Judas the Traitor

Every time Judas is mentioned in Scripture, we also find a notation about his being a traitor. He committed the most horrible act of any individual ever. He betrayed the perfect, sinless, holy Son of God for a handful of money. He spent three years with Jesus Christ, but for all that time, his heart was only growing hard and hateful.

The other eleven apostles are all great encouragements to us because they exemplify how common people with typical failings can be used by God in uncommon, remarkable ways. Judas, on the other hand, stands as a warning about the evil potential of spiritual carelessness, sinful lusts, and hardness of the heart. 

The New Testament tells us plenty about Judas—enough to accomplish two things: First, the life of Judas reminds us that it is possible to be near Christ and associate with Him closely (but superficially) and yet become utterly hardened in sin. Second, Judas reminds us that no matter how sinful a person may be, the purpose of God cannot be thwarted. God’s sovereign plan cannot be overthrown even by the most cunning schemes of those who hate Him.

Like the other eleven, he left whatever he may have been engaged in and began to follow Jesus full-time. Judas even stayed with Jesus when less-devoted disciples began to leave the group (John 6:66-71). He had given his life to following Jesus. But he never gave Jesus his heart.

Judas followed Jesus out of a desire for selfish gain, worldly ambition, and greed. He sensed Jesus’ power, and he wanted power like that for himself. He was not interested in the kingdom for salvation or Christ’s sake. He was interested only in what he could get out of it. Wealth, power, and prestige were what fueled his ambitions.

It is clear that he chose to follow. He continued following even when following became difficult. He persisted in following even though it required him to be a more clever hypocrite in order to cover up the reality of what he really was.

Judas had every opportunity to turn from his sin—as many opportunities as was ever afforded to anyone. He heard numerous appeals from Christ urging him not to do the deed he was planning to do. He heard every lesson Jesus taught during His ministry. Judas listened to all of that unmoved. He never applied the lessons. 

Shortly after the raising of Lazarus, and just before Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Jesus and the disciples returned to Bethany, on the outskirts of the city. John 12:2-3 records what happened. Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. This appears to have been the last straw as far as Judas was concerned because immediately after telling the story of Jesus’ anointing, Judas crept away, left Bethany, walked about a mile and a half to Jerusalem, met with the chief priests, and sold Jesus to His enemies for a pocketful of coins. Thirty pieces of silver. That is all he could get. According to Exodus 21:32, it was the price of a slave. It was not much money. Here is the contrast. Our Lord is anointed with overwhelming love by Mary and betrayed with overwhelming hate by Judas at the same time.

Up to that point, Judas had blended in perfectly with the rest of the group. This is the first time on record that he spoke out as an individual, and it is the first time he merited any kind of direct rebuke from Christ. 

John 13:1 begins the apostle John’s account of what happened in the Upper Room on the night of Jesus’ arrest. It was at this point that Jesus gave the apostle a lesson in humility by washing their feet. He washed the feet of all twelve, which means He even washed the feet of Judas. Judas sat there and let Jesus wash his feet and remained utterly unmoved.  

Judas apparently went straight from the Upper Room to the Sanhedrin. He knew where they could apprehend Jesus under cover of darkness. Judas did not act in a moment of insanity. This dark deed was deliberately planned and premeditated. He knew Jesus regularly went to Gethsemane to pray with His disciples. So Judas knew exactly where to bring the authorities to capture Jesus. He betrayed his Lord with a kiss.

The moral of his life:

  1. Judas is a tragic example of lost opportunity. He heard Jesus teaching day in and day out. He could have asked Jesus any question he liked. He could have sought and received from the Lord any help he needed. Yet, in the end, Judas was damned because of his own failure to heed what he heard.
  2. Judas is the epitome of wasted privilege. He was given the highest place of privilege among all the Lord’s followers, but he squandered that privilege—cashed it in for a fistful of coins he decided he did not really want after all.
  3. Judas is the classic illustration of how the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. 
  4. Judas exemplifies the ugliness and danger of spiritual betrayal. Would Judas be the only hypocrite who betrayed the Lord? Judas’ life is a reminder to each of us about our need for self-examination.
  5. Judas is proof of the patient, fore-bearing goodness and loving-kindness of Christ.
  6. Judas demonstrates how the sovereign will of God cannot be thwarted by any means.
  7. Judas is a vivid demonstration of the fruitlessness of hypocrisy. Hypocrites like Judas will have no one but themselves to blame for the destruction of their souls.

After Jesus’ resurrection, Judas’s office was filled by Matthias (Acts 1; 16-26). Matthias was selected because he had been with Jesus and the other apostles “from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us” (v.22). Nothing is known of Matthias other than that. Thus, in the end, another perfectly ordinary man was chosen to fill the place of that extraordinary villain. And so, along with the other eleven, Matthias became a powerful witness of Jesus’ resurrection—one more ordinary man whom the Lord elevated to an extraordinary calling.

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