THE TWELVE — JUDAS ISCARIOT
by Pastor Mike Fortune
August 22, 2009
Introduction video from Bluefish: “Never Too Late”
- Jesus loves hypocrites [John 6:64; John 12:2-7; John 13:23-30; John 18:2-5; Psalm 41:9; Matthew 26:50]
- Remorse is not the same as repentance [Matthew 27:3-5]
- It’s never too late [Acts 1:18-19; John 6:37; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10]
His name appears last in every biblical list of apostles except for the list in Acts 1—where it doesn't appear at all. Every other time it is coupled with the term "traitor." Which is sad for many reasons, one of which has to be because his parents had such high hopes for him. We know this is true because Judas's name is a form of the word Judah which means "Jehovah leads." Obviously, his parents must have longed for and hoped that Judas would be a follower of God and leader of men. Turns out they were only half right. For Judas was a thought leader among the apostles. But the irony of his name is that no other apostle, perhaps no other individual, was ever more clearly led by Satan than Judas was.
His surname, Iscariot, describes the region he came from. Joshua 15:25 mentions a place called Kerioth. That location combined with the Hebrew term ish for man means Judas was "a man from Kerioth" a humble town in Southern Judea. Which makes Judas the only one of the apostles who did not come from northern Galilee. Most of the other apostles were either related, like James and John, or knew each other so well before Jesus chose them they might as well have been brothers. But not Judas. His entrance and exit from their midst was strictly solo. Judas was an inside outsider. Jesus referred to people like him as a white washed tomb. Someone who looks good and orthodox on the outside, but whose inside is rotten. A hypocrite.
Jesus knew from the beginning. . .
He must have played that role well because when Jesus, near the end of his 3 ½ year ministry, predicted in the Upper Room that one of them would betray him, nobody looked at Judas. Why? Because he had already won their trust. John 12:6 says he was their treasurer taking care of the money and you don't put someone in charge of money you don't trust. We know Judas' father's name was Simon (John 6:71), but we know nothing more about his family or social background. But Jesus did. He knew him better than Judas knew himself. John 6:64 says, "64 Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him."
The call of Judas is not recorded in Scripture. But even if it were, do you really think it would've taken much convincing? He lived in a time of messianic hope and was eager for the coming of the Messiah. He was probably a young, zealous, patriotic Jew who did not want the Romans to rule and who hoped Jesus would overthrow them and restore the kingdom of Israel. He saw that Jesus had powers like no other man. That He taught like no other man. And while he accepted the position of a minister of Christ, he did not allow Jesus to mold him. Unlike the other Judas, also known as Jude whom we’ll study next time so come back for that, he didn't care about the kingdom for Christ's sake or the world's sake. He was interested only in what the kingdom could do for him. Position and prestige fueled his ambitions.
Our focus on Judas begins in John 12. Shortly after raising Lazarus from the dead and just before Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Jesus and the other apostles returned to Bethany on the outskirts of the city. Bethany was home to Mary and Martha. According to Matthew 26:6, Jesus was invited to a meal at the home of "Simon the Leper." His dear friend Lazarus was there with Mary and Martha who were helping serve the meal. John 12:1 says it was Sabbath—six days before the Passover. Verses 2-3 describe what happened next. "2Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume."
This act was shocking in its extravagance. To pour out any perfume from a small bottle, obviously designed to be used in small amounts, was wasteful. But to pour out an expensive bottle of perfume was nearly downright rude. Remember, Matthew 20:2 said that a denarius was basically a working man's daily wage. Three hundred denarii was therefore nearly a year’s salary! No wonder John 12:4-5 says "4But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5‘Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth three hundred denarii.'"
Apparently, his protest seemed reasonable because Matthew 26:8 says all the apostles were "indignant." This proves Judas was a thought leader among the apostles. And it also proves that Judas had deceived everyone except Jesus. John, writing his Gospel near the end of the first century, would later write in John 12:6, "6He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it." John didn't know that then. Matthew 26:8 says John was indignant too. But years later, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he clearly identified what Judas' motive was. Sheer greed.
Jesus loves hypocrites. . .and everyone else!
Jesus responded to Judas in verse 7. "‘7Leave her alone,' Jesus replied. ‘It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.'" He could have blasted Judas. Condemned him. Publicly humiliated him. Exposed him for the hypocrite he was. But that's not how Jesus operated. And this is point number one. Jesus loves hypocrites. Documented or undocumented. Insured or uninsured. Wealthy or poor. The greatest and the least. Churched and unchurched. Pacifists and soldiers. Judas Priest and Judas Iscariot. He loves them all! Do we? In word and in deed? Or aren't we all just as hypocritical as Judas? Betraying Jesus in small or great ways? Paul would later write an entire chapter in 1 Corinthians 13 describing how we can know if we are loving like Jesus. Because His kind of love is "patient and kind, does not boast and is not rude, it not self-seeking or easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs."
But Judas didn't have that kind of love in his heart. And this event at Simon's house appears to have been the last straw for Judas because immediately after telling the story of Jesus' anointing, Matthew 26:14-16 says, "14Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15and asked, ‘What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?' So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. [Which, according to Exodus 21:32, was the price of a slave.] 16From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over."
Jesus loved Judas, too
The contrast is staggering don't you think? Jesus is anointed with a staggering sacrifice and mind boggling love by Mary with perfume normally reserved for kings and royalty that was worth one year's annual salary. While Judas agrees to betray Jesus, the real King of Kings and Lord of Lords, for 30 pieces of silver, pocket change, the price for a common slave. Until now, he had been working behind the scenes. Doubting Jesus. Questioning him. Causing division. But now the greed he harbors leads him to betray Jesus. Judas was apparently so upset that he lost out on embezzling his percentage of the 300 denarii perfume that he was willing to betray the Son of God for 30 pieces of silver. It was next to nothing. But it was all he could get. And he took it. He was a hypocrite of extraordinary proportions. Yet Jesus still loved him like crazy! Point number one.
Proof of this can be seen as our sad story continues 5 days later in John 13. It begins the apostle John's lengthy account of what happened Thursday in the upper room on the night of Jesus' arrest. Having already taken the money to betray Jesus, Judas finds his way back and blends into the group pretending nothing unusual had happened. They're all there in the upper room. It was at this point that Jesus got up and washed all of the apostles' feet. Which means He washed Judas' feet too. Judas apparently just sat there utterly unmoved by Jesus' continued friendship and humility.
Peter, on the other hand, was so deeply moved by Jesus' act of humility that at first he was ashamed and refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet. But when Jesus said in verse 8, "‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.'", Peter replied, "‘9Then, Lord,' Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!'" Jesus replied in John 13:10, "10Jesus answered, ‘A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.'"
This was Judas’ 1st cue to exit stage right. But apparently, he missed it. Because in verses 18-19, Jesus speaks even more directly. A 2nd time. "‘18I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: 'He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.'' ‘19I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He.'" Which was a reference everyone in the room would have recognized as coming from Psalm 41:9 which reads, "9Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me." Where David compares his close friend Ahitophel’s betrayal of him to his son Absalom [see 2 Samuel 15:12 for more on that].
But Jesus makes a 3rd, even more explicit prediction about his impending betrayal shortly after that. In verse 21, he says, "21After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.'" This finally woke them up. The apostles could not so easily dismiss this 3rd statement from their minds. So much so that Matthew 26:22 says, "22They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, ‘Surely not I, Lord?'" Even Judas, playing the role of orthodox believer, asked like everyone else in verse 25, "25Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, ‘Surely not I, Rabbi?' Jesus answered, ‘Yes, it is you.'"
John 13:23–30 recaps this episode. "23One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, ‘Ask him which one he means.' 25Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?' 26Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.' Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. 27As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. ‘What you are about to do, do quickly,' Jesus told him, 28but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor. 30As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night."
Judas betrayed Jesus
Judas apparently went straight from the Upper Room to the Sanhedrin. Maybe he figured that if Jesus was to be crucified as He had said so often, the event must come to pass whether he betrayed him or not. So if Jesus was going to die either way, he might as well profit from it. On the other hand, if Jesus really was the Messiah, the people who loved him would rally around him and proclaim him King before He was crucified. And he would get the credit for forcing the humble King to take the throne. He thought he had a win win situation carved out for himself.
According to Luke 22:6, Judas had been waiting for an opportunity to betray Jesus in the absence of the multitude. Verse 6 reads, "6He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present." But he was a coward. He was afraid of the crowds. He wanted the betrayal to be neat and tidy. Quiet and convenient. Three times Jesus specifically addressed Judas in the Upper Room. His cover was nearly blown. He couldn't wait any longer. So at the very moment Jesus was instituting the Lord's Supper, Judas was making arrangements for his capture.
Judas knew it was Jesus' routine to go to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray with His apostles. John 18:2 says, "2Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples." So when he leaves the Upper Room to update the Sanhedrin, he tells them where Jesus will be. All alone. With the only crowd present being the one he brings with him. The Supper is over. Jesus and the other 11 apostles are in the Garden of Gethsemane. Eight of the eleven are ways off. Peter, James, and John are nearer by. John 18:3 describes what happens next. "3So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons."
It's obvious from this description that Judas did not believe that Jesus would allow Himself to be arrested. After all, he had himself seen Jesus pull a Houdini like move too many times. Miraculously walking through crowds of people, like in Luke 4:30, who were prepared to stone Him. So Judas apparently demanded that a full cohort of soldiers, probably from the Antonio Fortress, next to the temple, be sent fully armed expecting the worse. Mark 14:43 says the soldiers came armed with "swords" and "clubs." Historians say a typical cohort of soldiers had 600 men. No exact figure is given in Scripture. But Mark calls it a crowd. Matthew 26:48 (KJV) adds this little detail. It says Judas told the soldiers to "Hold him fast." Which is ironic because if he had merely done that in spirit and in truth, he probably wouldn't be in the position he is in now. John figured that out. He would later write in 1 John 2:28, "28And now, dear children, continue in him, [he might as well have said, ‘Hold fast to Him'] so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming." He would add in Revelation 3:25, "25Only hold on to what you have until I come."
And come Jesus did. When He saw the hundreds of soldiers with torches, lanterns, and weapons, John 18:4-5 says Jesus didn't cower. Unlike his traitor, He wasn't afraid of the crowds. "4Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?' ‘Jesus of Nazareth,' they replied. ‘I am he,' Jesus said." Jesus came forward and identified himself—making Judas' kiss unnecessary. But Judas kissed Him anyway. Which in Oriental custom, mafia movies, and Jackie's Italian family reunions, is pretty common. It was and is a sign of love, affection, and respect. However, Judas did not love Jesus. Had no affection for his agenda. So his kiss was more like a slap in the face. But Jesus, ever gracious, addressed his traitor as friend. In Matthew 26:50, "50Jesus replied, ‘Friend, do what you came for.'" John 18:12 says, "12Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus."
Judas was remorseful but not repentant
Matthew 27:3-4 says "3When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. 4 ‘I have sinned,' he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood.'" But remorse is not the same as repentance. And this is point number two.
Judas was sorry, not because he had sinned, but because his sin did not satisfy him the way he hoped. His premeditated and calculated plans were crashing all around him. Jesus really was the Messiah. And He really did come to save the world not Himself. His plans could not be manipulated or controlled. But the chief priests and elders were unsympathetic. They replied in Matthew 27:4, "‘What is that to us? That's your responsibility.'"
Matthew 27:5 says, " 5So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself." Acts 1:18-19 adds one final note to his death. "18(With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)" Apparently, he chose a tree on an overhang above some jagged rocks on the way to where Jesus would be crucified. Either the rope or the tree branch broke and Judas "burst open in the middle" and "all his entrails gushed out."
Thinking of the life of Judas, we can learn at least three lessons maybe more. Point number one. Jesus loves hypocrites. Even hypocrites who betray Him! Point number two. Remorse is not the same as repentance. Repentance is honestly saying and willingly [or becoming willing] to do a 180. To become as James 1:22 says hearers and doers of the Word. Because point number three, it’s never too late to say yes to Jesus.
Jesus loves you, too
Jesus wants to be your friend. He comes to you. Graciously identifies Himself. Courageously calls you His friend. In front of large crowds and witnesses. And then He died for you. The parables in Luke 15 make it clear that if it was only you. Or only me, he would have died for only you. Or only me. And in response, He asks for all of our heart. He knows we have nothing to offer. That we’re very ordinary. That like all his sincere children and genuine Christians, we will continue to fall and fail. But He also knows that when we admit we are weak, humble, and needy, He can become our strength and give us the conviction we need and the courage we lack. John 6:37 reminds us all that ALL who come to Jesus will NEVER be driven away.
The Bible is full of examples of people who murdered and did all kinds of crazy things that would prevent most people from hiring them. But not God. He can redeem those stories of hurt and fear and betrayal and turn them into testimonies of His grace. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 reminds us how that can happen. Let's read it together one more time. "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." Amen. For more information see John MacArthur's Twelve Ordinary Men pages 181-199.