March 24, 2024


Passage: Luke 22:3-5, 47-48

3 Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. 4 He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray [Jesus] to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money.
47 While [Jesus] was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”
— Luke 22:3-5, 47-48, ESV

Over the last half century, there has been a tremendous undertaking in the religious world to rehabilitate the image of Judas Iscariot.  It started with the discovery of the pseudepigrapha “Gospel of Judas” in the 1970’s, ostensibly produced in the second century after the first coming of Christ.  In it, the notorious Judas becomes a gnostic sage who did Jesus a favor by releasing Him from His body.

This theme was picked up in the Broadway musical and notable film, “Jesus Christ, Superstar,” in which Judas, not Jesus, is the narrator and actual superstar.  The same motif is played out in the popular book and movie, “The Last Temptation of Christ.”  Even the contemporary hit “The Chosen” plays Judas as an astute businessman credited with launching the preaching ministry of the upstart Messiah from Galilee.  If only they had consulted the real Bible.

Admittedly, the Scriptures do not have a great deal to say about Judas.  What we do find is not flattering.  His dastardly deed is predicted by the minor prophet Zechariah (ref. 11:12-13), then the four Gospel writers bring him into low light.

Judas’ Biography

If you accept the Bible as inspired and authoritative, here is what you can know about Judas Iscariot:

Judas, or Judah to his Jewish family and friends, was the son of Simon, or Simeon, Iscariot.  His given name was the proudest and most popular to be had among first-born sons of Judean Jews.  The source of his surname is less sure, however, as it must have been derived from one of two suspected sources.

There was a secret, anti-government militia in Judea known as the Sicarii, or sons of the dagger.  Perhaps father and son belonged to them.  More tamely, the name was probably taken from their hometown, Kerioth, south of Jerusalem.

Judas was one of the last two added to the twelve by the Lord Jesus Christ.  They were the only two from Judea.  The first ten came from Galilee.  It is suspected Judas was a Zealot, associated as he was with “Simon the Zealot.”  The Zealots were the radical political party in Israel, preferring militant action over patient politics.  Maybe Judas sported that dagger after all.

Judas would have been prone to messiah seeking, though not looking for one like the suffering servant described by the beloved prophet Isaiah.  Judas, the Zealots, and many others in Israel wanted a militant messiah.  They were looking for someone to lead the overthrow of the Roman overlords and make Israel great again.

Then, Judas of Kerioth met Jesus of Nazareth, and the rest is redemptive history.

Judas’ History

Among the twelve tribes of the Old Covenant, one went totally apostate, even before the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities.  In the last book of the Bible, John’s Apocalypse, Dan is no longer listed among the twelve tribes of Israel.

So it would be among the twelve Apostles Jesus designated at the outset of His New Covenant ministry.  When the roll is called up yonder, Judas Iscariot’s name will not be heard.  He squandered a golden opportunity after such a great start.

Can you imagine what it must have been like to have Jesus choose you to be one of His twelve Apostles?  How exciting it must have been, especially when your name is the last one called.  And remember, Judas and Simon Z. were from Judea, where the men were thought to be intellectually and spiritually superior to those from Galilee.

Then the group made Judas their treasurer.  As itinerate evangelists all, Jesus and the twelve collected offerings and other gifts from the villagers they met.  Someone trusted had to be in charge of the till.  They trusted Judas Iscariot the most.

Judas then began to buckle underneath the weight of religious fame and financial authority.  He began to embezzle money from the church account.  He began to criticize Jesus and His faithful followers.  He totally excoriated Mary for her lavish act of worship during Jesus’ last trip to Jerusalem.  The others did not see it at the time, but Jesus saw right through Judas.

On that last trip, Judas became unravelled.  Jesus was not going to take over the government.  Jesus was going to die on the cross.  Judas cashed in and checked out.  Judas sold Jesus to the Sanhedrin.  Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss.  Ever since, the name Judas Iscariot is synonymous with traitor, even more-so than Benedict Arnold.

Judas Iscariot would not live with the moniker very long.  Realizing his treachery would be made known, he sought remedy in remorse rather than repentance.  He did not run to the cross, beg for forgiveness, and let the blood of Jesus take away his sin.  He ran to religious headquarters, tried to buy his salvation by giving back the blood money, and found himself rejected by the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man.

What do you do when this world is not your home, and you are not going to make it to Heaven?  Judas committed suicide.  The thirty pieces of silver he took, and took back, bought the place where he was buried.  The Scriptures leave little doubt about the outcome of his soul.  The son of Iscariot is now also known by another name.  God called him the son of perdition, which means ultimate destruction, or eternal damnation.

Souls like Judas have to stand before the Lord.  I doubt they take any more responsibility for their sins in death than they did in life.  I’m sure Judas made excuses.

Judas’ Excuses

Money made me do it.  After all, it is the root of all evil.  Jesus was going to die anyway, why not make a little money on the deal?  Judas probably had a wife, kids, bills to pay.  So what if he sold out the Lord to put more bills of sale in his own pocket.  I think most people, like Judas, value money more than the Messiah.

The devil made me do it.  He’s got a point.  Satan did get intimately involved with Judas.  But contrary to the common conception of possession, the devil does not come in uninvited.  And possessed people don’t twist their heads and spew green vomit.  They just betray the Lord.  When one betrays God to turn to the dark side, the dark side betrays them worse than, well, Judas Iscariot.

God made me do it.  This proves Judas was a hyper-Calvinist.  He did not have any choice.  Jesus chose Judas, Jesus chose to die, Judas felt compelled to help Jesus to the finish line.  This is the line taken by gnostics, other heretics, and bad film makers everywhere.  They help Judas live on.

Judas’ Legacy

Judas lives on in the hearts and minds of every lost person who has ever lived.  You do not have to be a notorious traitor to go to Hell.  You just have to make Judas’ excuses.

Most people make excuses about money.  When Wash “Judas Iscariot” Hogwallop betrayed his cousin and companions in “O Bother, Where Art Thou,” he brazenly said, “I got to do for me and mine!”  Most people put “me and mine” over God, the word of God, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  God might get lucky enough to take second place.  But second place is a place God won’t take.

Most people blame the devil, if they believe in one.  They play the Geraldine card, from a character made famous by Flip Wilson.  “The devil made me do it.”  Translated in other ways, one could just as easily say, “I’m only human,” or “Everyone else is doing it,” or “God wants me to be happy,” or “I’ll pay it back later.”  That’s pretty much what Judas Iscariot thought.  How did that work out for him?

Still, some have the audacity to blame God.  This takes guts, if not faith.  The Old Testament character Job, who had both, toed that line, but quickly backed off after a personal encounter with The Almighty.  Secular humanists, rank Arminians, and hyper-Calvinists have a common criticism of God.  If He is sovereign, and if He predestines, then man cannot be held responsible for sin, unbelief, and a lack of repentance.

He is, He does, and you are.  God made you in His image, which means you have communicable attributes at your disposal to love, tell the truth, and live with integrity.  God gave you a conscience, a moral arbiter of right and wrong.  God endowed you with the freedom to make choices, choices which invariably have consequences.  Added to these, God has given you a Messiah betrayed by a friend, a cross and an empty tomb, the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Choose to accept them or start making your excuses.

Most would not sell out the Lord for thirty pieces of silver.  Most people would not sell their soul to the devil.  Most people just sell out, choosing lesser things to love above God and the gospel.  In this way they are like Judas, who had no excuses.

Through many dark hour I’ve been thinking about this,
That Jesus Christ was betrayed by a kiss.
But I can’t think for you, you’ll have to decide,
Whether Judas Iscariot had God on his side.
— Bob Dylan

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