Even if you’ve never read the Bible, you know who he is and what he did. Thesaurus.com lists Judas as a synonym for traitor, and if someone called you a “Judas” he or she would say it with disgust and hatred.
Probably not gonna name your child after him.
He has been beaten up over and over again in secular history and literature as well. The Inferno portion of Dante’s the Divine Comedy, written in 1320, gives a gruesome account of the ninth circle of hell where Judas has allegedly been cast and tortured for eternity. The medieval church believed in a punishment-fits-the-crime scenario for sinners where each descending circle was worse than the last.
Yep, according to the epic poem, Judas was at the very bottom of the pit. So what do we know about this guy?
The most notorious and universally scorned of Jesus’s disciples is Judas Iscariot, the betrayer.
Every time Judas is mentioned in Scripture, we also find a notation about his being a traitor. His name appears last in every biblical list of Apostles, except for the list in Acts chapter one, where his name doesn’t appear at all. In every list, he is referred to as a traitor.
He is the most colossal failure in all of human history.
No individual was ever more clearly led by Satan than Judas was. Interestingly, Judas was the only one of the twelve Apostles who was not from Galilee.
We are told very little in the Scriptures about Judas.
All we know is:
- His father’s name was Simon, which was a common name back then (John 6:71).
- He was from the city of Kerioth in Judea (Mark 3:19).
- He was called to be one of the Twelve (Matthew 10:4).
- He held a high position in the apostolic band because he was the treasurer of the group, a trusted position (John 12:4-6).
- He was an instrument of grace to others, yet devoid of grace himself. He was a preacher (Acts 1:17) and no doubt healed and performed other miracles and ministries (Mark 3:14-19).
- He spent approximately three years in the company of Jesus.
- None of the other disciples suspected Judas of unfaithfulness (John 13:28,29).
- Judas’s life was under the control of Satan (Luke 22:3). He was called, “the son of perdition” a name given only to himself and one other – the Antichrist (John 17:12).
- His greed prompted him to steal from the apostolic treasury (John 12:4-6).
- He betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Mark 14:10). Thirty pieces of silver was the price of a slave or the redemption of a woman. In today’s currency, it was approximately five dollars. In reality, Judas didn’t sell Jesus for 30 pieces of silver but sold his own soul for 30 pieces of silver!
- Judas’s act of betrayal was not an act committed in a moment of passion or insanity. The deed was quietly and deliberately planned by Judas. Matthew, Mark and Luke write in their gospels that Judas was seeking an opportunity to betray Jesus, even by colluding with the chief priests in secret (Luke 22:6).
So, how did Judas betray the King of Kings? Well, in Judas’s case, it started with the scribes wanting to kill Jesus. But then, Judas made a deal for some petty cash to hand him over after the last supper in the garden of Gethsemane (John 18:2-9).
With a kiss, he marked Jesus as the one the Roman soldiers needed to arrest (the ones the priests sent from Pilate) after leading them there (Matthew 26:49)
Sadly for Judas, his life ended with a guilt-filled suicide after throwing the money back at the priests.
However, Judas was given three chances by Jesus himself to reconsider before the deed was done.
- Jesus revealed to Judas that his actions were known a year before the actual betrayal (John 6:64).
- Jesus identified Judas as the betrayer in the Upper Room (John 13:26).
- By addressing Judas as “friend” at the arrest, Jesus was reminding him of their close personal relationship (Matthew 26:50).
So, in summary, Judas was numbered among the ministry of the Apostles and was accepted as one of the twelve. When he betrayed Jesus, he did not fall from grace, because he was never saved in the first place (1Corinthians 12:3). Furthermore, his life was under the control of Satan (Luke 22:3).
Matthew tells us Judas was seized with remorse after the betrayal (Matthew 27:3). Some have wondered if the repentance of Judas was real. However, the Greek word used to refer to the actions of Judas means, “to regret,” “to be concerned,” or “emotional remorse.”
Judas was sorry he did what he did, but he was not moved to the point of salvation!
The New Testament teaches us two important truths from the life of Judas:
- Judas reminds us it is possible to be a close associate of Christ and be lost. Judas had given his life to following Jesus, but he never gave his heart to Jesus and, thus, was never saved.
- Judas reminds us no one can thwart God’s purposes.
Judas’s life was a tragedy . . . He spent years following Jesus, seeing miracles, hearing the Word being spoken from his mouth and experiencing his love and compassion firsthand.
But Judas became jaded, bitter and disappointed. He didn’t see Jesus as worth it, and he decided to get personal gain from turning him in.
But Judas is probably not alone.
How many people go to church, do “religious” works, and try to be good?
How many people dedicate their lives to ministry and burn out?
How many people depend on themselves for salvation (instead on the creator) and then fall away?
Judas knew it all. He could quote scripture, and he literally walked with the Messiah for three years! But that doesn’t mean his heart was right before God.
But Jesus still loved for him, and he died for him, even though he knew from the second he called Judas to be a disciple that Judas would betray him.
Because Jesus loved Judas, that shows his love for mankind. If you think you are too far gone or not good enough to come to God, well, Jesus offered life to the man who would turn him over to die.
Jesus loves you and he wants to be in a close relationship with you.
Don’t get comfortable thinking that reading your Bible or going to church or doing good “stuff” is enough to save you. If Judas spent three years with Jesus and rejected him in the end, there is a danger in getting comfortable and becoming prideful in who we are . . . when we are only sinful human beings that God has chosen to create and to love and to die for.
Live with Jesus, truly walk with Jesus, instead of doing things just to look holy.
Learn from Judas, but don’t be him.