I recently found myself thinking of Judas Iscariot. You know the man. He’s the one that betrayed Jesus for 30 shekels of silver. Who was this man, and why did he betray Jesus? Is there something in him that we can not only learn from, but also identify within ourselves? So, let’s take a look at this man.
We first hear of Judas in Mark 3:13-19 and Luke 6:12-16. In these passages we find out how it was that he became an apostle of Jesus. In Mark 3:7-12, we see that a great multitude of people were following Jesus because of all the things they had heard He was doing. They saw Him do signs and wonders. It is from this same group of people that Jesus specifically calls out the ones He wanted to be His 12 apostles; those who would be with Him, those who would be sent out to preach, and those who would be given power to heal the sick and cast out demons. And named among these 12 men was Judas Iscariot. Judas was following Jesus before Jesus called him out. Why he was following Jesus, we can only speculate. Perhaps it was only because of the signs and wonders, but maybe there was more? Maybe it was because of the notoriety he would gain being associated with such a man like Jesus? Or, was it only because he sincerely believed in Jesus and wanted to follow after Him? We may never know why he specifically was following Jesus, but we do know that as a result of his following Jesus he was selected to be one of the 12 Jesus would call out to be with Him as an apostle.
In John 12:1-8, we read of Mary, the sister of Lazarus, anointing the feet of Jesus with a costly oil, and of Judas being critical of what she did. Judas tried to make an argument for selling the oil and giving the proceeds to the poor, but John tells us that this was not the true heart motivation of Judas. John gives us a glimpse of the heart of Judas, someone called to be a disciple of Jesus sent out to preach and do signs and wonders, by telling us that Judas was more concerned about the money because he would take money out of the money box he kept for Jesus. When did money become an issue for Judas? We can be fairly confident that money wasn’t the reason he was following Jesus, but when did he start looking to the money? Some people have said that money is the root of all evil, but that is not true. In 1 Timothy 6:10, we read that it is the “love of money” that is the root of all evil, and it is for this same reason that Paul tells us some have strayed from the faith in their greediness. We can look just about anywhere and see people whose love of money will cause them to do just about anything to either obtain more, or to keep what they have. They will walk over anyone that is in the way of them getting more money, break whatever law is in their way, compromise any standards hindering their progress, or ignore or discard any trace of moral ethics that stands in the way of their greed. In essence, people who love money will go to great lengths and depths to acquire more, and then to keep it, all the while tossing away integrity and moral character as obstacles in their way. Apparently, Judas loved money more than he did Jesus, stealing from Jesus what was His. Being specifically chosen by Jesus to be an apostle sent out to represent Him in preaching and signs and wonders, money became more important to him than Jesus.
The next time we hear of Judas is in Matthew 26:14-16. It is here that we read of Judas approaching the chief priests seeking to betray Jesus. In their search for the messiah, the Jews were looking for someone that would free them from the rule and reign of the Romans, and to establish an earthly kingdom. This wasn’t happening with Jesus, though some expected Him to do so, and some have argued that this was the reason Judas approached the chief priests. It is speculated by some that he was hoping Jesus would be pushed into taking action to establish His earthly kingdom if he betrayed Him and had Him arrested, but I’m not convinced this was the case. If this was the real reason for Judas betraying Jesus, then why would he be interested in what the chief priests would give him to do so? Judas has been profiting at Jesus’ expense for some time, how long we don’t know, taking what was Jesus’ and keeping it for himself. Perhaps he saw the money coming to Jesus beginning to decrease, or maybe felt that Jesus’ ministry was coming to a close, or maybe his love of money had grown to such an extent that he sought one last opportunity to throw caution to the wind and get one last windfall of money? Even though we may never truly know his motivation to betray Jesus, one thing we do know for certain is that he was a thief and loved money more than he did Jesus. Perhaps Judas was on his mind when the Apostle Paul wrote about those who love money in 1 Timothy 6:10, but if not we can see Paul’s words to be true when we look at Judas. In his greediness Judas fell from the place of apostleship and anointing, and even in relationship with Christ. Judas experienced firsthand the love of Jesus, the signs and wonders Jesus did, and the power and anointing Jesus gave him to preach the good news and do the miraculous, yet at the end it was his love of money that was greater than his relationship with Jesus.
While the life and death of Judas appears to be centered around his love of money, what can we glean from him? Some have argued that anyone that experiences the love of Jesus will voluntarily surrender their life and be obedient to Him, arguing that no one can resist or choose to walk away from the love of Jesus once they’ve experienced it. What we see in Judas, a man that Jesus didn’t just love but chose to invest Himself into for the Kingdom, is a man who began to love something more than Jesus despite all that he had experienced or seen firsthand. That something doesn’t have to be money, but anything or anyone that we love more than Jesus. It could be argued that Judas didn’t initially follow Jesus because of His money, especially since we know that Jesus didn’t even have a place to lay His head, but sometime during those three in a half years of being with Jesus 24/7, he began to love the money. I’m sure you’ve known people who started out on the right track with Jesus, eager to follow Him, but somewhere down the road their love of something or someone became greater than their love of Him. Oh, they might still love Jesus, but they no longer love Him more than anything or anyone else, and in that they forfeit their relationship with Him as Paul tells us.
In Mark 14:43-46, we read of how Judas’ betrayal took place. It’s ironic that it wasn’t enough for Judas to simply indicate who Jesus was, but instead he used deception and hypocrisy to betray Jesus. He wanted to appear as though he was a close friend of Jesus to all those there, and as such approached Jesus as though there was nothing wrong or amiss in his relationship with Jesus by greeting Him with a kiss. Sometimes we hide where our heart truly is by presenting ourselves as loyal friends of Jesus to those around us, but Jesus knows our heart and will not be fooled. Sadly, many a church pew is used by some to make people think they are living right with God, all the while there is someone or something else on the throne in their life. Christians have often times been accused of hypocrisy, making themselves appear as followers of Christ when they are in church or in the midst of other Christians, but all the while they are living a life contrary to the ways and will of God, ways that dishonor or displease Him. They are living a life of deception and hypocrisy, fooling themselves that all is okay when in actuality things are not okay.
For whatever reason Judas decided to betray Jesus. More than likely things with Jesus wasn’t going in the direction he thought they should be, and it is then that we see where his heart truly is. So, in essence Judas tried to profit once again at the expense of Christ, but this time without reservations because his love of money was greater. When things in life are not going in the direction we think it should, especially as followers of Jesus, we’re faced with the decision to surrender and submit to what and where God is leading us, or to put our relationship with Him on the chopping block in an effort to hang onto whatever it is we value more than Him. For some it is money like it was for Judas, but for others it could be career, education, recreation and entertainment, hobbies, relationships, power and control, and any other thing you can think of. In either case, what are we going to do when we’re pushed into a corner where the loyalties of our heart are tested and subsequently exposed for what they truly are? It’s a decision we will all face one time or another, and usually it is more than once or twice that we will face it.
One last thing about Judas. In Matthew 27:3-10, we read that Judas regretted the decision he made to betray Jesus. When he tried to reverse the results of his betrayal, which was unsuccessful, he then went and hanged himself. One can argue whether or not Judas would have been granted forgiveness from God if he sought it, but the fact remains that while he greatly regretted what he had done he instead chose to hang himself. At what point does a person begin to regret the decisions they made at Christ’s expense, or at the expense of their relationship with Christ? That point is different for each person, and some will not reach that point until after they enter into eternity. If a person does reach that point and place on this side of eternity, they need to run to God with repentance and submission seeking His forgiveness and restored relationship. Are you that person, where you’ve sold out your relationship with Christ for 30 shekels of silver, figuratively speaking? Has someone or something other than Jesus been on the throne in your life? Are you ready and willing to make the necessary changes to regain right relationship with Him? If so, let there be no delay in doing so, and take care of it speedily!