DID THE DEVIL MAKE HIM DO IT?
21 After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus' side, 24 so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
— John 13:21-30, ESV
All four Gospels tell of the treachery of the top turncoat of all time, Judas Iscariot. The fourth Gospel mentions him the most and seems to understand him the best. John rightly reveals the fake disciple as a traitor, a thief, and a tool of the devil.
But who is to blame for the bad faith that brought Jesus into the hands to the Jewish militia, then the Roman soldiers, and then to the old, rugged cross? Do we charge the disciple that double-crossed the Lord, or the devil who “entered into” Judas’ heart, mind, and soul? Is Judas responsible for the betrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ, or did the devil make him do it?
As Jesus sat down with the twelve disciples for the last supper, He said, “One of you will betray me.” He knew exactly which one it was, though the fact remained hidden from the other eleven until later in the Garden of Gethsemane. All were at the table, all received bread from the host, but only one was dismissed by Jesus and escorted by Satan into the “night.” It is plain as day in the text, Judas Iscariot betrayed the Lord Jesus Christ.
Such a cataclysmic crime is not carried out in one cut. This scene was a long time in the making. Judas’ betrayal betrayed Judas’ character, a character formed by a vast array of free and willing choices Judas made during his lifetime.
His real name was Judah of Kerioth. As far as we know, he and the second Simon were the only members of the twelve from Judea. Since this Simon was certainly a Zealot, it is safe to assume that Judas was, too. This means Judas chose to mix militant politics into his religion, a cantankerous cocktail that often fails to purify politics and always poisons religion. Those who drink this kool-aid tend to denigrate and destroy anyone who disagrees with them. While the second Simon joined the first by becoming a devout follower of Jesus, Judas lashed out at his leader by becoming Christ’s betrayer. When getting your way is more important that doing things God’s way, you will betray the Lord, too.
When offered the opportunity to follow Jesus as a disciple, Judas chose the popular path of hypocrisy. He could have politely declined the gospel, admitted his unbelief, and gone on with his life. This would have been unfortunate, of course, but it would have also been honest, and put Judas in a position to perhaps close with Christ at some point in the future. But hypocrisy, faking to follow Christ, hardens the heart until it ultimately reaches a breaking point, where betrayal ensues. As long as you pretend to be a follower of Christ, you will never be a follower of Christ, you will only betray Him again and again.
When trusted by Jesus and the other disciples with the treasury, Judas chose to be a thief (ref. John 12:6). His greed for money did not begin with the chief priests’ offer of thirty pieces of silver. Selfish gain at the expense of others’ generosity was part of his character all along. You really cannot serve both God and money. And when you put money or material things ahead of Christ and the kingdom of God, you betray the Lord.
An autopsy of Judas’ soul reveals a death by a thousand cuts, a myriad of fateful choices, a commitment to put earthly politics over spiritual matters, pride and appearance over personal integrity, and money over God. These were the choices Judas made with his life, the last one being the blatant betrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And no one knew it at the time, except God, and Judas, and Satan.
Count the people in the upper room that night. At first glance there are thirteen, the Lord plus twelve. Only three of the twelve are mentioned by name in this text. There is the ever verbal Simon Peter, the “disciple, whom Jesus loved” (the first of five such beautiful references to John in the Gospel), and Judas Iscariot, our traitor.
But then a fourteenth person is identified, “Satan,” a name found sparingly in the Old Testament (18 times, mostly in Job) yet flows freely in the New Testament (35 times, mostly in the Gospels and Revelation). He is also referred to as “the devil” (35 times, only in the New Testament).
Who is Satan, what is he doing in the room, and what did he do to Judas?
Satan is not merely an idea or a symbol. He is an angelic being created by God, for reasons known only to God, who set himself up as the anti-God. He is under the control of our sovereign God, as attested especially in the books of Job and John. He can only do what God gives him permission to do, and he seems to acts as God’s garbage man, there to take a man away when God gives up on him. Yes, God gives up (ref. Romans 1:24-28).
In the tragic case of the traitor Judas, Satan tempted Judas and Satan took Judas. The devil tempted Judas all along with prestige, power, and money. Then, when Judas’ sin was ripe, Satan harvested him, taking him farther than he wanted to go, keeping him longer than he wanted to stay, and costing him more that he ever thought he would pay. Judas paid with his life and, more importantly, his soul for the betrayal of Jesus Christ.
But, the devil did not make Judas Iscariot do it, because Satan is not sovereign. Judas made free and willing choices that belied his unbelief, hypocrisy, greed, and pride. And when Judas’ sin got so sickening that God gave up on him, God allowed Satan to take him away, into “the night,” into a Godless eternity.
The devil cannot make you do anything you do not choose to do yourself. God, on the other hand, can make you do things you would never choose to do yourself, like repent and believe, and He does it through the means of grace of the preaching of the word of God.
You have just heard the word of God preached. Will you made a free and willing choice to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who allowed Himself to be betrayed, arrested, and crucified for your sins? Will you make a free and willing choice to be the kind of disciple that Jesus loves, a true and loving and obedient disciple? Will you make a free and willing choice, right now, to never, never betray the Lord Jesus Christ?
“What you are going to do, do quickly.”