The Death of Judas

We are continuing our meditation on the hours before the conviction of Christ (Scroll down for yesterday’s devotional). The high priest had issued the decision that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy because He was saying that He was and is God. When Judas heard of the conviction, he was struck with guilt and the enormity of what he had done. The demons that controlled him now plagued his mind with condemning thoughts. Perhaps, he tried to assuage his guilt by dwelling on the last three years and trying to think of some sin in Jesus that could justify his action, but he found none. Jesus was totally innocent.

 3Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” 5And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. 6The chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood.” 7And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers. 8For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “AND THEY TOOK THE THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER, THE PRICE OF THE ONE WHOSE PRICE HAD BEEN SET by the sons of Israel; 10AND THEY GAVE THEM FOR THE POTTER’S FIELD, AS THE LORD DIRECTED ME” (Matthew 27:3-10).

Judas went back to the meeting place of the Sanhedrin to try and turn the decision, but they would hear none of it. The elders of Israel had paid thirty pieces of silver, i.e. the price of a slave that had been gored by an ox (Exodus 21:32). That’s how much the leaders of Israel valued their Messiah. They saw Jesus only as a blasphemer and a trouble-maker. Judas then threw the money through the doors of the temple as a sign of disgust against the priests. This brought the fulfillment of prophecy spoken more than 500 years previously by the prophet Zechariah. The reason Matthew says that it was the prophet Jeremiah (Matthew 27:9) was because the prophetic books in Hebrew began with the prophet Jeremiah. The prophetic word was clear as to how much the Jewish leaders of Israel valued Jesus:

12I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. 13Then the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.” So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the LORD (Zechariah 11:12-13).

Matthew tells us that Judas was seized with remorse (Matthew 27:3). It is possible that he was expecting a different outcome to his betrayal. If a false witness in a capital case like this was found guilty, it was punishable by a sentence of death. Perhaps, thinking that he would find relief from the spiritual condition in which he was, i.e. having a condemning conscience, Judas went and hanged himself. After he died, his body fell from the tree, and his entrails burst out (Acts 1:18). Even though he was filled with remorse, we never read that he fully repented. He did not seek for restoration; instead, he was driven to self-destruction. I pray that situation does not fall on any that read these words. May each of you find forgiveness for sin by turning in faith to the Lord Jesus on the basis of His substitutionary death.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. Click on study 62 at this link, Jesus Before Pilate and Herod (Luke 23:1-25). Keith Thomas

Jesus Arrested in Gethsemane

47While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. 51But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. 52Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns” (Luke 22:47-53).

Judas knew the place where Jesus often slept through the night, so he brought a detachment of Roman soldiers and officials from the religious elite. The Greek word speira, translated as “detachment” (John 18:3), is a term to designate a specific subgroup of Roman soldiers sent from the Antonia Fortress situated to the north of the Temple Mount, where Pilate, the Roman governor, had his garrison. This subgroup consisted of 450 fighting men. This was in addition to those sent from the Chief Priests and Pharisees. Some scholars have estimated that there may have been as many as six hundred soldiers and men from the religious elite.

Why so many? It was likely that the religious elite and soldiers were expecting a fight and that there might be more of Christ’s disciples in the garden with Him. They brought lanterns because, perhaps, they were expecting Jesus to hide. The Lord didn’t wait for them to come looking for Him, He took the initiative; He went out of the garden to them (John 18:4). His concern was for His disciples so that His prayer of protection in John 17 would be answered during the arrest. He was in control of the whole situation. The apostle John gives us a bit more information as to what happened. Jesus asked them:

“Who is it you want?” 5“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground (John 18:4-6).

The Roman soldiers were ready for anything as they approached the garden. When they said they were looking for Jesus, the Lord replied uttering the divine name in Greek, the name of God, “I AM” (egō eimi). Some of you have the words, I am he in the text, but the word “He” is absent from the original Greek and added by the translators to make the statement easier to understand in English. Again and again in the Gospels, we have seen Jesus adding the name of God to different aspects of His character. I am the Gate; I am the Good Shepherd, I am the Light of the World, I am the Way, etc. When He said those words, this was a display of raw spiritual power before these soldiers. Jesus was letting the soldiers know that He was willingly giving Himself into their hands. What a picture it must have been, hundreds of men terrified of one Man and His eleven disciples, and only one of them is using a sword in defense.

In his usual rash behavior, Peter slashed at the high priest’s servant named Malchus with his sword, severing the man’s ear. Peter was risking a fight at this point, but the Lord intervenes and gently reminds His disciples to put up the sword, reminding Peter that it must be this way, that there is a cup of suffering that He must drink to put away sin for all men. Why don’t the 450-600 men attack Peter and the disciples? It seems that the presence of the Lord had unsettled the soldiers. Luke tells us that Jesus put His hand to Malchus’ ear, and it miraculously sprouted another ear—“he touched the man’s ear and healed him” (Luke 22:51). The healing was instantaneous. There was no hunting around for the ear, Jesus just put His hand to the ear and gave him another. I wonder if Malchus found the ear that had been cut off after the Lord was taken away.

Christ was in control at every point. He didn’t run away. He confronted the armed soldiers. We might not always know what will happen to us when we say, “Your will be done,” but there is a peace that passes all understanding when our lives and will are given into the Lord’s hands. Many of you are at the crossroads of Gethsemane. Submitting to God’s will is the big question: will you submit to His purpose for your life? Will you lay down your will and place your life into His hands?

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 60, Jesus at Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-53). Keith Thomas

Who Had the Place of Honor at the Last Supper?

We are continuing our meditation of the last Passover meal that Jesus and His disciples had the night before He was crucified (Scroll down for yesterday’s thoughts). As they were all reclining around the table, the Lord spoke about the one who would betray Him:

21But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but woe to that man who betrays him.” 23They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this (Luke 22:14-23).

It is John who gives us more information on this part of the conversation:

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.” 22His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 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 (John 13:21-26).

Each of them were bewildered as to who it was. None of them were suspicious of Judas until Jesus revealed it to John at the table. We are told that John was reclining at Jesus’ right, with his head leaning against Jesus’ chest (John 13:25). This was not the place of highest honor; the person to the left of Jesus was granted that seat, he toward whom Jesus had His back turned. It is doubtful that Peter was in the place of honor since Peter could only whisper to John to ask Jesus who the betrayer was (John 13:24). We can’t be certain, but it is likely that Judas was seated in the place of highest honor at the table to the left and back of Christ. It would have been difficult for Christ to reach any other part of the table if He was reclining on His left elbow and side. With His left elbow on the mattress, Jesus reached onto the table and dipped His bread into the dish and gave it to Judas. This explains why Judas, out of earshot of the others, could say to Christ, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered “Yes, it is you” (Matthew 26:25). Judas had managed to seat himself at the position of honor to the left of Christ. I wonder how Peter felt about Judas being in the place of honor to the left of Jesus.

God will often put His servants through the test of Promotion. If you have ever wanted to be used of God in a way that brings life to others, you will be tested by others getting promoted over you. They will be noticed and thrust forward, seemingly leaving you behind. How you respond to this test reveals a lot about your character. Can you trust God when others are being promoted ahead of you? Do you promote and push yourself forward? Promotion comes from the Lord. “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men” (Proverbs 18:16). This test is one of the most difficult to experience for one whose passionate desire is to be used of God. The servant of God is often left on the shelf as a test of his character. The arrow that God wants to use in ministry runs straighter when it is left longest in the quiver:

He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away (Isaiah 49:2-3).

Are you still in the quiver waiting for God to use you? The wood of the arrow must go through many straightening and hardening tests before it can be used effectively by the Heavenly Archer. I pray that you would come through the character tests and serve Him faithfully.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 59. The Last Supper (Luke 22:7-34). Keith Thomas

He is Able to Help…

We are finishing off our meditation on Judas—why did he betray Christ? (Scroll down for earlier meditations). Some suggest that Judas was seeking to force Jesus’ hand to revolt against the Romans so that a confrontation would take place and Jesus would use His power to overcome Roman rule. Who knows what was in his mind as he walked to visit with the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard? (Luke 22:4). What we do know is that Judas was watching for an opportune time and place to betray his master with a kiss on the cheek (verse 6) and that he had already received the thirty silver coins in payment for betraying Christ before the Last Supper:

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. 16From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over (Matthew 26:14-16).

Thirty silver coins was the cost of a common slave in the time of Jesus (Exodus 21:32). The supreme Servant of all was valued and sold for the price of a common slave. Clearly this was not a rash decision made by Judas. In the verse from Matthew’s Gospel above, verse 16, Judas took time to think through how he was going to call the temple guards and betray Jesus. He waited for an hour of darkness, not knowing that it was also God’s hour for His Son to be glorified as the Lamb of God Who would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

Have you ever been betrayed by a friend? Many of us go through this test of being betrayed by a friend, business partner, or relative. Has someone very close to you ever hurt you with their words and actions? No one can ever say to God, “You don’t know what it’s like.” Jesus took the worst that this world could throw at Him. In the Garden of Gethsemane, when Judas walked up to Christ, greeting Him and kissing Him on the cheek, Jesus said to Judas, “Friend, do what you came for” (Matthew 26:50). There was no anger, hatred or bitterness in Jesus’ heart toward Judas. It must be so with us too.

Whatever you and I go through in life, Jesus has been there and can be sought for help. As our leader, He has endured every fiery trial that can be thrown at us by our enemy and, yet, harbor no bitterness and resentment. His trust was in His Father every step of the way through the pain of being rejected and betrayed. Whatever you are experiencing in life, He has been there before you and is able to come alongside you in every trial and help you to go through it.

Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:18).

Doctor Donald Grey Barnhouse told the story of a certain man who had a beautiful estate upon which were some magnificent trees in which this man took great pride. It was his custom to walk among the trees and gaze upon their beauty. This man had an enemy who hated him sorely; this enemy was always seeking ways of annoying the master of the estate. At last, the enemy conceived a plan, which he thought would greatly wound the heart of the estate owner.

He decided to go to the estate in the dark of night and cut down one of the most beautiful of the trees. He laid his plans well. He took with him a saw and an axe and worked energetically. All night, he toiled until his muscles were sore and his hands were blistered. As morning dawned, he saw the estate owner riding with a companion toward the trees where he had been toiling. He redoubled his efforts and finally the great tree began to creak and to totter. As the tree started to fall, the enemy began to shout in triumph. However, one of the branches fell on him and mortally pinned him to the ground in agony.

His hatred, however, was strong, and in his death throes he jeered at the estate owner approaching him. The owner called his companion to him and said to the enemy, “You thought to do me a great harm, but I want to show you what you have done. This man with me is the architect of a beautiful home that I intend to build here in the midst of these trees. In order to make room for the house, it was necessary to cut down one of these trees. Look at this plan. The tree upon which you have toiled all night and which is now the cause of your death is the tree, which must be cut down to make room for my house. You have worked for me without knowing it, and your toil is for nothing, and bitterness is your food in death.”

In his opposition to God’s kingdom, Satan may be thinking that he is clever, but there will come a time when he will see that he has just been totally out-smartened by God. We know because we have read the end of the book!

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 58. (Luke 22:1-6). The Betrayal of Jesus. Keith Thomas

How Was Judas Influenced to Betray Christ?

We are continuing from the last few days thinking through what it might have been that influenced Judas to betray Christ. We are concluding that Satan had made inroads in Judas’ life by his habit of stealing (Scroll down for previous meditations). In the normal course of things, there is a natural barrier in the human soul that prevents spiritual attack. Long ago, even before Abraham, Satan had a hard time with a righteous man named Job. He couldn’t do anything against Job without God’s taking down the “hedge” that protected him.

8Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”  9“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land” (Job 1:8-10).

In this incident, for His own purposes, God allowed Satan to go beyond the hedge of protection, in order to test Job’s faith by allowing Satan to attack Job’s children, his possessions, and later, his health as well. The result was that Job’s faith was found to be strong, and his blessings were returned and multiplied to him. This passage teaches us that God has a protective hedge that Satan cannot penetrate without God’s knowledge, permission and control. If Satan had total authority on earth with nothing to hold him back, chaos would reign completely. After all, he comes to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10).

There are things, however, that can lower our defenses and invite satanic activity in our lives. For example, being involved in the occult opens the door to the enemy, but the main way Satan gets access to a life is through habitual sin. The enemy seeks to get a toehold into the door of our lives, and then a foothold, and after a foothold, a stronghold. The more territory we release to him through habitual sin, the more he will take. Give him an inch, and he will take a mile. The temptation occurs first in the mind, and the more we yield to the thought, the more ground in our actions the enemy takes. The more we yield our will to sinful thoughts, the more a compulsion becomes set in our character. God spoke to Cain after he had murdered his brother Abel and said:

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7).

Judas was not coerced into doing what he did. Satan did not use external force to move Judas’ feet to the religious leaders. Judas willingly went along with the inner motivations that Satan sowed into the ground of his heart. These thoughts came to him as he had listened to the enemy’s voice. A person becomes a slave to the one whose voice he obeys:

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16).

As Satan repeatedly whispered and appealed to different motives that he had found in Judas, he became a willing tool of the enemy, ready to do his will. Jesus had tried through his teaching and through outright warning to the disciples that one of them had been infiltrated by the enemy:

70Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” 71(He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.) (John 6:70-71 Emphasis mine).

The mind is the seed-bed of our character and actions, and Judas had allowed the enemy to visit and sow seeds of destruction into his heart. To have evil thoughts come at us is not in itself sin. It becomes sin when we harbor those thoughts and act upon them. It has been said by one wise person that we cannot stop a bird from flying around our heads, but we can stop it from building a nest there! Francis Schaeffer once said, “The spiritual battle, the loss of victory, is always in the thought-world.” A man is not what he thinks he is, but what he thinks, he is. Judas’ natural barriers had been worn down through the enemy’s nesting in his mind and heart. Let this be a warning to all of us to keep our thought life pure.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 58. (Luke 22:1-6). The Betrayal of Jesus. Keith Thomas