Judas Tree

Judas Tree

On the lower slopes of mountains bordering the Mediterranean Sea, a number of broad-leaved evergreen shrubs and small trees grow.

The Cercis Siliquastrum, a deciduous tree with small pink flowers, is one such tree. It is commonly known as the Judas Tree. This tree is not referred to as a Judas tree in the Bible, but is indirectly referred to in the story of Judas Iscariot in Matthew 27:5 “Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself”.

It has been called the Judas Tree for over 200 years. It was given this name because reddish flowers like drops of blood appear before the foliage. Tradition has it that ‘the tree weeps blood each Spring in memory of Judas’. The leaves are shaped like a heart and this is said to refer to the hard heart of Judas

An alternative explanation (rarely used) of the name comes from scholars who have suggested that the words ‘Judas Tree’ are possibly a corruption for the French Arbre de Judée, meaning ‘tree of Judea’.

Judas Iscariot was one of the original 12 disciples. He was the disciple in charge of the communal money bag for Jesus and his followers. Judas objected to Mary anointing the feet of Jesus with perfume. The basis of his objection was that the perfume was valuable. He thought that the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor. But according to John’s gospel, Judas wasn’t really concerned about the poor. Quite the opposite. Judas was a thief and wanted to keep the money from the sale of the perfume for himself.

In the week before the crucifixion of Jesus, Judas had gone to the chief priests to negotiate a fee for betraying Jesus. The chief priests were delighted with this development and offered Judas 30 silver coins, the equivalent to about 4 month’s salary for a Jewish worker. An agreement was reached and the priests gave the money to Judas. Judas then looked for an opportunity to betray Jesus.

Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray him. During the Passover meal, Jesus made it known that he knew that one of the apostles would betray him. In turn, each apostle asked Jesus if he would be the betrayer. When it came to Judas, Judas said (Matthew 26:25),Surely not I, Rabbi?”. He replied, “You have said so”. It is you.

After their meal that evening, Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane. Judas knew that he did this and led a group of Pharisees, officials, and soldiers to the garden. Judas said to them “The man I will go up to and kiss is Jesus”. Walking up to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi” and kissed him. Jesus was arrested and taken to the chief priest Caiaphas. The next day (Friday) the Jewish officials decided to put Jesus to death.

When Judas saw that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with regret. He tried to hand the silver coins back to the chief priests and elders saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself”.

When he was told this, Judas threw the money into the temple and went out and hanged himself from a tree.