Greater love has no one than this,
that someone lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13 (ESV)
Series Focus: “Piece by Piece”
Do you have a go-to person? One you can count on to walk you through an unpleasant situation or show up for you in a pinch? I know who my people are and I am so very grateful for them. In my circle of friendship, we all have unique personalities, abilities, quirks, and even some annoying qualities. But when the chips are down, we know who will be at our side.
The Bible portrays many friend circles. Even Jesus had one. He chose every one of them with intention. They had different roles and strengths, but their commonalities were that they ALL left everything behind to follow Him and not one of them knew the full scope of what they were signing up for. The twelve—Simon, Andrew, James & John (the sons of Zebedee), Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot. Scripture does not acquaint us with the details of each one’s full relationship with Jesus, some of their stories are told with more detail. Today, we are paying a visit to Judas Iscariot. Every decision Judas made along the way would be a part of his forever legacy.
Judas Iscariot was first introduced in the Gospel of Mark as ‘Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.’ What a tagline. It is true, but still sorrowful at the same time. As we read through all four Gospels, we find portions of Judas’ narrative. He was with Jesus during His ministry, witnessed miracles, received the power to perform healings, and even put in charge of keeping the money bag for the ministry work. Simultaneously, he was a thief, he was wicked, and he betrayed the Savior of the world. He made the deal in Matthew 26:14-16:
Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver Him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray Him.
With the deal made, Judas still continued walking in the circle with Jesus. Pause here for a moment and think about your own relationship with Christ. We may not have directly handed Jesus over to be crucified, but we may very well have chosen something else in place of Him. When we go toward sin, stop reading the Word, or give up time being still with Him, we are denying Him access to us. While we ignore His presence in our lives, we can still claim to be followers of Him, can’t we? It may not sound like betrayal, but we should examine our hearts nonetheless.
What was about to happen was revealed during what is known as the Last Supper. Jesus announced the news that one of the twelve would betray Him. I can hear the gasps and feel the confusion of what might have gone on in that room. Here is an account of that conversation:
When it was evening, He reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, He said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to Him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped His hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.” (Matthew 26:20-25 ESV)
Judas walked step by step with Jesus for three years. The group would have trusted him just as any other disciple. With Satan whispering in his ear, tempting him, pushing him to deceive Christ, we might be inclined to believe he had no choice. Scripture doesn’t tell us whether Judas fought the urge to turn Jesus over or not, so we cannot know for certain. But we know Jesus knew, and chose Judas to be in His circle, anyway.
I know Jesus rescued me at a time I wasn’t His biggest cheerleader. He did it anyway. I guess that is why I am saddened that Judas couldn’t see past his greed to find freedom in Christ. In fact, Matthew 26:47-50 tells us Judas turned Him over with a show of affection.
While He was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, suddenly arrived. A large mob, with swords and clubs, was with him from the chief priests and elders of the people. His betrayer had given them a sign: “The One I kiss, He’s the One; arrest Him!” So he went right up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. “Friend,” Jesus asked him, “why have you come?”
Haven’t we all encountered a “Judas” in our personal life? Maybe not in our intimate circle, but perhaps within our extended relationships. If another’s cruel actions, harsh words, or deceit have startled you, you may have experienced the sting of betrayal. And some of us have been the betrayer. Jesus washed the feet of Judas, and He has provided a cleansing for us as well. In Judas’ case, the remorse he felt led him to take his own life. I can’t help but think Jesus would have forgiven him if only he had repented and asked. This is what Jesus provided us when He died on that cross. Forgiveness of sins, and a way to eternal life with Him.
Judas Iscariot was tempted with riches and will forever be remembered as the one who betrayed Jesus. But Paul reminds us that God will help us fight the temptations set before us:
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Judas’ story was one of great opportunity and extreme tragedy. He walked with the Messiah, but never fully acknowledged Him as the Son of God. In the end, the death of Christ brought our salvation. Choose Jesus. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And that is the best deal you will ever get.
Holding Fast to Hope,
Scripture references: John 14:6, 15:13; Matthew 26, Matthew 27; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Mark 3:19; 14:10-11; 43-45