When it comes to villains the Bible has its fair share. There’s Cain the brother-killer. The conniving Delilah. The murderous Jezebel. The rampaging Manasseh. And then there’s public-enemy #1, Judas the betrayer of Jesus. Too often we look at the villains and we see people that we can’t relate to. And perhaps that true with some but not with Judas. What I want you to see this morning is that we are more similar to Judas than we care to think. Let’s start by looking at three facts about Judas; then we’ll look at his struggle with sin; his betrayal of Jesus; the aftermath and some lessons we can learn from him.
Three Facts about Judas:
He was a man, not a monster. Typically when we think about Judas we picture him as a monster, sort of like the serpent of the New Testament but only more devilish, more evil. Perhaps this comes from John 6:70-71, “One of you is a devil… He spoke of Judas Iscariot.” The idea in this passage is that Judas was devilish, or slanderous. The word used here is diabolos it’s translated as devil but it is also translated slanderers in other passages (1 Timothy 3:11; 2 Timothy 3:3; Titus 2:3). Essentially this is no difference in Jesus calling Judas a devil and Jesus calling Peter Satan in Matthew 16:23. So let’s not allow this imagine of him as a devilish monster cloud our perspective of Judas because he was man just like us. Just like us, he was a man created in the imagine of God (Genesis 1:26), not for evil works, as some would say, but for good works (Ephesians 2:10).
He was a disciple of Jesus. Often times, Judas is portrayed is being a traitor from the very beginning of his time with Jesus. But in fact Judas was a chosen disciple of Jesus. When Jesus chose His twelve apostles (Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19;Luke 6:12-16) Judas is named among them. When Jesus sends out the twelve two-by-two to cast out unclean spirits and preach repentance Judas goes and he reports all that he had done and preached (Mark 6:7-13, 30-31). And when it came to following Jesus, Judas was farther away from home than any of the other disciples. We know that Jesus spent the majority of His ministry in and around Galilee and that His disciples were all Galileans, except Judas. Judas was from the city of Kerioth in south Judah. We know this because he was called Judas Ish Kerioth or Judas man of Kerioth. So let’s realize that we are just like Judas; disciples of Jesus who are willing to follow Him; disciples of Jesus who are willing to go where He sends; disciples of Jesus who are willing to sacrifice in order to be with Him.
He was a trusted friend. Normally we view Judas through the lens of hindsight. Because we know the end of the story we look back on him as not being a trusted friend but when we look at him in real-time, from the perspective of the other disciples, a picture begins to form of Judas being a trusted friends. The other disciples trusted Judas enough to let him carry the money bag for the group (John 12:6, 13:29). The disciples didn’t choose the least trustworthy person like Matthew (tax collectors were know to skim off the top Luke 19:8 ESV) to keep their money but the most trustworthy and that was Judas. But not only was he trustworthy he was also a friend. For three years these men traveled together, lived together, ate together, worked together, and argued together. They were close friends. In fact Judas was seen as such a close trusted friend that the disciples didn’t even question why he left supper after Jesus identifies him as His betrayer (John 13:18-30).
Then if Judas was all of these good things what went wrong, why did he become a traitor and betray the Lord?
What went wrong with Judas? Why did he become a traitor?
Luke reminds us that Judas became a traitor (Luke 6:16), implying that when he was called by Jesus he was a believer. But what happened? What went wrong with Judas? Why did he become a traitor? The answer can be summed up in one sentence… He didn’t resist the devil.
From James 4:7 we learn that if we will “Resist the devil… he will flee from [us].” The idea in this passage is not that if we resist the devil will flee from us and never comeback to tempt us again. James is saying the true way of meeting Satan is by direct resistance. Direct resistance means we steadfastly refuse to compromise even to the slightest degree to what he wants us to do. Direct resistance means we don’t give place to his schemes by somehow thinking that if we go along with his demands we can return back to a right-standing before God once we’ve done Satan’s bidding. Direct resistance means we seek help from our brethren to help us bear the burden of Satan’s attacks. But Judas didn’t do any of these things and so Satan didn’t flee from him.
We don’t know how it all started. Perhaps Judas struggled with greed and materialism before he became a disciple. Or, perhaps it had never crossed his mind; perhaps those temptations had never bothered him until he was selected to carry the money bag for the disciples. I suspect Judas’ sin story is just like everyone else’s…
- Not long after he started carrying the money bag Satan gives Judas the thought of taking a few denarii for himself. Judas would have quickly offered up the argument “No! I can’t do that to my friends?” So he didn’t take any money that time.
- But two weeks later Satan would have provided Judas with thoughts about how he could take several denarii and not get caught. This time it takes Judas a little longer to resist these thoughts. He dwells on them as if he’s playing a mental game to pass the time while he was walking from city to city. But ultimately he refuses and he doesn’t steal any money.
- But after another week passes Satan would have presented Judas with a compromise. Take two denarii for what you need but pay them back next week. Judas would have thought on this proposal for some time, because he would have thought he needed two denarii right them. He would have rationalized it by saying “It would be okay to do that. No one would know because I know how to take money undetected and it really wouldn’t be stealing because I’m going to pay it back.” And so he takes the two denarii with the full intention of paying them back next week.
- But when next week rolls around and Judas has the full intentions of paying it back but Satan has other plans. With his heart now fully open to Satan’s words, he whispers to Judas, “Don’t worry about paying it back, you deserved it. In fact take some more you’ve earned it. You need to be blessed.” And so the destructive cycle of sin began and Judas became a thief by helping himself to a few denarii here and a few denarii there (John 12:6).
- Over time Judas’ appetite for more money grew and Satan was all too willing to help him with his desire for more. On the night that Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with an expensive bottle of spikenard (John 12:1-8) Satan puts it into Judas’ sin gripped heart to rage out against Mary because she, took his money by not selling the spiknard and putting the three hundred denarii into his care (John 12:5-7).
- But Judas’ needed more money than he could get from the Jesus and the other disciples. Once a person goes down the path of sin it takes more and more sin to satisfy their hunger. For Judas he needed more and more money and there wasn’t enough in the bag, he had lost out on a jackpot with the spikenard, so he then turns to the only thing he has of value… Jesus himself.
- So Satan gives Judas a plan; sell Jesus (Matthew 26:14-26; John 13:2). Judas is so desperate for money he goes to the chief priest says, “What are you willing to give me?” Notice that Judas didn’t say, “I’ll betray him for 300 denarii!”, or “I’ll betray him for 300 pieces of silver!” He has gone so far gone down path of sin he’s prostitutes himself at whatever price he can get in order to get his fix of money. He doesn’t care how little or how much it is all he wants is money.
- And as soon as he could, Judas betrayed Jesus. So that in the course of time Judas became a traitor.
The destructive end of Judas’ life…
We all know where the story of Judas ends. Judas put his plan to get more money into action by leading a detachment of troops to the Garden of Gethsemane and there he betrays the Savior with a kiss (Matthew 26:47-50; Mark 14:43-46; Luke 22:47-54; John 18:1-9). Judas then leaves the garden perhaps stunned at how easy it was to arrest Jesus. Perhaps he was a little on edge because of Peter’s actions. Perhaps the adrenaline was still flowing as he went to sleep that night consoled by the fact that he had his money and it was so easy to get.
It wasn’t until the next morning that the full impact of what he had done set in and we find Judas going back to the temple and in one action he gives back the money saying “I have sinned.” (Matthew 27:4) Overcome with grief he rushes out of the temple and hangs himself.
James says in Jams 1:14-15, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” Can’t you see Judas as the living illustration of this passage? He was tempted by his desires for money. His desires for money gave way to the sin of stealing and as his sin grew it intensified in its strength and its need to be satisfied which eventually led him to his death.
Lessons from Judas: A Man Who Became A Traitor…
Becoming a disciple is only the beginning of the journey. Becoming a disciple of Jesus is only the beginning of the journey of faith, not the end of the journey. When Judas started following Jesus the weaknesses he had before he became a disciple didn’t suddenly melt away and he didn’t have to worry about those things anymore. In fact we see that perhaps he struggled with even more because of the position of carrying the money bag. We need to remember two things in regards to our journey of faith: (1) We are to, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) To work out our salvation means to work on our salvation. (2) The way we work on our salvation is to “add to our faith.” (2 Peter 1:5) The faith we had at the beginning of the journey is not enough to see us through to the end. We need to work on our salvation by adding to our faith. If Judas could become a traitor after spending three years with Jesus, see the miracles, hearing the lessons, and being surrounded constantly by other believers then it should be a warning to us that we need to work on our salvation by adding to our faith. Or we too could become traitors to our Lord as well.
Sin blinds us to the consequences of our actions. When a person is living in the grip of sin they are blinded to the consequences of their actions. This is evident in the life and actions of Judas, especially in his betrayal of Jesus. In Matthew’s account of Judas’ treachery Matthew seems to indicate that Judas didn’t think Jesus would be condemned when he betrayed Him. Notice what Matthew says in Matthew 27:3, “Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned was remorseful.” In this passage we see that Judas wasn’t remorseful about treachery until he saw that Jesus was turned over to the Romans and was condemned to die. Could it be that Judas thought that he would get his money and Jesus would get set free? That seems to fit the text. In Matthew 27:3 we see that Judas’ sin, his desire for money, blinded him to the consequences of his actions. Are we any different? When we are in the grip of sin do we think that anyone will get hurt by our actions? Does the adulterer think their children will be hurt by their sinful actions? Does the alcoholic think their family will be hurt by the sinful actions? Or does the gossip think anyone will be hurt by their sinful actions? Friends we must open our eyes and see that we are “members of one another” (Romans 12:5) and sins have consequences and by our sins we affect each other.
Turn to God for help. You can’t talk about Judas without talking about his suicide. Perhaps this is the saddest lesson we learn from Judas’ life. He realizes his sin, he confesses his guilt (Matthew 27:1-10) but instead of turning to God for forgiveness he takes matters into his own hands. We need to realize that it didn’t have to end that way. Even Judas could have been forgiven of his sins by the blood of Jesus. Judas failed to see that the answer to his guilt and greif was the very on he had betrayed. I am certain that all of us have found ourselves so overwhelmed with grief and guilt that we feel there is no other way out. So often in those times of need we turn to all of the wrong places for help. We look to friends, medication, therapist, books, seminars, et al. Those things have their place. But everything we do needs to start and end with the Lord. We need to turn to Him first, realizing that no sin is too great for God’s grace, even betraying His son.
Confess your sins to one another. From John’s record (John 12:6) it appears that Judas had been stealing from the money bag for some time. Stealing from the money bag was not a onetime temptation or a onetime sin; it was something that was constant. In fact he carried his greatest temptation with him every day, it was right there on his waist. Let me ask you a question. What do you think Jesus and the disciples would have done if Judas would have spoken up one day and said, “Guys I can’t be in charge of the money bag anymore. I’ve sinned by taking money from it and I need your help.” We know what would have happened. They would have gladly helped their brother by removing the temptation from him because they loved him and they would have helped him bear his burden of sin. But they didn’t know he had that problem until it was too late because Judas never confessed his sins to them. When James said “confess your sins to one another” (James 5:16 ESV) he was giving us a tool to help us overcome sin. You can’t do this on your own your brethren praying for you, you need them holding you accountable, and you need them bearing the burden of this sin with you (Galatians 6:1-2). You cannot receive the help you need if you do not confess your weakness and your sins to the brethren. If you’re here tonight and you in the grip sin then break-free by confessing your sin and asking for prayers from your brethren and ask for their help in bearing your burdens. Judas’ story may have ended differently if he would have done confessed his sin to his brethren. What about your story? Will it be end differently or will it end like his? The choice is yours.
Too often we look at Judas and we can’t see ourselves in him and in his actions. But the apostle Paul warned us to “not to think of [ourselves] more highly than [we] ought to think, but to think soberly.” (Romans 12:3) Friends we need to see ourselves in Judas. Let’s not think too highly of ourselves but instead think soberly, think wisely, in regards to our loyalty to Jesus. Because our following of Jesus, our struggles, our sins, our grief, our lack of confession, our lives… are more like Judas’ than we care to admit. Friend if you are living in the grip of sin you too will become a traitor. Our plea for you today is to come to Jesus, confess your sins, seek the help of your brethren so your end will not be like Judas’.
If I can help you with any spiritual need, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.