What does then (which can also be translated as at that time) in Mat 26:14 refer back to, and what is its significance for what Matthew is communicating about what he supposed to be at least a part of Judas’ motivation to betray Jesus? See Mat 26:6-13; cf. Joh 12:4-6. Although God did not impose His will upon the religious leaders to act as they did to fulfill prophecy and accomplish His purposes, did He do so with Judas? Or was Judas also acting according to his own free will and the intentions of his heart that had been hardened by successive choices over the course of his life that had prepared him as a vessel of wrath fit for that very hour, not by God’s will that violated Judas’s, but by His providence that used Judas’s free will to accomplish His own purpose? Cf. Rom 9:22-23. What does this again remind us about the importance of our heart relationship with God? Cf. 1Ch 28:9. If our hearts are not pure, will they not be hardened over time by the circumstances of our lives until we too are a vessel fit for wrath, even as all the while God had stood ready with outstretched arms to forgive and receive us back if only we had turned our hearts to Him, but which becomes increasingly difficult as we stubbornly continued in our own way? Cf. Pro 14:12. Is it possible that it actually took less to harden the hearts of the religious leaders, and even less still to harden the heart of Judas than it might take for many others, precisely because of their proximity to the truth? Cf. Luk 12:48, Jam 3:1.
What in particular did Judas say to the chief priests? See Mat 26:14, and notice from a more literal translation the agreement he is negotiating with them: “What are you willing to give to me, and I will deliver him to you?” From what they gave to him, what is clear about his motivation in going to them, and why the other apostles connected his betrayal to Mary’s extravagant anointing that he considered a waste? Is it even possible that Judas knew that Mary was in possession of such a costly oil, perhaps in relation to her brother Lazarus whom Jesus had raised from the dead (cf. Mat 26:12), and was pondering what to do with it, and he was hoping that it would be sold and given to the poor because as the keeper of the purse who used to pilfer from what was put into it he would have access to that large sum? How does the jilted feeling our own impure hearts have perhaps experienced when cheated of something we thought was our due help us to understand the plausibility for how Judas felt when Mary poured out a year’s salary worth of precious oil and “wasted” it on Jesus?