Summary: This is part one of my Easter series. In this message I examine Judas the man in an attempt to help us understand that the traits that possibly made Judas betray Jesus is within all of us.
Easter – Judas Iscariot
During Bible study this past Thursday night I asked the class if they thought Judas went to heaven or hell. The responses from the group varied and led us into a lively discussion around what could send someone to hell. I think I was the only one who stated that I believed that he did in fact go to hell, but of course this is only my opinion and judgment. All we know about Judas for the most part is that he betrayed Christ. Many take that as enough to believe he went to hell and they need to know nothing else about the man. As I thought about my Easter message for this year, I asked myself what could have caused Judas to betray Jesus. This morning I want to attempt to share some information about Judas from a historical and biblical perspective to try and help us separate his last action (the betrayal) from his earlier ones. No matter where you read, Judas is only remembered for his last act but I want us to look at him as a person this morning. I want us to take a step back and not see him as some demon-possessed man who sold out Christ for thirty pieces of silver, but as a man period. This will not change his history, but hopefully will enable us to better look at ourselves. When I think of Judas I think that something led him to do what he did and while we may not know for certain what it was, I truly believe that Judas initially believed that Jesus was the Messiah and he was not walking with Him for his own personal gain. So let’s begin.
I. Judas Iscariot – The Person
Judas is widely known as the disciple who betrayed and enabled the arrest of his master, Jesus. All of the four gospels give us some insight into Judas but it is not possible with any certainty to draw very specific conclusions about his place among the twelve disciples. On lists in all three Synoptic Gospels (the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke are known as Synoptic Gospels because they tell similar stories in similar order using similar wording versus the book of John) Judas name appears last with the epithet “who betrayed Him.” Judas was called “Iscariot” most likely because he was from Kerioth, a town in southern Judea, which would mean that he was the only non-Galilean among the twelve and therefore the “odd man out” as some has suggested. When you read the Scriptures pertaining to him he seems to have been essentially lonely and misunderstood according to some writers.
When John writes about Judas, he referred to him as a thief (John 12:6); betrayer (John 18:2, 5); possessed by the devil (John 13:27); or the son of perdition – someone lost in hell (John 17:12). John’s gospel was written fifty plus years after Christ’s death and resurrection and it seems as if he could not describe Judas as bad enough in retrospect. Think about this, if you have a good friend, someone you share a lot of your time with, while you are with them you have mostly good thoughts of them. However, after they betray you, your thoughts of the person are now filtered through a filter of betrayal. Everything the person did now becomes suspect because they hurt you through their betrayal so you forget the good that you initially saw within them. I am not saying that Judas did not deserve every name that John gave him but we should consider that as John was one of the closest disciples to Jesus he was extremely hurt by Judas actions. Also consider the fact that after Jesus was arrested, all of the disciples had at one time or another denied or deserted their master and maybe Judas’ ultimate betrayal made them feel less ashamed about their own denial of Him. If you think I am really off base here, consider this point. Jesus, Himself, is acknowledged to have been a clear reader of personality and He must have first called Judas and then appointed him as the treasurer or accountant of the group. Jesus is not likely to have given Judas the job if it was to be a source of temptation to him. Also, I do not think Judas would have joined a band of penniless preachers who traveled from place to place depending on the support of others if he was a greedy and petty pilferer prior to joining the group. What I am saying is that Jesus must have seen in Judas a potentially useful member of His team, and Judas must have seen in Jesus the potential fulfillment of Messianic prophecy. At some point and for some reason, Judas made a decision to betray Jesus.