Judas, Religion and Relationship: How close are you to 30 pieces of silver?

Have you ever sat and pondered the story of Judas? His relationship with Jesus and the role he played in the story? 

I admit I am guilty of the typical stereotype.  I picture this weasel looking man with tiny beady eyes who was not a “part” of the group.  I envision someone who always did his own thing.  In my mind, he was distant from the other disciples carrying around a lot of baggage from a messed up childhood.  For someone to betray Jesus for money would entail several seriously deep rooted issues reaching way back to their childhood, right? But then I ask, are my assumptions correct?
My knowledge of Judas comes from what I read in the Bible and stories learned in Sunday School.  It is easy to jump the gun and assume he was an outsider always causing trouble however, something grabs my attention making me second guess myself.  Remember reading the story of the Last Supper (Matthew 26:19-25) and the way in which Jesus specifically says one within His group will betray Him? Notice when reading the story none of the disciples point to Judas as the obvious choice. In fact, they ask, “Is it me?”  
Labeling Judas as the corrupt, dishonest perpetrator becomes easier since the ending of the story is well-known. The assumption that he was disliked or a “weasel” makes the story easier to read since no one enjoys a villain.  So quick to judge. The assumption that Judas lacked a sparkling personality is easier to swallow knowing he is the betrayer. What if, however, his friends loved him? Maybe Judas was personable. The answers to these questions can’t be simply assumed because we weren’t there to witness the relationship.
Replaying the story in my head, I suppose a conclusion could be drawn that something was missing in the “relationship” between Judas and Jesus.  How else does one betray one of their closest friends for 30 pieces of silver? He traveled with Jesus, met Him in the flesh, however, it appears he did not “know” Him.  He heard Jesus preach, except it seems the words spoken did not permeate the heart of Judas. Judas had a religion, but did not have an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus.  
As I imagine the Last Supper, it is simple to visualize the enemy at work.  He knew the exact man he needed to exploit to betray Jesus.  He needed someone whose eyes had seen Jesus, yet whose heart had not.  Judas wore the cloak of religion, but failed to grasp the heart of Jesus. It requires little effort to claim the name of Jesus.  Many do it every day.  Unfortunately, they miss the mark and fail to understand the mission and heart of Jesus.   Similar to Judas, they bear His name, yet serve a religion.  
In life, it is normal to seek out wisdom, encouragement and support when struggles arise.  The search for those who appear to hold it all together or appear godlier gives false hope that they may hold the answers to the questions that surround life.  Many people live out religion.  They know the right words to say, the answers to all the questions, can quote scripture and are spotted at church on Sunday although that is where it ends. We each possess what it requires to follow Jesus.  We recognize the dos and don’ts, what to say and who to follow, however, oftentimes our hearts are not in it.   A personal relationship with Jesus is missing.  We “recognize” Him, nevertheless neglect to “know” Him in a personal way.
Oftentimes it is easy to be misguided by our thoughts when looking at those around us. It is typical to compare oneself to others with misguided thoughts, wishing one could be as “godly” or as knowledgeable as it is assumed about others.  However, people are not always as they appear and at times it is tough to spot the wolf in sheep’s clothing.  Judas type people surround us every day. There is a lot of “religion” walking the earth. When fluff is spoken yet actions speak something else, then it is surmisable a relationship with Jesus is lacking. Many claim His name, however, have never truly known Him.
This morning I once again came across the passage in Luke 11:42-44 which led me to consider Judas, religion and relationship.  What do people see in me? How do people see you?  How close do we come to being Pharisees? Do you claim His name but live your own way?  It is probably something we should consider every once in a while. How close are we to accepting those 30 pieces of silver?
“Woe to you, Pharisees! Judgement will come on you! What you really love is having people fawn over you when you take the seat of honor in the synagogue or when you are greeted in the public market.
Wake up!  See what you’ve become! Woe to you; you’re like a field full of marked graves. People walk on the field and have no idea of the corruption that’s a few inches beneath their feet.”

Luke 11:42-44