"Judas?! Judas, is that you?!"
As 2020 approaches and I reflect on 2019, I can’t help but take my own spiritual inventory. Where have I missed the mark? What do I need to work on as a believer in Christ? How can I allow Christ to embolden me? Where do I need to step out in my faith? As I pray on these things and hand them over to God so I can be attuned to His will in the coming year, I have been struck by the people that serve as examples in the Scripture. We are so blessed that the Bible gives us repeated illustrations of what being an imperfect human while serving a perfect God looks like. Their faults, their flaws, and their struggles are not that different from our own when we really look at them.
However, there’s one person in the Bible I struggle with more than anyone else. He has managed to become synonymous with the worst kind of friend that you could possibly be. He’s depicted as evil and presented as sinister. He comes across as kind of greasy, greedy and just the epitome of two-faced. He makes me think of the type of person just waiting for my guard to drop so there is a clean shot to put a knife in my back. Often times, I have pictured him as Benny from the original Mummy movie. But, I have also pictured him acting like Lando Calrissian in the Empire Strikes Back, or even Cypher from the Matrix. As I am sure you guessed from the title and these examples, I am talking about Judas Iscariot. The one and only.
It is weird but as I take my spiritual inventory and think about Judas, I cannot shake that there is something about him that we never look at. We know that he sold Jesus out. We know that he handed Jesus over to the authorities which led to our Savior being executed like a common criminal. But, I am of the mindset that God has allowed nothing in His Word to go to waste. Everything that took place in Jesus’s life was foreknown and Jesus even knew Judas would betray Him. So, perhaps what we should be looking at with Judas is not what a horrible person he was for betraying Jesus, nor why did God allow this? I think the question we should be asking is what does God want us to learn from Judas’s life, betrayal and death; and, in what ways are we like him?
First things first, what do we know about Judas? We know he was one of the 12 Apostles (Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16). We know that he was given authority over unclean spirits, the ability to heal and that he was sent out like the other 11 Apostles (Matt 10; Mark 6: 7-13; Luke 9:1-6). We also know that when Jesus was anointed at Bethany, John indicated that it was Judas who questioned the use of the oil used to anoint Jesus due to its cost; and in all the widely used translations, Judas is called a thief (John 12:1-8). Further, we know that Judas agrees to betray Jesus (Matt 26:14-16); and Luke even states that Satan entered into him (Luke 22:3-6). Lastly, we know that after Jesus was betrayed and Judas realized He was going to be executed, he tried to return the silver, and then ultimately committed suicide out of what I assume was guilt and shame (Matt 27:3-10; Acts 1:18-19).
So, we know Judas started off great. He was healing people, casting out demons and spreading the Gospel. Jesus even put him in charge of the coin purse. But, we can see somewhere along the way greed set in. He wanted more. He began to feel entitled and literally started taking for himself what was in the ministries coin purse that Jesus entrusted him with. Then he started questioning Jesus’s decisions and actually argued against Jesus’s anointing at Bethany because of the cost of the oil. Think about that. Judas was there when Peter declared that Jesus was the Christ. He had seen the healings, the feeding of the 5,000 and the walking on water. He had witnessed Jesus raising people from the dead. He had been given the power to do things himself. Yet, he wanted to argue money and numbers with Jesus, who was God in the flesh! Really?
Thus, having already positioned himself in a place of questioning Jesus, maybe Judas thought that he had it all figured out and that he would hurry along the whole Messianic kingdom by turning Jesus over to the authorities? The sad fact is that while that is speculative, we know that Satan entered into Judas and helped him betray Christ. Satan’s MO is always to distort the truth, to doubt God and to shift our reliance to our own understanding! Not to rely on the understanding of God in full submission to His will has been Satan’s calling card since Eden. So, perhaps Judas thought he was doing all of them a favor and that he’d get Jesus past “it’s not yet my time.” Maybe that is why once he saw the error of his decision, he couldn’t handle it and decided to take his own life? Whatever the case may be there, we can clearly see from the Scripture that Judas had his own ideas on things. His attention was on the physical, the immediate and what his eyes, not unlike some of our own eyes at times, saw before him. He had his own agenda, which was not surrendered to God but ultimately used by God to work towards the good of those who love Him.
So, as I approach 2020, I’m all too aware that most of us have known people who have betrayed us. I know I have been both the betrayed, as well as the guy who has had to deal with the guilt of being the betrayer. I also know that like Judas, many of us have fallen victim to thinking that we know best, too; and more often we have just as much in common with Judas as with those who have suffered betrayal. Whether it is our selfish ambition that causes us to hurt others without thinking about the fall out, or it’s a sense of entitlement that allows us to take that which is not ours, or our ego has abounded unchecked to the point that we believe we know the plans God has made and we are just going to hasten it along regardless if it is His will or not—the bottom line is this is a byproduct of the sickness of sin that allows us to rationalize and justify it.
In saying that, I ask this: Do you think it’s possible that God wants us to remember Judas as an example of what not to do? Of how we should not become? Because even as Judas’s story concluded by fulfilling prophecy, doesn’t he show us what being obstinate and what doing it our way—WHILE WALKING WITH JESUS—looks like? Is it possible that God wants us to look at Judas and remember not to be too haughty in our own self-assessment? Because like Judas, how often as humans do we fall into the trap of thinking we know best? Or, that we know how something will go because of how we are, think or would do it? Add Satan into the mix playing on the ol’ ego and twisting the truth, couldn’t that be any one of us if we are not firmly committed to obeying Him and submitting to Him daily?
Perhaps Judas was just a selfish jerk who started off on the right track but lost his way, and got too big for his britches? One thing is certain, he is a clear example of somebody who started off with all the gifts but later couldn’t see God’s plan or hear God’s voice, even though the Word was literally standing in front of him, audibly speaking to him in a way that we do not have today except through the reading of the Holy Scripture. All I know is every day, I have to consciously choose to submit myself to Christ’s care and control because I do not want to stand before Jesus and have Him look at me and go, “Judas?! Judas, is that you?!” For He has made one thing abundantly clear, we can either choose to willingly submit and serve Him in loyal obedience, or He will use us to the good of those who will in our disobedience.
Until Next Time