Judas Iscariot

Matthew 10:1-4

Jesus Christ chose some very unlikely individuals to follow Him. The question of why He chose Judas Iscariot lingers unanswered. A question that troubles me even more is why Jesus chose to save any of us? Why did He chose me?

The answer can only be found in His love for us.

He did not choose Judas to betray Him, but His choosing of Judas gave to Judas occasion to betray Him.

Obviously Jesus loved him and the apostles trusted him. They made Judas, not Matthew the accountant, their treasurer.

Judas must have had many outstanding qualities. He was the only apostle chosen who was not from Galilee. He was from Jude. This may have caused him some awkwardness. The others had the common bond of being indigenous to Galilee, the same region as Christ. Instead of making him feel inferior it should have made him feel special.

Little is known about his background. There may be a clue to his inclinations in that he is listed with Simon the Zealot. The name Iscariot was likely an adaptation of the Aramaic word for “dagger-man.” “Ish” means “man of.” “Sacarii” was the word for “dagger.”

There were two primary revolutionary groups in the time of Christ. One was the Zealots. Simon was a member of this group. The other, the Sicarii. They were a group of devotees who refused to submit to the Romans. Under the leadership of Menahem this group seized Masada with its cash of weapons. The Sicarii slipped into the Temple and helped lead the revolt that led to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman general Titus.

A remnant of this group was the core group that held Masada against the Romans for three years before committing suicide.

Consider that mentality as a member of your social club!

The question as to why Jesus chose Judas has four basic answers.

One, he had no choice. Though it is true someone had to betray him Judas did not have to be that one. He chose to be. He acted of his own free will.

Second, Judas betrayed Jesus because of his great greed for money. He was indeed a man of greed. When Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with the expensive ointment Judas protested (John 12:4,6). He insisted it would have been better to be sold and the money given the poor. Jesus reminded us that we have the poor with us always. The moment at hand was a fleeting opportunity to do something special.

It should be noted Judas wasn’t the only apostle who questioned the economic practicality of using the ointment in this way. All the apostles did: “But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, ‘Why this waste?’ For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor'” (Matthew 26: 8, 9).

Judas obviously wasn’t a black-cloaked villain some represent him as being. At this stage he and the other apostles were thinking alike.

It wasn’t until years later that John realized Judas had been a thief all along. Evidently they did an audit after the resurrection. Then it was revealed: “This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it” (John 12:6).

All along Judas had been betraying Jesus as well as his fellow apostles. In little acts of pilfering Satan was grooming him for his grand dastardly deed.

In selling Jesus for thirty pieces of silver Judas was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 11: 11 – 14. Even the amount was foretold.

Greed may have had a part but it was not the primary motive. The Sanhedrin had already determined to kill Jesus. They would gladly have paid more than thirty pieces of silver if Judas had held out. He could have named his price. If pure greed had been the only motive he would have held out.

The third reason is a romantic one popularized by author Thomas De Quincey. He postulated Judas was a misguided patriot who loved Jesus. He had seen Jesus perform miracles and believed Jesus was a bit shy. He thought Jesus wanted to ignite a revolution but needed pushing. Therefore, he reasoned that if he had pressure put on Jesus He would assert Himself.

De Quincey held that Judas only committed suicide because he was heart broken that his plan to help Jesus failed. This is a feeble attempt to make a hero of Judas.

The fourth possibility lies in the complex personality of Judas. Judas like all of us had an old sin nature. For three years he had the good fortune of traveling with and listening to Jesus. He had every opportunity to make the right choices.

Even at the last minute in the upper room Jesus made a last overture to Judas. There Jesus gave Judas the “sop.” It was a symbol of honor.

What the other apostles thought of Judas is revealed in the upper room also. When Jesus said one of them would betray Him they all asked, “Is it I?” No one asked, “Is it Judas?” They respected him and had no suspicion regarding him.

They all knew they had no intention of doing it but that they were capable of it. That is the very reason Judas did it. He was capable of doing it. He was also capable of not doing it. He chose to do it. His dark nature emerged and he exercised his will to betray Christ for thirty pieces of silver knowing it would result in his death. Judas made a choice.

Judas asked, “Rabbi, is it I?” (Matthew 26: 25). Jesus replied, “You have said it.”

Then Judas knew he was known. What a moment!

Imagine during that evening meal Judas sat there contemplating his treachery with Jesus humbly washing his feet.

First, “And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him” (John 13:2). The idea, the concept was engendered by Satan. At this stage it was just a thought. Judas willfully responded to that thought. When he did – – –

“Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve” (Luke 22:3). Satan can gain no such entry without the person willfully allowing it. What happened happened in Judas. We never know what is going on inside a person. It is expedient that we deal with our inner feelings and desires in a Christ honoring way.

Only two people knew the heart of Judas. Judas was one, Christ the other.

Christ said, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12).

Further revelation let Judas know Jesus knew his heart. “Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?'” (John 6:70).

Judas left the upper room and went to consummate his deal with those plotting Christ’s death. He led them to Gethsamene where he knew Christ to have often retreated.

In the Garden of Gethsamene is a cave. This aspect of the scene has long been overlooked. Archaeologist have only recently unearthed this cave.

There are two words for coming out of. One means to come out from within an enclosure. This cave was in the garden and Christ was within it. He came out from within the cave to be greeted by Judas and his new allies.

Judas stepped forward and kissed Him. Tradition says Jesus and His cousin John looked so much alike that many could not tell them apart. Judas wanted to prevent any such possibility.

It is as though there is a hiss in that kiss.

In that era servants kissed the feet of their masters. Students kissed the hand of their Rabbi. Equals kissed on the cheek. He who should have kissed Jesus on the feet as well as hand kissed Him instead on the cheek.

Note the response of Jesus: “‘Friend, why have you come?'” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him” (Matthew 26:50).

The betrayal by Judas was complete. He had completely betrayed — himself.

Judas was filled with remorse, that is, regret. He tried to return the thirty pieces of silver for which he had sold not Christ, but himself. When it was refused he acted out of remorse. Unfortunately what Judas felt was remorse not repentance. Christ would have even forgiven him.

Peter denied Christ. That too was a terrible sin. Peter’s remorse led to repentance. As a result he was forgiven. We need to respond to our sin as Peter did not Judas.

The Scripture says Judas hanged himself. “Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:5).

Further depiction of what happened seems to conflict with this account.

“Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out” (Acts 1:18).

Some critics of Scripture say he is represented as hanging himself in one text and as falling down and bursting open. He did both. He hanged himself over a cliff and the rope or limb broke and he fell to his death.

Did Judas come to repentance? He did realize he had betrayed “innocent blood.” He knew Christ to be sinless. The great enigma regarding his eternal destiny is summed up in the expression “he went to his own place.”

I am persuaded it was not the place Christ said He was going to prepare for those who love Him.

Peter said of Judas, “he was numbered with us” (Acts 1:17).

That is the disgrace of the modern church. There are those on church rolls who are “numbered with us” yet their behavior is not becoming of a follower of Christ. They disgrace the church as Judas did the role of apostle.

As an apostle Judas staked out his claim but never worked it.

Former British Prime Minister, Disraeli, once described some elder statesmen as “extinct volcanoes.” May it never be true of us.

“The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:24).

Judas should inspire each of us to engage in introspection and purge our life of the seed of betrayal.

We should each be motivated by him to aspire to be all that Christ believes we have the potential of being.