Matthew 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:3-6
"Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve disciples, and he went to the leading priests and captains of the Temple guard to discuss the best way to betray Jesus to them." – Luke 22:3-4 NLT
Judas Iscariot. He is one of the most infamous characters in all of history. He is forever labeled as the dark-hearted, evil individual who betrayed the innocent Son of God and sealed His death. No one names their son, Judas. In fact, his very name is so synonymous with betrayal, that to be called "a Judas" would be an insult to most of us. Yet, this man was hand-picked by Jesus Himself. He was one of the original twelve Jesus chose to follow Him. Of course, he comes at the end of each of the gospel writer's lists of disciples, and always with the disclaimer, "who later betrayed him." At what point Jesus knew that Judas would be His betrayer, we are not told. We only know that this man was chosen along with the others, spent more than three years of his life living with and learning from Jesus. He became friends with the disciples. He was the official treasurer for the group and handled all their funds. It would not be until the latter part of His life that Jesus would begin to discuss His coming betrayal, and He spoke of it in fairly vague terms, saying, "we're going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law" (Mark 10:33 NLT). He didn't say who would betray Him or how. We're not told whether He knew or not. I have a suspicion that, because of His divine nature, and the fact that Jesus had exhibited the ability to look into the hearts of men on previous occasions, He probably knew that Judas was the one. But Judas had no idea. He was oblivious to the fact that the role of betrayer was out there in his future.
I truly believe that Judas followed Jesus with many of the same intentions and aspirations as the other disciples. He had hoped that Jesus truly was the Messiah. But, like the others, he had a very narrow understanding of what that meant. Their view of the Messiah was based on the concept of a conquering king and military emancipator. He was to be a warrior like David who would lead his people to victory over the Romans and reestablish the might and majesty of the Jewish nation. He would expand the borders of Israel once again. They would become a force to be reckoned with in that region of the world once again. But when Jesus failed to exhibit the characteristics of a king or do anything about gathering an army or planning an insurrection, the disciples became confused. Judas became impatient. Perhaps he did what he did in an attempt to force Jesus' hand. We are not given the motivation behind his actions. Luke alone tells us that "Satan entered into Judas Iscariot." Which could easily lead us to believe that Judas was an innocent pawn in the hands of the enemy. But his heart had become fertile ground for Satan's influence. This was probably not the first time that Satan had entered into Judas. When Mary anointed Jesus with the costly perfume, John records that it was Judas who spoke up and complained that this was a wasteful extravagance and that the perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor. But John states, "Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself" (John 12:6 NLT). Judas had a heart that had been hardened over time. He had heard the teachings of Jesus, but had failed to listen to them. He was dishonest, self-centered, self-seeking and seemed to have been interested in only one thing: Living his life according to his own terms and for his own sake.
The Scriptures make it clear that what Judas did was in fulfillment of prophecy. After Jesus' ascension, as the disciples waited in a closed room as Jesus had commanded them to dt, Peter spoke up and said,
“Brothers, the Scriptures had to be fulfilled concerning Judas, who guided those who arrested Jesus. This was predicted long ago by the Holy Spirit, speaking through King David. Judas was one of us and shared in the ministry with us."(Judas had bought a field with the money he received for his treachery. Falling headfirst there, his body split open, spilling out all his intestines. The news of his death spread to all the people of Jerusalem, and they gave the place the Aramaic name Akeldama, which means “Field of Blood.”)Peter continued, “This was written in the book of Psalms, where it says, ‘Let his home become desolate, with no one living in it.’ It also says, ‘Let someone else take his position.’" – Acts 1:16-20 NLT
In this little speech, Peter refers to a passage in Psalm 41 written by David that he believed to be a prediction of what Judas had done. It reads, "Even my best friend, the one I trusted completely, the one who shared my food, has turned against me" (Psalm 41:9 NLT). So even the disciples believed that the actions of Judas were a part of God's foreordained plan. The night Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples for the last time, He stated, "One of you who has just eaten from this bowl with me will betray me. For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born" (Matthew 26:23-24 NLT). Interestingly enough, Judas asked Jesus the question, "Rabbi, am I the one?" And Jesus told him, "You have said it." I think this was simply an attempt on Judas' part to see if Jesus knew who it was who was going to do the dirty deed. He had already made his plans and negotiated his payment with the religious leaders. Now it was just a matter of timing. Judas was destined to betray Jesus. But it was not an act outside of his control. He knew full well what he was doing. He was a willing, active participant in the process. His meeting with the religious leaders was not motivated by Satan. He came up with that plan all on his own. He determined to profit off of his relationship with Jesus. If He wasn't going to declare Himself King and whisk His disciples into roles of leadership and power, Judas was going to make the best out of a disappointing situation.
It would be easy to vilify Judas and make him the poster boy for evil. But if you think about it, all of us betray Jesus on a daily basis. That word "betray" seems so harsh and violent. But the word can actually be translated "to turn over" or "deliver up." Judas turned over Jesus. He handed Him over so that he could gain a profit. He let Jesus go just so he could gain. Did he fully understand what he was doing and what the end result of his actions would be? Probably not. When he saw how his betrayal impacted the life of Jesus, he attempted to return his ill-gotten gain and repent of his actions. He ultimately took his own life. But the bottom line is that he was willing to deliver Jesus up, turn Him over, and sacrifice his relationship with Him, just out of selfish greed. How many times have you turned over your relationship with Jesus just so you could get a promotion, have a good time, make a little extra money, enjoy a little "forbidden fruit," or dabble in some pleasure that He might deny you?
As evil as Judas' actions may appear to us, the truth is that each of us betray Jesus daily – in little, seemingly insignificant ways. We deny Him. We hand Him over to the enemy, and in exchange we get some benefit that ends up being short-lived and that fails to deliver what we had hoped. When we refuse to spend time in the Word, because we would rather work, sleep, or play, we turn Jesus over. We exchange Him for something else that we deem to be of greater value. For Judas, 30 pieces of silver had greater value than his 3-year relationship with Jesus. He sacrificed Jesus for money. Don't we do the same thing? When we would rather work than worship? When we would rather make money than spend time with Jesus? When we would rather play and be entertained than sit at His feet?
Judas had spent more than three years in the company and companionship of Jesus. But when it all came down to it, his desire for worldly things far outweighed his love for and appreciation of Jesus. What would you be willing to exchange for Jesus? What do you want so badly that you would turn over Jesus just to have it?
Father, betrayal seems like such an ugly term. But the reality is that I betray Your Son every day of my life in so many subtle and seemingly simple ways. Any time I give something else in my life greater value than my relationship with Him, I betray Jesus. I turn Him over in order to get what I want in return. Help me to see my heart. Don't let me make a villain out of Judas and fail to see my own guiltiness. Help me hold on to Jesus and to never exchange Him for anything, no matter how valuable it may appear. Amen.