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The master's Men: Cont: 10

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  • Robert
    The Master s Men—part 6 Judas (10:4b) and Judas lscariot, the one who betrayed Him. (A.4b) Among the twelve apostles, one stands out against the backdrop of
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 30, 2012
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      The Master's Men—part 6

      Judas (10:4b) and Judas lscariot, the one who betrayed Him. (A.4b)

      Among the twelve apostles, one stands out against the backdrop of the others as a lonely, tragic misfit, the epitome of human disaster. He is the vilest, most wicked man in Scripture. ln the lists of apostles he is always named last and, with the exception of Acts 1 :13, is always identified as Jesus' betrayer. For 2,000 years the name Judas lscariot has been a byword for treachery.
      Forty verses in the New Testament mention the betrayal of Jesus, and each of them is a reminder of Judas's incredible sin. After the description of his death and his replacement among the twelve in Acts 1, his name is never again mentioned in Scripture, ln Dante's lnferno Judas occupies the lowest level of hell, which he shares with Lucifer, Satan himself.

      His Name

      Judas was a common name in New Testament times and was a second
      name for one of the other apostles, Thaddaeus. It is a personalized form of Judah, the southern kingdom during the Jewish monarchy and the Roman province of Judea during the time of Christ, Some scholars believe the name means "Yahweh (or Jehovah) leads," and others believe it refers to one who is the object of praise. With either meaning, it was a tragic misnomer in the case of Judas lscariot. No human being has ever been less directed by the Lord or less worthy of praise.
      lscariot means "man of Kerioth," ? small town in Judea, about twenty-three miles south of Jerusalem and some seven miles from Hebron. Judas is the only apostle whose name includes a geographical identification, possibly because he was the only Judean among the twelve. All the others, including Jesus, were from Galilee in the north. Judean Jews generally felt superior to the Jews of Galilee; and although Judas himself was from a rural village, he probably did not fit well into the apostolic band.

      His Call

      Judas is always listed among the twelve apostles, but his specific call is not recorded in the gospels. He first appears in Matthew's listing, with no indication as to where or how Jesus called him. Obviously he was attracted to Jesus, and he stayed with Him until the end of His ministry, far past the time when many of the other false disciples had left Him (See John 6:66).
      There is no evidence that Judas ever had a spiritual interest in Jesus, lt is likely that, from the beginning, he expected Jesus to become a powerful religious and political leader and wanted to use the association with Him for selfish reasons. He recognized Jesus' obvious miracle-working power as well as His great influence over the multitudes. But he was not interested in the coming of the kingdom for Christ's sake, or even for the sake of his fellow Jews, -but only for the sake of whatever personal gain he might derive from being in the Messiah's inner circle of leadership. Although he was motivated totally by selfishness, he nevertheless followed the Lord in a halfhearted way-until he was finally convinced that Jesus' plans for the kingdom were diametrically opposed to his own.
      Christ chose Judas intentionally and specifically, "for Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him" (John-6:64). Although the disciples did not at the time understand what He meant, Jesus alluded to His betrayal a year or more before it occurred. "Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?" Jesus told them soon after the false disciples at Capernaum turned away from Him. John explains that "He meant Judas the son of Simon lscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him" (vv. 70-71)'
      David predicted Christ's betrayal a thousand years before the fact. "Even my close friend, in whom I trusted, who ate my bread," he wrote, "has lifted up his heel against me" (Ps. 41.9; cf . 55'.12-15,20-21). Although that passage primarily referred to David, its greater significance applied to Jesus Christ, as He Himself declared (John 13:18).
      Zechariah even predicted the exact price of betrayal. "And I said to them, 'lf it is good in your sight, give me my wages; but if not, never mind!' So they weighed out thirty shekels of silver as my wages. Then the Lord said to me, 'Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.' So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the Lord" (Zech, 11'.12-13). At the Lord's command, the prophet had shepherded the Lord's people (vv. 4-11), and the wages they paid Zechariah represented the "magnificent price" at which their descendants would value the Messiah Himself.
      ln His high priestly prayer, Jesus said to His Father, speaking of the twelve, "While I was with them, I was keeping them in Thy name which Thou hast given Me; and I guarded them, and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled" (John 17:12). Luther translated "son of perdition" as "lost child," that is, a child whose nature and intention is to be continually wayward and lost. Jesus lost none of the twelve except the one who was confirmed in his sin and refused to be saved. He chose Judas in order to fulfill Scripture, knowing that Judas would reject that choice.
      At the Last Supper Jesus said, "Behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Me on the table. For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayedl" (Luke22'.21-22)' Although our finite human minds cannot understand it, God had predetermined the betrayal, though, at the same time, Judas was held fully responsible for it, because it was by his own choice.
      ln Judas's rejection of Christ there is the same apparent paradox of divine sovereignty and human will that exists in the process of salvation. Although a person must receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior with an act of his will (John 1:12; 3:16; Rom. 1:16) every believer who does so was chosen to be saved even before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4; cf. Acts 13:48). Ln the same way, Judas had the opportunity to accept or reject Christ in regard to salvation, although Christ planned from the beginning for the disbelief and rejection that would characterize this disciple. Those seemingly conflicting truths-just as others found in Scripture-are resolved only in the mind of God. The Bible is clear that Jesus extended to Judas the opportunity for salvation to the extent that his unbelief was his own choice and fault (cf. Matt. 23:37; John 5:40). Judas chose to reject and betray Christ. That is why Christ did not label him as a victim of sovereign decree but "a devil" (John 6:70) and made clear that he did what he did not because God made him do it but rather Satan (John 13:27).
      God also predetermined Judas's successor among the twelve from the
      beginning. Just before Pentecost, the Holy Spirit led Peter to explain to the apostles who remained, "lt is therefore necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us –beginning with the baptism of John, until the day that He was taken up from us-one of these should become a witness with us of His resurrection" (Acts 1'.21-22). Out of the disciples who met that qualification, the eleven then chose "two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. And they prayed, and said, 'Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two Thou hast chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.' And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles" (vv. 23-26). Both God's sovereign, predetermined choice and the human choice of the apostles were involved in the selection of Matthias.
      A few days later; on the day of Pentecost, Peter said to the crowd in Jerusalem, "Men of lsrael, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know-this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death" (2'.22-23). God sovereignly predetermined Jesus' crucifixion, but the unbelieving Jews were responsible for sending Him to the cross. lt was God's predetermined will to send His Son to die, and it was rebellious man's determined will to put Him to death.

      His Character

      Judas's outward personality must have been commendable or at least
      acceptable. Before the actual betrayal, none of the other disciples accused Judas of any wrongdoing or criticized him for any deficiency. When after three years of training them Jesus predicted that one of the twelve would betray him, the other eleven had no idea who it might be. At first, "being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, 'surely not I' Lord?"' (Matt' ZA..ZZ). Then "they began to discuss among themselves which one of them it might be who was going to do this thing." But they soon lost sight of the betrayal and began to discuss not who was the worst among them but rather "which one of them was regarded to be greatest" (Luke22'.23-24). ln any case, Judas was no more suspect than any of the others. ln answer to John's question "Lord, who is it?" Jesus replied, "That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him" (John 13:25-26). Jesus then gave the morsel to Judas, saying, "What you do, do quickly" Still the others had no idea the traitor was Judas. "No one of those reclining at the table knew for what purpose He had said this to him," that is, to Judas (vv.27-28).
      Because he was never suspected by the other disciples, Judas must have been a remarkable hypocrite. He had even been selected treasurer of the group and was perfectly trusted (John '13:29). lt is probable that, like most of the other disciples, he had led a respectable, religious life before Jesus called him. Perhaps he had not been an extortioner and traitor to his own people like Matthew or a hot-blooded revolutionary and possible assassin like Simon the Zealot, although his coming from Kerioth of Judea might have obscured his background to the other disciples, who were Galileans.
      Judas apparently guarded what he said. His only recorded words were spoken near the end of Jesus' ministry, when he objected to Mary's anointing Jesus' feet with expensive ointment. "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii, and given to poor people?" he asked (John 12:5). "Now he said this," John explains, "not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it" (v 6), Under the Holy Spirit's inspiration, John was given that insight which he recorded when writing the gospel decades later; but at the time of the incident he had no awareness of Judas's ulterior motive.
      Judas was no more naturally sinful than any other person ever born. He was made of the same stuff as the other apostles, with no less common goodness and no more innate sinfulness. But the same sun that melts the wax hardens the clay, and Judas's choice not to trust in Jesus became more and more hardened and fixed as he continued to resist the Lord's love and Word,
      Judas was probably one of the youngest disciples and likely an outwardly devout and patriotic Jew. Though not as radical as Simon the Zealot, he was anxious for the Roman yoke to be thrown off and expected Jesus to usher in the messianic kingdom that would accomplish that. Rome would be overthrown, and God's people would be reestablished in peace and prosperity
      But Judas was first of all a materialist, as his stealing bears witness. He wanted the earthly benefits of a restored Jewish kingdom but had no interest in personal righteousness or regeneration. He was perfectly satisfied with himself and came to Jesus solely for material advantage, not for spiritual blessing. Jesus gave him every opportunity to renounce his self-life and seek God's forgiveness and salvation, but Judas refused. The Lord gave the parables of the unjust steward and the wedding garments, but Judas did not apply the truths to himself. The Lord taught much about the dangers of greed and iove of money and even warned the twelve that one of them was a devil, but Judas would not listen. He did not argue with Christ, as Peter and some of the others did and, in fact, probably openly acted as if he agreed with Him. But the response of his heart was continual rejection. Jesus chose Judas because the betrayal was in God's plan and was prophesied in the Old Testament; yet Jesus gave Judas every opportunity not to fulfill that prophecy
      Judas was in the third group of four disciples-with James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot-indicating he was among the disciples who were least intimate with Jesus. lt is likely he was on the fringe even of his own subgroup, participating no more than necessary, and that from the sidelines. lt is doubtful he was close to any of the others. He was thought to be honest, but he developed no close friendships or intimate relationships. He was a loner.
      ln the Orient, a host would always offer an honored guest the first sop, which consisted of a morsel of bread dipped in a syrup-like mixture of fruit and nuts. At the Last Supper Jesus offered the first sop to Judas. Yet at the very moment the Lord extended special honor to Judas, "Satan then entered into him" (John 13:27) To the very end Jesus loved Judas, but he would have none of what He offered him.

      His Progressive Rejection

      Judas did not begin his discipleship intending to betray Jesus. He was in full sympathy with what he thought was Jesus' purpose and plan and was ready to support Him. After each miracle Judas may have expected Jesus to announce His kingship and begin a campaign against Rome, whose vast army, great as it was, would have been no match for Jesus' supernatural power. Judas kept hanging on and hanging on, expecting Jesus to fulfill his dreams of defeating the despised oppressor. Like a gambler who thinks every loss puts him that much closer to winning, Judas perhaps thought that every failure of Jesus to use His power against Rome brought that ultimate and inevitable goal a bit closer.
      For three years Judas hoped, and at the triumphal entry into Jerusalem he must have thought the time had finally come. Obviously, Judas reasoned, Jesus had been building up to a grand climax, waiting for the crowds to fully recognize His messiahship and His right to the throne of David. He would ascend His throne by popular demand, and the Lion of Judah would at last expel and destroy the eagle of Rome.
      But when Jesus rejected the crowd's crown and instead began to teach even more earnestly about His imminent arrest and death, it was Judas's hopes and expectations that were expelled and destroyed. He was devastated that Jesus could build up to such a perfect opportunity and intentionally let it slip through His hands. He must have thought Jesus mad to willingly allow Himself to be mistreated and even killed, when with one word He could destroy any opponent. Now he knew beyond doubt that, whatever Jesus intended to do, it had no relationship to his own motives and plans.
      Judas started at the same place as the other disciples. But they trusted in Jesus and were saved, and as they surrendered more and more to His control, they grew away from their old ways. They, too, were sinful, worldly, selfish, unloving, and materialistic. But they submitted to Jesus, and He changed them. Judas, however, never advanced beyond crass materialism. He refused to trust Jesus and more and more resisted His Lordship. Eventually he was confirmed in his own way to the point that he permanently closed the door to God's grace. Like Faust, he irretrievably sold his soul to the devil.
      When Jesus turned His back on the crown offered by the multitude, Judas turned his back on Jesus. He could no longer restrain his vile, wretched motives for self-glory and gain. He had given a glimpse of his true self when he showed more concern for the money "wasted" on perfume to anoint Jesus than concern for the Lord's imminent arrest and death, which the disciples by now knew awaited Him in Jerusalem (John 1 1 .16).
      Judas's fascination on with Jesus had turned first to disappointment and finally to hatred. He had never loved Jesus but only sought to use Him. He had never loved his fellow disciples but rather stole for himself from what small resources they had. Now he turned completely against them'
      On the last night Jesus was together with the disciples, He washed their feet with His own hands, to teach them humility and service. As He began He said, "You are clean, but not all of you," referring to Judas (John 13:10-1 1)' After the object lesson He gave another warning that Judas could have heeded: "l do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, 'He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me"' (John 13:18). Jesus grieved over Judas, being unwilling that even this vile man should perish (cf. 2 Pet. 3:9) As the time for the betrayal came closer, Jesus "became troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Truly truly I say to you, that one of you will betray Me"' (v.21)' He did not grieve-over the loss of His own Iife, which He willingly laid down. He grieved over the spiritual death of Judas and, it seems, made one last appeal before it became forever too late. He knew Judas's unbelief, greed, ingratitude, treachery, duplicity, hypocrisy, and hatred. Still He loved him' The death He was about to die was as much for Judas's sin as for the sins of any person ever born, and it was for Judas that the Lord grieved as only He can grieve. He lamented over Judas in the same way He had lamented over Jerusalem: "How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling" Matt' 23"37 '
      Throughout church history, in the name of love and compassion, some people hive tried to attribute a good motive to Judas's betrayal or at least to minimize its evil. But such an attempt flies in the face of Scripture, including Jesus' own specific words. The Lord called Judas a devil and the son of perdition. To make Judas appear better than that is to make God a liar. Every unsaved person is under Satan's control and serves Satan's will. But when Judas accepted the morsel from Jesus' hands without repentance or regret, Satan took possession of him in a way that is frightening to contemplate (John 13:27).

      His Betrayal

      Judas did not betray Jesus in a sudden fit of anger. We are not told when the idea first came to him, but apparently the incident of Mary's anointing Jesus with the perfume prompted him to pursue it. lt was right after this that "one of the twelve, named Judas lscariot, went to the chief priests, and said, 'What are you willing to give me to deliver Him up to you? After accepting the thirty pieces of silver, "from then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Him" (Matt. 26:14-16). Luke adds that he sought "a good opportunity to betray Him to them apart from the multitude" (22.6). Judas was a coward, and at that time he assumed the crowds who acclaimed Jesus during the triumphal entry would remain loyal to Him. He wanted no one to know of his treachery, certainly not a hostile multitude. Like the chief priests and scribes who paid him, he was "afraid of the people" Luke22'2.
      It is difficult to determine the equivalent modern buying power of the thirty pieces of silver Judas received, especially since the specific silver coin is not identified. But at the most generous reckoning, it was a trifling sum for betraying any person to his death, much less the Son of God. The relatively small amount suggests that, in his greed and hatred, Judas was willing to settle for any price. lt also suggests the disdain the chief priests and scribes had for Judas. Their hatred for Jesus was public and well known; but Judas was one of Jesus' disciples and friends, and the Jewish leaders doubtlessly had contempt for his treachery even though they used it to their own ends. The small price further suggests the low value all of them placed on Jesus' life.
      So that His enemies could recognize Jesus in the darkness of
      Gethsemane, Judas "had given them a signal, saying, 'Whomever I shall kiss, He is the one"' (Mark 14'.44). His contempt for Jesus was such that he used that cherished mark of love and friendship as his sign of betrayal'
      Judas not only profaned the Passover by receiving blood money but he also profaned Gethsemane, the private place of worship and solace that He knew Jesus loved. "Judas then, having received the Roman cohort, and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons" (John 1B:3). Unaware that Jesus knew of his wicked plan, Judas thought to deceive Him by the kiss, feigning love and loyalty. 'But Jesus already knew the soldiers were coming and "went for1h, and said to them, 'Whom do you seek?"' (v 4) When they said, "Jesus the Nazarene," He replied, "l am He" (v. 5) As if to reinforce his hateful determination to betray Jesus, Judas proceeded to kiss Him, although it was no longer necessary to identify Him. His supreme act of hypocrisy was to pretend love for Jesus while giving Him over to His enemies.
      The Greek text of Matthew 26:49 uses an intensive form that suggests Judas kissed Jesus fervently and repeatedly. Yet even in face of this diabolical sham, Jesus called Judas "friend" as He told him, "Do what you have come for" (v. 50). Jesus' love extended even beyond Judas's point of no return.
      The degree of Judas's betrayal was unique but not its nature. Through Ezekiel, G-od rebuked His people for profaning Him "for handfuls of barley and fragments of bread" (Ezek . 13:1g), and through Amos He charged them with selling "the righteous for money and the needy for a pair of sandals" (Amos 2.6). Still today men and women will sell out the Lord for whatever they think is worth more.
      It may not be for silver,
      It may not be for gold;
      But yet by tens of thousands,
      The Prince of life is sold.
      Sold for a godless friendship;
      Sold for a selfish aim;
      Sold for a fleeting trifle;
      Sold for an empty name.
      Sold in the mart of science;
      Sold in the seat of Power.
      Sold at the shrine of fortune;
      Sold in pleasure's hour.
      Sold for your awful bargain,
      None but God's eye can see.
      Ponder my soul the question,
      How shall He be sold by thee?
      Sold, O God. What a moment?
      Stilled his conscience's voice?
      Sold, unto weeping angels
      Record the fatal choice.
      Sold, but the Price accepted
      To a living coal shall turn;
      With the pangs of a late repentance
      Deep in a soul to burn.

      (Author unknown. Cited in Herbert Lockyer, All the Apostles of the
      Bible [Grand Rapids: Zonderva n, 1972, p' 1 1 0. )

      Judas sold Jesus for greed. He was malicious, vengeful, ambitious, and hateful of everything good and righteous. But above all, he was avaricious.
      No man could be more like the devil than a perverted apostle. And for the same reason, every false teacher who holds the name of Christ stands in special guilt and is worthy of special disdain.

      His Death

      "When lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin," James says, "and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death" (James 1:15). Judas's sin caused him to sell out Christ, his fellow apostles, and his own soul. When Jesus had been found guilty by the mock trial in the Sanhedrin and was turned over to Pilate, Judas felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, 'l have sinned by betraying innocent blood"' (Malt' 27".3- {). But remorse iJ not repentance. Judas regretted what he had done and recognized something of its horrible sinfulness. But he did not have a change of mind, and he did not ask God to change his heart. He knew he could not undo the damage he had done, but he tried to mollify his conscience by returning the money he had been paid for his wickedness. Because he lived only on the material level, he somehow thought he could resolve his problem by the physical act of giving back the blood money. Then his unforgiven heart turned from vengeance against Christ to vengeance against himself, and he "went away and hanged himself' (v. 5). That did not end the misery of his conscience, however, for his guilt and anguish will last through all eternity Apparently Judas failed in his hanging attempt, and Luke reports the consummation of his death. lt may have been that the branch to which the rope was tied broke and he fell over a precipice or down a hill, "and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out" Acts 1 :18.
      Although they had no compunction about making false charges against Jesus and of unlawfully condemning Him to death, the chief priests' consciences would not let them put the thirty pieces of silver back into the Temple treasury after Judas threw the money at their feet, "since it is the price of blood" (Matt. 27:6). ln perfect fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy (Zech. 11.12-13), "they counseled together and with the money bought the Potter's Field as a burial place for strangers. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day" Matt- 27'.7-8.
      God overruled the wickedness of Jesus' betrayer and executioners and used it to fulfill His own Word. Even those who bitterly opposed the Lord's will found themselves unwittingly fulfilling His Word.

      Lessons Learned from the Life of Judas

      Even wickedness and tragedy can teach valuable lessons, and there is great profit from studying the life of Judas. First of all he is the world's greatest example of lost opportunity. Judas was among the original twelve men Jesus called to be His apostles, His gospel ambassadors to the world. He lived and talked and ministered with Jesus for three years, hearing God's Word from the mouth of His own Son and seeing God's power manifested as never before on earth. No human being has every heard a more complete and perfect declaration of the gospel or seen more perfect obedience to it' Judas heard the perfect gospel and saw the perfect life. To none of the apostles did Jesus give more specific warning about sin-and more repeated opportunity to repent of it and to believe-than He did to Judas. Yet Judas turned his back on grace incarnate.
      Today many people have heard the gospel clearly and seen genuine
      though imperfect examples of its transforming power. Yet they, too, reject it and, like Judas, choose instead to stay in the way that leads to destruction.
      Second, Judas's life provides the world's greatest example of wasted privilege. He lusted for temporary material possessions and riches when he could have inherited the universe forever. lt is a tragically foolish bargain to exchange the riches of God's kingdom for the pittances the world can offer.
      Third, Judas's life serves as the clearest illustration of love of money being the root of all kinds of evil (see 1 Tim. 6:10). ln the unbelievable extreme of greed, he loved money so much that he sold the Son of God for a trifling amount of it.
      Fourth, Judas's life is the supreme object in history of the forbearing, patient love of God. Only God could have known the utter evil of Judas's heart from the beginning and yet never have withdrawn His offer of grace. At the Last Supper Christ presented Judas the dipped morsel as a gesture of love and honor; and even as He was being betrayed by the kiss, He called Judas "friend."
      The life of Judas provided an essential qualification in preparing Christ for His high priestly role. Judas's betrayal brought great anguish to Jesus' heart, and through that and other such torment the Son of God was perfected through His suffering (Heb. 2:10). Christ can understand and sympathize with our sufferings partly because Judas helped make Christ's own suffering complete.
      Judas was the consummate hypocrite of all time, the supreme illustration of an ungodly life that hides behind Christ while he serves Satan.
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