Summary: This is an Easter Sermon looking at what Judas missed by killing himself before the resurrection.
(I began this message with a Video Clip from Jesus Christ Superstar, the scene where Judas returns to the high priest and then hangs himself.)
Each year since 1970 at Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London England thousands of international visitors are asked to name which person, past or present, real or fictional they hated or feared the most. The name that has topped the list the most number of times has been Adolph Hitler, this year of course it’s Osama Bin Laden. But through the years it has included Idi Amin, Richard Nixon, Margaret Thatcher, Jack the Ripper and two years ago Liam Gallagher front man for the British rock band Oasis made the list. But as far as I can tell Judas Iscariot has never made the list and that surprised me. I mean think about it, this was the man who betrayed Jesus Christ, the son of God, King of Kings, Lord of Lord, Prince of Peace. His name is synonymous with betrayal. None of the other eleven disciples made Collins English Dictionary, but Collins defines Judas as “Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, a traitor or betrayer.”
If immortality was Judas’ goal he certainly achieved it. Really people just don’t like Judas or what he did. When was the last time you saw a Saint Judas Church? And a few years back when Biblical names were the flavour of the month for children’s names remember? We had Jepthaths and Joshuas, Joshias and Jeremiahs and Aarons and Levis and Obadiahs, but you never heard anyone naming their bouncing baby boy, Judas.
For that matter you might remember that Jesus younger brother’s name was Judas. But when he wrote the letter that would eventually become a part of our New Testament he used the diminutive of his name which was Jude. Now we don’t read the books of I and II Pete or I and II and III Jack, so why was it that Judas felt that he had to shorten his name to Jude? Because he didn’t want to be identified with Judas Iscariot, would you?
But who was he? Who was this Judas Iscariot? Well we don’t really know all that much about him, we do know that his father was Simon and that his surname Iscariot was probably a combination of the Hebrew words Ish and Kariot, which would then be translated, Man of Kariot. From the scriptures we discover that he was appointed treasurer of the twelve and that he became a thief, stealing from that very same treasureary. But what would compel a man to sentence his closest friend to one of the most horrible deaths imaginable?
There have actually been six reasons suggested as to why Judas might have betrayed Christ.
1) Being from Kaerrioth Judas would have been the only non Galilean in the group. I may be that he grew bitter over being odd man out and that drove him to his dastardly deed.
2) It may be that he turned crowns evidence to save his own skin and then saw the enormity of what he had done.
3) Maybe plain and simply he did it out of greed. He did it for the money. He probably would have denied that, but you know what they say, when anyone says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money. The thirty pieces of silver would have been worth close to $10, 000.00 today. Not a bad piece of change for an evenings work. Sometimes money talks so loud that it can’t be ignored.
4) It could well be that Judas came to hate Christ because he couldn’t hide his inner self from Christ. Other’s looked at Judas and saw one of Jesus’ disciples a good man, a kind man, but Jesus saw him for who he truly was and so he had to destroy the one who saw into the darkest corners of his heart.
5) It might be that Judas’ last name wasn’t a derivative of the Hebrew Ish Kariot as much as it was a form of the Greek word that meant “Dagger Bearer.” Now the Dagger Bearers were a band of violent nationalists who were prepared to use every means available to them, including assassination to free Palestine from Roman rule. Perhaps Judas had set his hopes on a Messiah who would deliver his people from his oppressors. And then in bitter disappointment he betrayed him.
6) More likely then not though, Judas never intended for Jesus to die that day, instead he hoped to force his hand, so that when he was betrayed he would use his power to liberated Israel. If that was the case then what a tragedy Judas witnessed when he saw he plan fly to pieces.
Judas Iscariot; friend, confident, disciple, treasurer, traitor. How it must have broken Jesus heart when Judas stepped out of the crowd of those who came to arrest him and betrayed him with a kiss on the cheek.