It’s getting real. Real fast.
As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, something in the last few days of Jesus’ final week triggered Judas to do the unthinkable.
You talk about someone selling their soul to the devil, literally or figuratively? Well, Judas did both. Judas sold his soul to the devil, literally and figuratively.
“Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve.” (Luke 22:3) Why here? Why now? Why this?
In order to answer these and additional questions, let’s meet Judas the Betrayer up close and personal.
A fitting title because the very first time we encounter this tragic individual, we are introduced to him with these telling words: “Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him).” (Matthew 10:4, Mark 3:19 & Luke 6:16)
How would you like that as your moniker?
Who was this guy? And what does it all mean for us today?
Allow me to set up this discussion in this way: It’s one of the most precious passages in all of the Bible. That is no exaggeration or overstatement. Yet, it gets relatively scant attention because in most of our English translations it’s rendered rather clumsily. The words of Hebrews 4:15-16 don’t exactly roll effortlessly off our tongues, with its double negatives and cultural references with which we might not be familiar. But since this is such a precious picture of exactly who Jesus is, and how Jesus relates to our lives, I’ll read it to you in the NKJV, and then paraphrase it for you so that you can hear it as original readers heard it.
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (New King James Version)
In other words, in my own expanded paraphrase:
You and I have an unbreakable bond with our High Priest – THE High Priest – Who regularly approaches God the Father on our behalf, praying for us and keeping us front and center of God’s compassionate care.
As our High Priest, Jesus knows exactly what it is to be one of us. He has been there Himself, experiencing every trial, every temptation, every situation that can so easily discourage and defeat us.
In a word, Jesus UNDERSTANDS us.
He understands what it is like to be us because He became one of us. Yes, it is true, Jesus faced everything that you face: every heartache, every fear, every disappointment, every anxiety, every insecurity, and every human weakness. Because, he was in every sense of the word HUMAN.
The amazing thing is that while He experienced all of this, and so much more, He never sinned. He never once succumbed to any trial or temptation. He felt the full fury of every human weakness, yet never gave into them. Not even once. If He had, He wouldn’t be any different than us. He would have nothing to offer us. But, as it is, because He understands us so completely, He lavishly gives us His mercy and grace just when we need it the most.
Consequently, we can approach God boldly… without hesitation or fear of God’s condemnation.
God was there for Jesus. He will always be there for you and for me. He is on your side. He is your number one advocate. He is for you. He will never be against you. Consequently, you can share with God your every heartache, fear, anxiety, or insecurity and beyond a shadow of any doubt, He will meet us at our very point of pain and shower us with His grace and mercy.
All this because, in Jesus, God actually became human like us.
And these words were never more true than in what we will discuss this week. Specifically when we speak of the pain, heartache and heartbreak of betrayal by someone near and dear.
Have you ever felt it?
Jesus certainly did… with life crushing consequences.
But, listen to what Jesus said, just months earlier to Judas, in an attempt somehow to persuade Judas to stop his betrayal before it was too late:
Jesus told his disciples, “I chose all twelve of you, but one of you is a demon!”71 Jesus was talking about Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. He would later betray Jesus, even though he was one of the twelve disciples. (John 6:70-71)
With Judas standing there, listening to every word, Jesus said that one of them is a demon! What must have been going on in Judas’ mind at that moment?
Here’s some stats for you: Judas is mentioned 24 times in the New Testament, by name, 17 of these references appear alongside the word “betray” or some form of betrayer. And of the seven times that “betray” is not mentioned in connection with Judas Iscariot, he hardly gets a pass, as in Luke 22:1-4,
The Festival of Unleavened Bread, which is also called Passover, was approaching. 2 The leading priests and teachers of religious law were plotting how to kill Jesus, but they were afraid of the people’s reaction.
3 Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve disciples,4 and he went to the leading priests and captains of the Temple guard to discuss the best way to betray Jesus to them.
Being listed for all eternity as someone who Satan entered into is hardly a glistening credential to bare!
So, what do we know about Judas Iscariot? How did he go from absolute obscurity to chosen Apostle to ultimate betrayer?
First off, the name Judas was quite common in his day. Many of them, in fact, are mentioned throughout the New Testament… even within the twelve Apostles!
The other Judas, not Judas Iscariot, then spoke up and asked, “Lord, what do you mean by saying that you will show us what you are like, but you will not show the people of this world?” (John 14:22)
Jesus even had a brother named Judas, as we read in Matthew 13:55, when the people of Nazareth were wondering if Jesus was the same guy who grew up there.
Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas.
You see, Judas is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Judah, which means “praise”, and as many know, was the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. And, it’s from the tribe of Judah that our friends from Israel today have derived the name “Jews”.
Iscariot is not Judas’ last name. Rather, it references the geographical region he was from: Judas, the man from Kerioth. But get this… out of the twelve Apostles, Judas was the only one who came from the South, Judah (or Judea). The other eleven all came from the North, the region of Galilee.
Other than that, we know little more about Judas. The Gospels tell us many of the other Apostles’ careers before meeting Jesus (fishermen, tax collector, etc.). All we know of Judas Iscariot is that his father’s name was Simon.
Throughout Judas’ tenure as an Apostle, treachery pumped like a poison within the ventricles of Judas’ dark heart. It wasn’t as if, all of a sudden, Satan entered him and Judas did the unthinkable. From the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, Judas lived a double life. He was the consummate phony, a hypocrite of the highest order. It was a pattern well-established throughout his three years with Jesus.
As we look at the four Gospels together, we see a series of seemingly small compromises which, over time, ballooned into a singular disastrous deed. In Judas’ case, all of his small compromises seemed to revolve around money.Over the course of several years, he sold his soul to Satan over his love of money… the thirty pieces of silver he was paid for handing Jesus over was merely the final transaction.
And none of the other eleven Apostles knew or even suspected that this was the case.
Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man He had raised from the dead. 2 A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with Him.3 Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping His feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.
4 But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, 5 “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” 6 Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself. (John 12:1-6)
Judas was an embezzler of – quite literally – Biblical proportions! Only in hindsight, did John realize and write about Judas’ doings.
But, despite all this… no matter what terrible things he did and can be said about Judas, Jesus loved this man. He loved Judas to the very end.
Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that His hour had come to leave this world and return to His Father. He had loved His disciples during His ministry on earth, and now He loved them to the very end. (John 13:1)
Notice that there is no exception clause for Judas. In the following passages, Jesus’ acts of love, including washing His Apostle’s feet and partaking of the Passover meal, included Judas, even though the devil had already grabbed a hold of Judas’ heart.
It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. (John 13:2-5)
That is an amazing picture.
Almost as amazing as the expression of utter devotion and love that Jesus showed to Judas at the very moment when he betrayed the Son of God and handed Him over to the 600 soldiers who came to arrest Jesus. Sadly, our culture has made the word almost meaningless, but to a Jew, there is no higher acclaim that one man can bestow upon another…
The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss.” 49 So Judas came straight to Jesus. “Greetings, Rabbi!” he exclaimed and gave him the kiss.
50 Jesus said, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.” (Matthew 26:48-50)
Even Judas had to be awestruck that Jesus chose those words, even at that moment. In the Middle East, when someone calls you their friend, there is no higher descriptor that anyone can refer to another as. It’s an amazing word!
What Jesus was basically saying was, “Even as you betray me right now, Judas… I am your friend and I will never turn my back on you.”
Jesus gave Judas so many opportunities to rethink his actions and repent of a sinful heart. Judas sat at Jesus’ feet so many times, hearing sermons about the pitfalls of the love of money, the torment of a prideful heart, and the judgment for those who chose to not repent.
Even on the night that Judas would hand Him over, Jesus seemed to plead with him… if by nothing else than revealing to Judas that his secrets were not so secret…
[Jesus said] “…this fulfills the Scripture that says, ‘The one who eats my food has turned against me’…
21 Now Jesus was deeply troubled, and he exclaimed, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!”
…Jesus responded, “It is the one to whom I give the bread I dip in the bowl.” And when he had dipped it, he gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. 27 When Judas had eaten the bread, Satan entered into him. Then Jesus told him, “Hurry and do what you’re going to do.” 28 None of the others at the table knew what Jesus meant. 29 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. 30 So Judas left at once, going out into the night. (John 13:18-30)
Now, let me assure you. Jesus did not need Judas’ betrayal to get to the cross. There were plenty of people who hated Jesus, who wanted to kill Him and were capable of doing so. They could do it with or without Judas’ assistance.
Perhaps this is why Jesus begged him, pleaded with him over and over again to not do this! Perhaps this is why Jesus called him friend.
This is why, in fewer than twelve hours after Judas betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, we read about how it all caught up to him.
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4 “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”
“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”
5 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. (Matthew 27:3-5)
Now, say what you want about what Judas did. But, as I read this passage I see something that too often goes untaught…
This is textbook repentance. Many ask, “Was that the equivalent of repentance to salvation? Was it enough of a repentance that Judas was actually saved?”
Every study Bible that I have ever seen answers this question with a resounding, “No. Judas went to hell.”
Yet, Jesus called him, “My friend.”
Now, have you ever been betrayed? Perhaps by your spouse? A child? A family member? A co-worker? A friend?
Well, guess what… you have a High Priest who knows exactly what you have gone through. He was betrayed by His friend, too.
And I would suggest that you and I will never know the depths of the heart of Jesus until we personally know the pain of betrayal.
But, I wrap up with this: No matter how dark your betrayal of Jesus may ever be, you will be His friend no matter what. You may betray Him, but He will never, ever betray you.