Summary: A short intro to the person of Judas.
The arrest of Jesus John 18: 1-11
Last week we finished a bit early, and there were a few things that I wanted to see here. Now, when we hear the name Judas today it’s synonymous with Hitler, Dracula or some perverted mass murderer. It’s like it’s the epitome of everything wicked we can think of. There are people who have hateful guard dogs they call Judas and the reason they use that name is because no one is safe around them.
And the odd thing is, Judas was such a common name in Biblical times. It comes from the root Judah who was one the twelve sons of Jacob. Jacob’s blessing of Judah in Genesis 49 includes a passage that is traditionally understood by Christians to mean that Judah’s descendants would rule over the land of Israel, culminating with Jesus. In Revelation 7:7, Judah is at the top of the list of the tribes receiving the Seal of God for 12,000 of its members. The name Judah means "to praise." So, to be named Judah or even Judas was a name that had historical roots and prophetic implications.
There are actually three men named Judas mentioned in the New Testament. There was the author of the book of Jude, (And Jude was short for Judas and he was also the half-brother of Jesus) then there was the disciple named Thomas whose proper name was Judas Thomas Didymus and then there was Judas Iscariot. And the reason people used their second name or even an abbreviation of the first was to eliminate the hassle of having three people respond every time you called a name.
I remember we were having a family get together at my father in laws home when he lived in Port Franks, Ontario and there were four of us in the family who were pastors. There was him, his brother Stan who was also a pastor, my brother-in-law Joe and myself. The phone rang and someone yelled from the kitchen and said, “It’s for the pastor.” Well, all four of us got up to answer it. You see, there’s a bit of confusion when several people go by the same title. Or when Sally’s sister Susan had a baby girl she called her Lori which is also the name of Susan’s other sister. So, whenever they got together, there was big Lori and little Lori. And now little Lori is married and doesn’t want to be called little Lori anymore so we have problem again with the names. And you can imagine the hassle when all three of these disciples who named Judas were together day and night for over three years.
And the strange thing about Judas Iscariot is that none of the other disciples ever seemed to imagine that he was the one who would betray Jesus. And yet, if you look at all the paintings that are supposed to portray Judas, you would have to be an idiot not to know which one he was because Judas always looks like the sleaziest, most evil person you had ever met. Probably, the most famous one is DaVinci’s portrayal of the Last Supper where you see him sitting at the table clutching onto the money bag and in front of him is the little communion cup that’s been knocked over. If there was any truth at all to this picture, you’d have to wonder why none of the other disciples noticed him?
I mean, when Jesus said that someone at the table was going to betray Him they all said, “Is it I?” And nobody said, “Is it Judas?” If he were that obvious I think everyone would have looked back and said, “We suspected he was going to do something at some point but we certainly didn’t think it was that bad” but, that’s not what happened.
And when you read the New Testament you see that some of the writers still had almost a healthy respect for him whenever they mentioned his name. For instance, he was always referred to as one of the twelve. They don’t call him names and they never put him down. And that was because he seemed just as normal as the rest of them. And the fact that he appeared just like them, would have been a warning to all of them to examine themselves to make sure they were in the faith.
Judas, along with the other eleven were sent by Jesus to preach the gospel and they given "authority to cast out demons," and so we would assume that Judas was just as effective and successful as the rest of the disciples when it came to either. So, he would have preached the good news and confirmed the message with attesting signs and wonders and I have no doubt that he even made personal sacrifices to be part of the ministry, in the same way the others did. And I’m not saying this in defense of him but there must have seemed to be something in Judas in terms of his potential for service in the kingdom of God. There are some who’ve written to say that if Judas was able to do anything miraculous then it was the devil who had empowered him to do it. And although that may be true, we also have to consider that God uses His word to save people regardless of who preaches it.