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Judas

 

        Jesus saw the crowd approaching Him, their torches and lanterns illuminating their number. A solitary figure led the way, but how did Jesus first recognize him—by sight or by sound? Jesus knew Judas Iscariot had betrayed Him and was escorting a throng to make the arrest, but did Jesus first recognize Judas’s face, or did the jingle of the money bag give him away?

     Perhaps each of Judas’s steps through Gethsemane echoed louder the 30 shekels of silver, the noise that evil makes.

     Possessor of the darkest of human hearts, Judas Iscariot could never be described as mighty in spirit. But his betrayal is a powerful reminder of the horrific possibilities within the pale of the human heart. There is much to learn from a man who studied under Jesus Christ Himself and yet betrayed Him with the unmitigated gall of a kiss.

     "He lives on the stage of Scripture as an awful warning to the uncommitted follower of Jesus who is in his company but does not share his spirit," writes R. P. Martin.

     The highest title Judas ascribed Jesus was "Rabbi," never "Lord," or "Master." Judas never belonged to Jesus. It was possible then, as it is now, to claim allegiance to God while never handing over the soul’s title deed.

     Jesus stressed that He had chosen the 12 disciples, among whom Judas always is listed last. Psalm 41:9 predicts that Christ would be betrayed by a friend who was close and trusted. Zechariah 11:12-13 reveals the amount of the blood money.

     So it is clear that Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him, yet we cannot question the Lord’s choice of Iscariot ("man of Kerioth") as an apostle. God would that none perish, and Judas’s sin was all his own. Even if his early association with Christ was in earnest, he allowed Satan a foothold by prostituting his station as treasurer of the disciples in his pilfering of the money box. Satan transformed that foothold into a chasm.

     "The fact remains that while he may have been sincere, he was not whole-hearted in his decision," Henry Lockyer writes of Judas. The most sobering aspect of the betrayal, Lockyer notes, is that without regeneration one can be in Christ’s service and still not know Him as Savior and Lord.

     The faces of depravity are many, and Judas provides prime examples. We can see how, as he spiraled toward destruction, Judas grew colder by the sin:

Some scholars believe that Judas first aligned with Jesus because he believed Him to be the king that would overthrow Rome’s rule of Israel. How dangerous it is to seek to use Christ for our own purposes or to attempt to render Him something we want Him to be.

Exodus 21:32 reveals that 30 shekels of silver was the price paid by someone whose ox killed another person’s slave. It was equivalent of $10. It remains possible to undervalue Christ today. Is He over all your thoughts, or is He an afterthought?

"The forces of hell are all glad when men are willing to sell Christ for the sum of this world’s pleasures and possessions," Lockyer says. "Lower the flag, compromise, become a good mixer, and semi-religious people will be ready to hail you as a ‘good fellow.’"

Thus spills over unto availing one’s self to the enemy. To compromise, to refuse to forsake a sin, to belligerently claim one’s independence, is to willfully lay raw meat before the roaring lion. Judas had a love of money that led him to dabble in the treasury, and it set into motion his diabolical destiny.

The treachery of Judas also discloses that the scars of sin callus ever thicker. The Bible records the numerous times Jesus lovingly reached out to call back Judas. Not once did Judas even hint at responding. For instance:

     Two nights before the betrayal, Judas questioned Mary of Bethany’s anointing of Jesus. While Mary’s heart was in the right place, Judas asked why the disciples shouldn’t sell the costly perfume and feed the poor. But Judas had seen Jesus feed 5,000 with no money. It was the greed of a man who stole from the treasury that prompted Judas’s indignant query.

     Though Jesus rebuked Judas, the traitor ignored the message. The Gospels indicate that Judas, perhaps even angry over the rebuke, immediately approached the religious establishment with an offer to betray Jesus.

     Next, John 13:26 states that Jesus identified His betrayer by dipping a morsel of bread and handing it to Judas at The Last Supper. Traditionally this was a gesture reserved only for honored guests. Judas’s response was cold. Satan entered him, and Judas rose and departed, shutting the door in the Savior’s face. "And it was night," John writes.

     So all was dark when Judas approached Jesus in Gethsemane. One final time, Jesus gave Judas the chance of eternal asylum. Matthew 26:50 records that Jesus addressed Judas, even after the dastardly kiss, as "friend." But sin had so blinded Judas that he could not see the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It was his last chance. A hangman’s noose would usher him into eternal torment.

     The story of the betrayal still resonates not only because of Judas’s evil audacity but also because we all realize the wickedness of our flesh. How many people today attend church regularly and give Jesus intellectual assent but not their hearts? How many call Him King only to assume their own thrones?

     How many approach Him with a symbolic kiss but never dare embrace Him?