William J. Stewart
The Bible tells us of a man by the name of Judas Iscariot. We are not told very much about him — actually, all we are told is that Judas betrayed the Lord. But as we think about this man, we know there was more to him than that. Even though the writers declined to pen anything else concerning this poor soul, let us consider his life.
Judas was an apostle. As each gospel writer gives us a list of the chosen of Christ, Judas is the last name on the list, and again, each time a phrase such as “…who betrayed the Lord” is added. But focusing on the fact that Judas was an apostle, we realize that he must have bore the qualities necessary to fill such a position. Judas spent his time travelling about with Jesus of Nazareth, learning of the ways of the Eternal Father in heaven. He was given authority from the Master to preach the word, to heal the sick, to cast out demons, even to raise the dead. Remember when Jesus sent the twelve out, Judas was sent out also. Mark tells us of the apostles returning to the Lord some time afterwards, telling Him of the things they’d spoken and the miracles they had worked. As Peter declared to all concerning a wondrous miracle he’d performed, I see Judas also sharing his deeds, yet in a quiet, peaceful manner.
As I think about Judas Iscariot, I picture a consistent servant of God. He was never in the lime light like Peter or John, but was a dependable follower. We’ve all seen such individuals, maybe you are one of them. Not out on the front lines. Not the individual who continually receives praise for the great work done. Not the one who quickly proclaims, “Look at what I did!” Rather, such an individual quietly goes about their work, satisfied that it is the right thing to do. Every church has such people. The folks who do the little jobs (and some not so little jobs), without which, things would not run smoothly, or perhaps would even fall apart. The ladies who prepare the elements for the Lord’s Supper each week. The Sunday school teachers, who assist in instilling good morals and biblical principles in our children. The individual who cuts the law at the building, and puts that coat of paint on the door when needed. The good worker who sees the carpet is getting dirty, and thus pulls out the vacuum cleaner. I can likely stop there, for by now, I am sure that you have seen in these words some brethren for whom you have great respect.
Such is how I see Judas, at least in the first two years of Christ’s ministry. Judas was not wicked from the start. He had a desire to do what was right, and to serve God, otherwise he would never have followed when Jesus called, “Follow Me.” Judas knew what was right, and wanted to do it. Paul accurately describes the dilemma Judas, and each one of us who desire to do good face, “…for the good that I will to do, I do not do, but the evil that I will not to do, that I practice.”
Judas was a man with a problem. God in heaven said to Cain, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Judas was plagued by sin, it had a permanent dwelling place at the door to his heart. In that, he was no different than any other servant of God. Sin dwells at the door to all our hearts, the key is what we do about it. James writes, “…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.” Judas gave in to temptation. His desire for money outweighed his desire to serve his Creator. We’ve all done the same thing, and often manage to overcome it, by the grace of God, and return to our Father. But Judas gave in to temptation, and could no longer rule over sin, and thus he became a slave to it. In the garden, Jesus said to Peter, James and John, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Judas is the prime example of such.
We all know the story of Judas. Seeing an easy way to make a buck, he went to the chief priests and elders, asking what they would give him if he handed Jesus of Nazareth over to them. They counted out thirty pieces of silver. Judas’ friendship with the Lord could be bought with thirty pieces of silver! The price of a slave. A month’s earnings. No great amount, but enough to betray the Son of God. His sin was the greatest possible treachery. He came unto the Lord, not as an open foe, but disguised as a friend. “…He went up to Jesus and said, ‘Greetings Rabbi!’ and kissed Him” He appeared as a friend, though secretly, within his heart, he was a traitor. And thus, the Lord was seized, placed under arrest and taken to trial.
Matthew writes some interesting words about Judas. Words revealing more about the character of Judas, and unfortunately, words revealing to us the dreadful end of the man. “Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ . . . Then he threw down the pieces of sliver in the temple and departed, and went out and hanged himself…” Judas saw that Jesus was condemned, and thus he was remorseful, or as the King James Version renders it, he “…repented himself.” Judas was sorry for his actions. His intentions were not to have the Son of Man found guilty and sentenced to death. He only wanted the money. As he conceived this plan to make a profit, he must have reasoned, He has done no wrong; they have no witnesses; He cannot be found guilty without evidence of such; He’ll be tried, released, and I’ll be thirty pieces of silver richer for it.
The problem — the plan backfired. False witnesses were brought forth. He was accused and condemned of blasphemy. And when Judas saw it, he was sorry for his deed. He was anxious for the money, but not so anxious to see a Good Friend die. I believe Judas felt sincere sorrow, and the regret he experienced was bitter indeed. Coming back to the chief priests and elders, he exclaims, “He is innocent, I tell you, innocent!” Not getting anywhere with the Jewish leaders, he throws down the wages of his iniquity. As much as Judas loved money, the price of this bag of silver was too high.
Judas’ repentance thus far has been good. He realized his sinfulness. He felt deep distress over his deed. He relinquished his ungodly wages. But he stopped there. The Scriptures then say that he “…departed and went out and hanged himself.” Why Judas, why? You were almost there! Forgiveness was on the horizon. Both you, and Judas might question in unison, forgiveness? He betrayed the son of God. He delivered Jesus into the hands of unlawful men, who then had Him put to death. What is the talk of forgiveness.
Judas was one step away. He felt sorrow for his sin. He left the ungodly profit behind. But he didn’t call on the mercy of God. We often sin, “What can wash my sins away — Nothing but the blood of Jesus…” Jesus died for people like Judas. People who were overcome by sin, and needed help out. Sound familiar? We are all in Judas’ situation at one time or another. We don’t have to say a greeting to Jesus and kiss Him on the cheek in the Garden of Gethsemane to betray Him. We’ve all betrayed the Lord by our own sins, whatever they might be. And to be revived of them, forgiven for them, we must appeal to God for His wondrous mercy. He is the Creator of all things, grace and mercy being no exception.
Judas’ sin was not so hideous that it could not be forgiven. The apostle John says, “If we confess ours sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Judas could have been freed from his sin, but he had lost hope He had lost faith. He had lost heart. In his mind, nothing could be done for his sin. And thus, instead of fleeing to the only Refuge and Deliverer of the soul, he fled to the judge of all mankind, on his own accord.
What lesson can we learn from Judas? When I look at Judas, I see a lesson in the grace and mercy of god. Judas did not receive God’s mercy, not because God would not give it, but because on Judas didn’t ask for it. The lesson for us, realize that God is merciful. Realize that God is a forgiving Father, who is glad to take His children back, if only they would ask.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men…”