Judas Then. Judas Now?
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, writers of the four Gospels, give us various details about the life and ministry of Jesus on earth, each from a different perspective. But none of them tell us where Judas Iscariot came from. In fact, they tell us next to nothing about him at all. So, what's up with Judas?
Judas' Call and Privileges
Matthew gives the account of Peter and Andrew, fishermen who immediately left their nets to follow Jesus at His call to them (vs. 18-20). A few sentences later, he describes the calling of James and John (vs. 21-22), saying they were the sons of Zebedee, a fisherman, also. Matthew was called from his tax tables by Jesus, according to his own record in 9:9. John, on the other hand, describes the call of Philip in 1:45.
Luke summarizes the names of the twelve chosen by Jesus from among His disciples to be his apostles, but done only after He had spent an entire night in prayer (6:12-16). I don't know it for a fact, but undoubtedly Jesus wrestled with needing to choose Judas to be among the chosen twelve and knowingly live with His betrayer for three years! Nevertheless, He selected Judas to be one of His apostles. They were Simon Peter, Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the zealot, Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, "who became a traitor." Notice the word "became." Judas was not always a traitor. He became one. We only know that somehow Judas became a disciple of Jesus and was chosen from that crowd to be an apostle. Yet, he became a traitor!
For three years Judas walked, talked, ate and slept with Jesus and the eleven. He was an eye-witness to the raising of Jairus' daughter from the dead. He saw blind eyes given vision and lame legs made straight to walk. Demons fled from the possessed with only a word from Jesus.
When He called the twelve together to commission them for a special preaching tour, He gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. Judas was among them. He went with the rest of the apostles to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal those who were ill just like the others did. He performed miracles! He cast demons from those so afflicted. He was one with the other eleven. He tasted what their future would be following Pentecost.
It was immediately after the apostles returned from that special training that a crowd burgeoned around Jesus, so that He needed food to nourish them. He fed 5,000 from five loaves and two fishes. Judas witnessed that miracle up close and helped distribute the food before eating some with everyone else. He also helped gather the leftovers into twelve baskets of overflow!
Following that miracle, Jesus told His men not to tell anyone that He was the Christ of God. He also disclosed to them, Judas included, that He was going to be rejected by the chief priests and scribes, be killed, and be resurrected the third day. So, Judas knew Jesus would die one day and how His death would come about. He heard it from Jesus' own lips. Jesus had planted a seed with that prophetic revelation and Judas never forgot it.
Jesus taught His apostles many things about true discipleship and Judas heard that, too. Jesus said they would have to deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him. Long before He hung on one Himself, Jesus brought the cross into their lives as a necessity. Though Judas heard, he did not take what Jesus said seriously nor did he apply the words to his own heart and life.
The Bible tells us that Judas loved money. It was he who carried the group's money bag. Jesus may have appointed him to be the treasurer, but it's more likely Judas volunteered to do the job. Scripture tells us that the group was cared for by a few women who followed them. Jesus and company also ate many meals in the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. But there must have been times when Jesus instructed Judas to purchase bread and other goods to sustain the group. It is John (12:6) who tells us that Judas was a thief: he pilfered the money bag for his personal use.
So, in spite of living for over three years with Jesus and being privy to His teaching and His very person, the Son of God, Judas did not change. Because he stole money, he also had to have lied to cover his tracks. The cash on hand must have been next to nothing on the night of the Passover Seder when Jesus broke bread with His apostles and dipped His piece into the bowl of sauce when Judas did. It had cost money to reserve the Upper Room, provide the meal and to pay the men who served it.
Jesus knew Judas was going to betray Him. After spending all their support money for Passover preparations, extra change would be most welcome to the thief, and he knew where to get it: Jesus Himself had said how He would die: rejected by the chief priests and scribes, He would be condemned by them. So, when the devil entered Judas' heart while seated at the table with Jesus, Judas rejected his Passover Lamb and went out into the night alone.
The chief priest and scribes did not seek for Judas, asking him to identify Jesus for them. No, Judas went to them with his offer. It was his idea to tell the religious leaders that for a price, he would kiss Jesus' cheek in the Garden and they would know it was He. For thirty pieces of silver, Judas sold his lord and master and sealed his own fate!
After all the miracles Judas had seen Jesus perform, Judas knew one more would be forthcoming! Jesus would somehow elude the Roman soldiers after His kiss from Judas. Surely that's how it would turn out! Jesus had avoided capture by the religionists before. He would do it again!
Judas rationalized his actions just like he always had done when he stole money from the purse. How wrong he was! Instead of seeing Jesus free Himself after the fatal kiss, Judas became the instrument by which the devil could crucify the Lord of heaven and earth!
It's easy now to see all the events of Judas' life and proclaim that we would never do what he did. But would we? Do we?
Matthew records Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. He cites the example of the good tree that bears good fruit, concluding with "So then, you will know them by their fruits." Judas was with the group when Jesus went on to say, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
"Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?'" Oh, yes! Judas did prophesy in Jesus' name when he went on the mission with the others. Yes, he did perform miracles. He healed those who were ill. He even cast out demons. Yet, all the time he used the authority Jesus had given him, he was living a lie.
Jesus went on to warn in the same place, "Then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'" Lawlessness. That means breaking the law deliberately, willfully. That's what Judas did. He betrayed Jesus by breaking the law and bowing to the idol called the love of money. Rather than confessing his sin of idolatry, he maintained a double standard while living with the mighty Son of God!
Today, many men and women, young people and senior adults, play the same game Judas did. They hang around where the music is rapturous and miracles happen. They love to see wheelchairs vacated as invalids walk and run. They enjoy the emotional thrill of a Spirit-filled worship service. They like the excitement of people blessed in their hearts. But in the secret place of their being, they savor the delight of doing what they want to do and of going where they want to go according to their own desires and timetable, not God's! At the same time they profess, "Lord, Lord!"
How sad that on the final day of judgment when they expect to gain entrance to heaven, they will hear Jesus declare to them, "Depart from Me, I never KNEW you!"
Never KNEW! That's how Judas differed from the eleven. The apostles had their faults: Peter was blustery and outspoken. Thomas' faith needed to feel nail prints before he would believe. After Jesus' death, the former fishermen gave up hope and reverted to their boats once more...but they never willfully lied or were two-faced with Jesus.
In the original Greek, "knew" means to have intimate knowledge of another; to know them through and through. No secrets. Judas always had a secret he kept from Jesus and the eleven. But Jesus knew. He knows the hearts of those who profess to love Him, yet live disobediently. He calls it lawlessness. The lawless do not go to heaven. It's that simply awful!
Beware, dear reader, if you fit the description of a modern-day Judas. You may fool your friends, but you do not fool Jesus for one minute now or on Judgment Day. Instead of merely hearing what Jesus says, LISTEN to and obey Him. Judas had fair warning many, many times right at the feet of the Master, but he failed to LISTEN. He never expected to betray Jesus at the beginning, but he did. He just wanted to enjoy extra cash from the money bag! Instead, he became a traitor! Just like the angels who lived in heaven and saw God, but gave up all their privilege to follow the devil, he forfeited his appointment as an apostle to spend eternity in hell filled with regrets that will hound him mercilessly forever!
Examine your heart and your motives. Be sure you are totally honest with God and with people. LISTEN!