Summary: Have you ever wondered, “What could have been?” Imagine what could have been if Judas had not committed suicide! This sermon examines “what could have been” if Judas had repented and hanged himself.

Judas: What Could Have Been?

Chuck Sligh

April 11, 2021

NOTE: A PowerPoint presentation is available for this sermon by request at Please mention the title of the sermon and the Bible text to help me find the sermon in my archives.

The inspiration for this message was Den Guptil’s sermon on titled “What Judas Missed.” However, I took the sermon in a totally different direction. You should check out his sermon as well and see which you like best, or if both give inspiration to you to go in an altogether different direction.

BIBLE READING AS THE TEXT: Mathew 26:14-16; 26:45-50 and 27:1-5


Illus. – Before modern organs came into vogue in the 1880s, organs were very small and required a blower, a man whose job it was to operate a pair of bellows that connected directly to the windchest to ensure a steady flow of air. One Sunday, the organist at St Paul’s Cathedral in London caught sight of the great early 19th century composer Felix Mendelssohn in the congregation.

After seated to listen to the sermon, he sent the great composer a note inviting him to play the organ after the service and Mendelssohn agreed. The congregation, already shuffling out of their pews to go home, suddenly stopped and sat down again to listen entranced.

Then half of the way through, in the middle of a glorious crescendo, the music died away, and the organ went silent. The organ blower had gone home for lunch! What could have been one of the great highlights of his life…he threw away for something to eat.

Well, that’s one of those “What could have been?” moments that we chuckle over today, but it really had no real-life consequences.

But people often ask “What could have been?” over life choices that have impacted them major ways: An alcoholic might ask what could have been if I had not taken that first drink. The drug addict might ask what could have been if I had not started taking drugs. The unwed mother might ask what could have been if I had not had premarital sex. A divorced man might ask himself what could have been if had sought marital counseling before it was too late.

The greatest “What could have been?” questions revolve around life and death: What could have been if my husband had not joined Army, where he was killed in Iraq. What could have been if my friend had not been killed by a drunk driver. What could have been if my brother had not committed suicide.

Suicide—The ultimate “What could have been?” conundrum. When people take their own lives, for whatever reason, the loved ones left to pick up the pieces wonder what could have been if they had not snuffed out their lives. What accomplishments might my son have achieved if he had not committed suicide? How many grandchildren will I never have because my daughter took her life? On and on the questions go.

We all know the story of Judas Iscariot—the thief, the plotter, the betrayer of our Lord, the man who repented of his evil deed and…then went out and hanged himself. We don’t know a lot about Judas. We do know that his father was Simon and that his surname, Iscariot, might indicate he was from the town of Kariot, although this has not been definitively determined. The gospel writers tell us that he was the treasurer of the twelve Apostle, and that he had been stealing from the treasury.

But why would Judas betray his closest friend to their worst enemies, resulting in Jesus being condemned to suffer the most horrific form of capital punishment Rome could mete out? I know of at least six possible theories that have been postulated by various commentators.

I won’t take the time to list them all, but after weighing them all, I think the most plausible theory is that Judas never intended for Jesus to die that day. Instead he hoped to force Jesus’ hand so that when He was betrayed, Jesus would use His miraculous power to liberate Israel. If so, think what a tragedy Judas experienced when he saw his plan go up in smoke. And oh, how it must have broken Jesus’ heart that day.

But let me pose a question for you this morning: What could have been in Judas’s life if he had not committed suicide that morning? When you compare the different gospel accounts, it’s clear that Judas hanged himself before Jesus was even sentenced. Before Pilate finished questioning Jesus, Judas was dead. Before Barabbas was released, Judas was death. Before Jesus was tortured by the Roman guards and crucified, Judas was dead.

The real tragedy is that when Jesus looked down from the cross at those who had unjustly condemned Him in a kangaroo court, struck Him, scourged Him, mocked Him, spit on Him, pulled His beard, crushed a crown of thorns deep into His head, nailed Him on a cross—when Jesus saw them all, He cried out saying, ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” But Judas never heard those words; he was already dead.

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