Judas: Betrayer and Beloved
Scripture: Matthew 26: 14-16, 20-25, 47-50, Matthew 27: 3-5 (NIV)
Matthew 26: 14Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. 16From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over… 20When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” 22They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” 25Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you.”… 47While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” 49Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. 50Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for.” Matthew 27: 3When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned; he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. 4″I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” 5So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. (NIV)
A few weeks ago, my friends and I had an interesting conversation about what it means to be saved. Some stated that you can “prove” you are saved through your deeds/work for the kingdom and others responded that only Christ can judge your heart, but the only way to be saved is to confess your belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who died on the cross for your sins and was resurrected. It lead to a lively debate about basic Christian doctrine. I believe the latter, not the former. My salvation is based on my belief and not anything I can “do” for Jesus or myself for that matter. But it made me pause, why would someone think that our deeds can influence our salvation? It was then, that I thought back to Judas, the one known as the Betrayer of Christ and who I believe was one of the most loved of Christ.
Being in His presence, but…
Judas is the perfect example of one who walked so closely with Christ, but still knew Him not. He saw Jesus feed the 5,000; he was there when Christ walked on water; when He raised Lazarus; and healed the sick not only by laying hands, but simply speaking healing into existence. Judas was there during all of that and by sight, some would say he was “saved”. He walked with Christ, talked with Christ, and even served with Christ, but he did not know Him personally and fully. In Mark 9:14-29, we see Jesus perform a great healing of the boy possessed by evil spirits. What’s so interesting in this story is not that Christ performed yet another miracle. It’s interesting because of what His disciples could NOT do. They didn’t have the faith to heal the boy. Judas was one of those disciples. He couldn’t do the very thing Jesus had instructed him to do. Why? Jesus told him and all the disciples – it took faith and prayer. Judas teaches us that you can imitate a walk with Christ and still not know Him, still not believe in Him, and still not act in faith. Do you know someone like that? Perhaps it’s you?
Everybody knows the story of Judas. He is one of the most well known figures in the bible for the one inexplicable and unfathomable act, the betrayal of Jesus. Matthew 26 – 27 gives a detailed account of how Judas went to the chief priest and sold Jesus to them for 30 pieces of silver. Thirty pieces. And Jesus knew it. Jesus knew intimately His chosen twelve. In John 1:35-50, John introduces each of the first disciples and how they came to know Jesus. Two followed because John the Baptist told them who Christ was, others followed because of family or friends, but Jesus knew them all. He knew their short comings, he knew their heart, he knew their temperament, and he knew what they would become. He even knew the one that would betray Him. Yet He still called Judas to serve with Him. Jesus shows us how you can love and lead, even those that will or have betrayed you. Betrayal doesn’t stop your ministry to them; betrayal is why you minister more closely to them.
Christ gave us the perfect example of how we can be hurt by someone, but still forgive them. Even in Judas’ betrayal, Christ had a plan. Christ’s plan was not only for redemption via the Cross, but a plan that showed forgiveness as well. Even as Judas came to seal his betrayal with a kiss (Luke 22:47-48), Christ didn’t treat him with condemnation, instead He instructed Judas to continue with what He came to do. When someone hurts us, they are often misled or acting out of fear and hurt. Our reaction may start in anger, but it needs to end in forgiveness. This cannot be done without Christ, the author of the blueprint for forgiveness. The betrayal of Judas allowed each person to know Christ for themselves. What Judas meant for evil, Christ (God) used for good (Genesis 50:20). Even as we are betrayed, we must lay the betrayal and the betrayer at the Cross never forgetting the end goal – forgiveness and redemption.
Lastly, the greatest and saddest lesson that Judas can teach us is not one of betrayal, it’s one of dying apart from Christ. After the betrayal of Christ, the bible reports that Judas died alone and hung himself (Matthew 27:1-6), but he didn’t have to die. Even if he had betrayed Christ, Judas failed to recognize the characteristics of Christ that made Him fully God; His grace and His mercy; and His abundant love and forgiveness. Jesus never turned His back on anyone that sought Him, that needed Him, no matter the crime. In our finite minds, that’s hard to process. No matter the sin, Jesus forgave.
Yet Judas failed to seek Christ and ask for forgiveness. That perhaps is the greatest lesson we can learn from Judas. Not how to abstain from betrayal, because if we are honest, we have all betrayed someone that loved and cared for us. But that we cannot live our life apart from Christ. Depression. Pride. Regret. Remorse. All are chains that the devil used to keep Judas separated from Christ. They are tools He still uses today with us. Judas died not knowing the forgiveness of Christ and the chance for eternal life. You don’t have to.
At the beginning, I wrote that I believed that Judas was one of Christ’s most beloved disciples. Not because of what He did, but because of what He didn’t do. Christ grieves every time we allow the enemy to control us and not allow ourselves to be filled with the Spirit. God grieves every time one of His children fails to come to Him – with any problem. God grieves every time He sees His children hurt or even when we pay for the consequence of our action. God, too, grieves and that grief is rooted in the deepest, purest love. Love for the lost. Love for the broken hearted. Love for those who have done wrong. In God’s eyes, we all have. Years ago, I received a card in the mail and I saved it to remind myself of this…
If our greatest need had been information, GOD would have sent us an Educator,
If our greatest need had been technology, GOD would have sent us a Scientist,
If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an Economist,
If our greatest need had been for pleasure, God would have sent us an Entertainer,
But our GREATEST need was for forgiveness, SO GOD SENT US A SAVIOUR. – Roy Lessin
No matter the sin, no matter what you think or believe, neither Judas’ betrayal nor Christ’s cross was in vain. Take part in that forgiveness.