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Judas: a lesson in getting it wrong

Posted by undergroundchurch on April 9, 2009


I think that there are very few people in the Bible as misunderstood as Judas.  Do you think that Judas was evil from the outset, or do you think that he just snapped one day and decided to betray Jesus.  Whatever you believe about Judas, there are some lessons and hopefully some illumination for you in this post.

Judas was hand picked by Jesus as a disciple.  Not much is known about Judas except his father, Simon.

Usually, when a name of somebody in a story  is specifically called out in the gospels, you have to consider the fact that the reader will probably know the person.  For example, when Simon of Cyrene picks up the cross from Jesus, the gospel writer points out that his children are Rufus and Alexander (Mark 15:21).  Why is this important unless the reader can make the connection due to the fact that they know Rufus and Alexander (Romans 16:13?).

With this thought, Simon Iscariot is probably a believer at the time John writes the gospel.  What a sad father he must have been having a son that would go down in history as the one who betrayed the Messiah. 

There were basically two schools of thought in Jesus day concerning the Messiah.  First, he was going to come as a conquering king to overthrow the bad Romans and take up the throne of David. Second, was what Jesus was saying, “I am the Messiah, and I am here to die.”

The first one made more sense to the Jew; Jesus’ plan on the other hand had a flavor of failure in it which did not appeal to the masses.  Judas could have followed Jesus from the outset with high hopes of this man being the Messiah that would be king, but like many others in Israel, Judas became disillusioned and didn’t like where Jesus was going with his ministry.  The conquering king can’t die before he conquers; it just doesn’t make sense.

It may seem like a lot to read into Judas’ life, but the fact is that in order for Judas to properly betray Jesus, he had close to Jesus; he had to be one of the inner circle.  Jesus in fact, entrusted him with the money.  Nobody at the time had objections, only afterward did John mention that Judas used to “dip his hand in the money bag” (John 12:6).

Judas probably fought the demons of doubt for a very long time.  Jesus ministered about three years with Judas by his side.  Judas saw miracle not seen in this world since.  Yet, he found room enough in his heart to doubt Jesus to the point of walking away.  But before he’d walk, he had to be compensated for his “waste of time”.

In steps the opportunity.  What made this moment the best moment for him to betray the Messiah?

Jesus had just had the “Triumphal Entry”.  Everybody on Sunday is on the edge of their seat waiting to see Jesus take the throne.  Even the teachers of the law would have liked that.

Jesus throws out the money changers – great, he had a fighting nature. Judas is like many others, excited to see what’s going to happen.  Then just as quickly as it starts, it crashes.  Jesus gets back on the kick of telling everyone that he is going to die.  (John 12) He even has a woman anoint him for burial (Matthew 26).

Nobody believes that Jesus can die. They even ask who this “Son of Man” is when Jesus says that the Son of Man must be lifted up (another word for die) (John 12:34).  They are on cloud nine, but Judas knows.  He slips away, “prompted”, John says, by Satan.

Luke mentions that Satan enters him, (Luke 22:3) but John specifically points out that he is only prompted at this time.  Later though, things change.

First, Judas, prompted by Satan, seeks out the leaders of the Jews to seek compensation for bringing in Jesus.  I don’t know if he seriously knows what would happen to Jesus if he is brought in. Maybe just a few lashes to teach him a lesson.  He may have gotten the hints from Jesus that he was going to die and that turning him into the Jews would be the death sentence. Either way, Judas is listening to the wrong voice.

Later at the last supper, Jesus gives Judas several opportunities to back down.  Matthew 26 and John 13 lay out the discussions at the table.  Jesus comes out plainly and says, “One of you is going to betray me”. What a great opportunity for Judas to back out.  After all, he’s caught!

Jesus then washes Judas’ feet along with the rest of the disciples. This is a humble thing to do, surely he would be moved to change his heart, but alas, he doesn’t.

Next he tells them, the one who will betray me is the one I give this bread too.  Judas replies, “surely not I”.  Jesus tells him, “Yes, it is you”.

Jesus tells him to do it quickly.  A fourth opportunity to turn the mission down, only this time the Bible says that Satan entered him.

He went out and the disciples, being the great detectives they were, wondered what Judas was doing.  Perhaps he was getting more food.

The point to all this is to show that:

  1. Turning your back on Jesus (this is betrayal) doesn’t happen quickly.  It is a slow fade when you give yourself away.
  2. Jesus even reached out to the betrayer at the very last moment. Yes, Judas had to betray, but Jesus didn’t have to make it easy to do so. Judas was actually seated, most likely, to Jesus right – the place of honor. In order to share the bowl, he had to be next to him.  John, we know, is to Jesus left because he is leaning up against him during the meal.
  3. We have to always be careful of the Judas in all of us.  We have to be vigilant and not give in to temptations and listen to the lies about Jesus.  He is the truth, and the truth does not change.

Finally, remember that betrayal always leads to death.  Not just the death of the intended target (Jesus in Judas’ case) but also the death of the betrayer.  Judas died a horrible, sad and lonely death at his own hand. 

Betrayal leaves you empty, lonely and lost.

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