Have you ever been betrayed by someone? Has someone ever betrayed your trust or hurt you so badly you thought you could never forgive or trust this person again? Maybe this betrayal was done by a close friend, a trusted confidant, or a relative and this made it more difficult to endure. This deception may have shaken you to the core or to a place where you still have difficulty trusting people today. The act of betrayal is defined as a violation of a person's trust or confidence, of a moral standard. It is the act of hurting someone who trusts you, such as a friend or relative by not giving help or by doing something morally wrong against them. I can think of multiple times where I have been betrayed and even an instance or two in my younger days where I had betrayed someone’s trust or confidence. I know for certain; betrayal hurts and it’s often hard to bounce back.
We are continuing our series “Ordinary Rebels” and today we are going to look at an individual from the New Testament who is notorious for his act of betrayal. We see the ugliness of betrayal throughout the Bible with stories like Joseph and his brothers, David and Bathsheba’s husband, and a few others but none so much as in the disciple Judas Iscariot’s act of betraying the Lord Jesus Christ. We see in this betrayal the darkness of the human heart and the way Satan uses people to commit some of the most heinous acts of evil against one another.
Judas Iscariot is one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ. He is listed in all four Gospels as a disciple of Jesus Christ. He is always listed with a dishonorable depiction of who he was such as Judas, the one who betrayed him (Jesus) or Judas, the one who became a traitor. His dishonorable acts are most likely, why he is always placed last or least among the twelve. We don’t a lot about Judas, but what do know he is not painted in a positive light. The major role he plays in the Gospel account does not come until later in Jesus’ ministry and predominantly at the conclusion of his earthly ministry by handing him over to the authorities to be crucified.
Judas was appointed as the treasurer of the band of disciples who followed Jesus (John 13:29). In the Gospel of John, he is also described as a thief because he stole money from the group’s money box (John 12:6). This thievery may have been something they discovered after he left the group or after he had died. He is also the disciple who criticizes Mary for pouring her expensive perfume over Jesus’ feet and washing them with her hair. He approaches Jesus and asks why she would waste such expensive perfume by pouring it over his feet when they could have taken it, sold it, and given the money to the poor (John 12:3 – 5). Some could say, “that’s a good point!” but we know that charity was not his motivation. In fact, his motivation is in question among scholars as most believe he had no intention of selling the expensive perfume and giving it to the poor, but instead would have kept the money for the disciples and most likely using the money to line his pockets. Thus, many conclude that his suggestions were impure and motivated by his greed and deception.
This morning we are going to look at the remainder of what we know about Judas which are found in the Gospel accounts.
Matthew 26:14 – 16
After Judas criticizes Mary for her wasteful act Judas meets with the leading priests od Israel. It is in this meeting he conspires to betray Jesus for an agreed upon price. We see that he would be paid 30 pieces of silver by the priests to betray him. We read that once the price was agreed upon Judas began to plot his betrayal.
Matthew 26:17 - 25
Following the meeting with the priests Judas joins with the rest of the disciples as they prepare for and observe Passover. During the dinner Jesus tells the disciples that one of the twelve will betray him. One by one they began to wonder and ask if it was them. In verse 25 it would seem Jesus publicly identifies Judas as the one, but in John 13:26 – 30 we see Jesus identify him secretly as the betrayer, because the rest of the disciples did not know that it was him. John 13: 28 - 30 says, “None of the others at the table knew what Jesus meant. Since Judas was their treasurer, some thought Jesus was telling him to go and pay for the food or to give some money to the poor. So, Judas left at once, going out into the night.” Interestingly, we are told in both John and Luke that when he ate the bread that Satan entered Judas. This indicates to us that this was a spiritual matter and Judas’ act was motivated by spiritual darkness. Satan uses Judas to be the instrument to supposedly bring down the Savior of the world. However, we know that what Satan did was not something that brings victory to his evil empire, instead it is the beginning of the plan to destroy it.
Matthew 26:47 – 50
Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. It is in this prayer Jesus has an intimate moment with the Father and asks, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Shortly thereafter, Judas approaches Jesus and kisses him, thus identifying him to the authorities. Immediately he is arrested.
John 18:1 – 7
John’s account is a bit different and more dramatic. We are told that after Jesus had finished his prayer and concluded his farewell discourse, he went to a garden that he went to often with his disciples (Luke 22:39). Judas knew Jesus would be there at this time. He brought with him Roman soldiers (possibly up to 200) and the temple police to the garden to have Jesus arrested. Judas kisses Jesus, but John does not record it. Jesus meets the group and asks who they are seeking? They (we are not sure who “they” are) responds, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replies, “I am he.” The literal translation is “I am.” John tells us the soldiers drew back or as the NET Bible says, “they retreated” or moved back and fell to the ground. What happened at this moment? Why did the soldiers fall? More conservative biblical scholars believe that the soldiers in the front may have jumped back when Jesus unexpectedly advanced forward causing those in the front to start a domino effect of soldiers falling to the ground. Others believe the falling was a result of a Theophany (an appearance of God to humans) causing his enemies to fall back and fall prostrate before him. Both are plausible, but I hold more to the second view. Either way we know Jesus is in control of the situation. In this moment they are hit by a power such as that which struck the Apostle Paul and his companions in Acts 26:14. It was the magnificent radiance of the majesty of Jesus Christ which overwhelmed them. This show of power before he submitted to authorities would show His authority over evil, and the freedom with which He submitted Himself to them. I think it’s important for us (whether a believer or not) to know and understand as Pastor Tim Keller says in his sermon, I AM HE “Nobody can stand on their feet in the presence of God.” The power of God is awesome in all senses of the word. Not only is it awesome, but awe inspiring. I believe in Jesus we see the power of God manifested in His name (I AM, Yahweh). If the mere mention of the name of God can bring a squad of soldiers to their knees, and cause demons to tremble, then we should acknowledge, recognize and respect the power of God and his name altogether.
After this happened Jesus asks them again whom they seek and informs them he is the one they seek. He tells them to let the men with him go unharmed. Then Peter decides he wants to seize the opportunity and attacks the High Priest’s servant cutting off his ear. Peter’s knee jerk reaction spurs Jesus to let everyone know he is not seeking violence but will go peacefully. In fact, he rebukes Peter by asking him, “Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” This is his way of saying to Peter, “This all has to happen. This has been set since the beginning of time. I must do as the Father says in order to accomplish the plan from the start.” As we can see Jesus has accepted the mission the Father has given to Him. His death on the cross was not a hiccup in the plan of God, it was THE plan from the beginning.
Matthew 27:3 – 10
When Judas realized that his betrayal was the death sentence of Jesus Christ, he could not live with himself. Interestingly, we are told that he was filled with remorse. Was this repentance? Was this guilt? Was this a man who came to, once the devil left him? We do not know. We do know that once he realized he had sold out his friend, mentor, and savior for thirty shekels of silver he took the silver and threw it down on the temple floor and then took his life. It is a sad testimony to the end of his life. He was not martyred for his faith in Christ, he took his life because he his friend, mentor, and the God of the universe in the flesh.
In these passages we see the curtain rising to the final “act” in the Gospel account. The irony to the Good News of this story is that tragedy must strike in order for the news to be good. Since the time of creation this has been the plan of God. Jesus must take this cup and he must drink it in order for those who believe to be redeemed. What I find most beautiful is our perfect Savior lovingly, willingly, and obediently going to the cross of Calvary to give life for us the flawed followers of Jesus. Rejoice in this today. Know you have a Savior who has all the power of God available to him (even so much that at the mere mention of the name of God his enemies fall over) and yet he humbles himself to the point of death so that we who believe may have life and have it abundantly.
In this betrayal we certainly see the ugly side of sinful humanity. We see a man who some may have debated as to his purpose in the Gospel account and others question whether he was truly a follower of Jesus Christ. But what we do see is that God uses people, even in their sinful state, to accomplish his purpose. Was Judas a true Christian? Was he faking it all along? Was he pulling a fast one on God? Was Satan using him? These are all questions that can be answered in one way or another, but my purpose is not to go there this morning. What I see in this passage is the true core of the sinful human heart. Below are some observations…
Jeff has been in full-time ministry for thirty years. He currently serves as Executive Director at Anchor House Ministry at SeaPort Manatee in Palmetto, FL and he is a part-time Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Southside in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored A Lent Devotional (A Spiritual Journey to Lent) an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). All three are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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