Judas, the Greedy Thief

We are continuing our meditation of the days before the crucifixion of Christ, looking especially at the person of Judas, thinking through what it could have been that prompted him to betray the Lord Jesus (Scroll further down for additional thoughts on Judas). Perhaps, it was the love of money that motivated Judas. He oversaw the finances for the party of disciples. When Mary, the sister of Lazarus, honored Jesus by pouring out her treasure (i.e. a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume) on his feet and wiping them with her hair, Judas was incensed at the “waste:”

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 a year’s wages.” 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. 7“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me” (John 12:4-8).

This event had happened just a few days before the crucifixion of Christ (John 12:1). Perhaps, the gentle rebuke added additional motivation as to why Judas would sell out Christ. There could have been some bitterness at the gentle rebuke, and the fact that he couldn’t get his hands on a year’s wages. He could see no value in someone’s treasure being poured out on the Lord’s feet.

Think of it. If one of your friends was just about to part with a year’s wages on some person’s feet, wouldn’t you see that as a bit excessive? It wouldn’t be if it was believed that this man was God in the flesh, which Mary did. The longer Judas was exposed to the truth about Christ and yet remained hard-hearted and unresponsive, the darker his heart became (Proverbs 29:1). How could Judas have seen Christ move in a gift of revelatory knowledge in knowing the name of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:5) and yet think that Christ would not be aware of his stealing out of the money bag?

Now, we return to our original questions about the responsibility and the intent of Judas.

What we have learned is that Judas was an unbeliever. A Christian has spiritual armor that is given to him that protects him against demonic attack and control (Ephesians 6:10-18), but someone who is not yet a believer can be used as a pawn in the enemy’s hands. Sometimes, even believers are not mature enough to deflect enemy thoughts and cast them down (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). An immature believer can be the mouthpiece of demonic attack on another. Jesus Himself had to confront Satan working through Peter. After the Lord told the disciples that He would be killed but would rise again, Peter took Jesus aside from the others for a chat:

32He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Mark 8:32-33).

Satan could not enter Peter’s life as he did with Judas. He had merely cast a thought into Peter’s mind, and the ever impulsive Peter had acted on the thought, and spoke those words to Christ. Jesus immediately recognized that Peter was being used by Satan to deter Him from carrying out the Father’s plan. He rebuked the enemy for using Peter as a mouthpiece, much to the surprise of Peter. The enemy looks for every opportunity to cause disunity, and he certainly does not steer clear of churches. He joins them! Satan does more harm against God’s people by sowing weeds in the midst of the wheat (Matthew 13:25). Satan whispered into Judas’ ear and he obeyed him.

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

Satan’s Influence on Judas

We are thinking on the last week before the crucifixion of Christ, and especially on the person of Judas, the one who betrayed Christ (Scroll down for more thoughts on Judas and his betrayal). Scripture tells us that Judas did not believe (John 6:64; John 13:11). He had never placed his trust in Christ, so he had not experienced an inner change to his life. He had a mental agreement to the person of Christ, but at the core level of his being, he had never received grace and forgiveness for his sin. This was powerful deception at work.

Our enemy, Satan, a very real spiritual being, is at work in the world to keep hearts and minds blinded to the truth concerning Christ. He seeks to influence every person to deny the truth as to the person and work of Christ. Like Judas, a person can have an acceptance of the facts of the Gospel, and there may even be an understanding of the great truths concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, but unless one actually receives the person of Christ, there is no change to a person’s inner nature. Our enemy loves to keep people in a mental acceptance of the truth, but works powerfully against them if there ever comes a call to genuine repentance from their spiritually dead condition (Ephesians 2:1). Paul the Apostle writes about this spiritual warfare to keep a person blinded to the truth:

The god of this age [Satan] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).

In the invisible realm, there is a war that goes on in the thought processes of the mind and decision center of the inner man, commonly called the heart. All hell often breaks loose when people begin to be convicted as to their sin and need of forgiveness. Paul writes further about the enemy’s use of people for his purposes. He says that Satan and his demons are at work in the hearts of those who are against the Spirit of Christ. He calls Satan, “the ruler of the kingdom of the air”:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient (Ephesians 2:1-2).

Satan will even use those we love and cherish to speak words to deter us from following Christ. He will try to use our family and friends as his mouthpiece. Of course, they often do not realize why they say what they say; there is an enemy spirit at work in those who are disobedient to the faith.

So, why did Judas continue to follow Christ if he did not believe? We cannot know his motives for sure, but perhaps, it was the love of fame in being one of the twelve. It can be a curse to be famous. Fame will keep a person from the humility of heart that God looks for in His servants. I wonder how many of the “Hollywood stars” will be seen in heaven. Judas was famous as one of the twelve. The “stars” of Israel at the time would have been religious leaders and teachers. There was often a throng of people gathering around and following Jesus and His disciples.

It may have been worldly ambition to be seated on a throne when the Messiah’s kingdom would come. Judas might have been seeing the Messiah as a political savior only. It is possible that he thought himself well placed as one of the twelve to have money and riches, authority, and a throne upon which to sit next to Jesus and the eleven others when they would finally break the constraints of Rome. What kind of Messiah are you looking for? How about going His way, rather than wanting Christ to go your way?

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

Why Did Judas Betray Christ?

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 (John 13:24-27).

There has been much speculation as to the motive of Judas in betraying Jesus, prompting questions, such as “If Satan was the instigator, was Judas really at fault?” Another question is, “If all that happened was meant to be and Jesus knew that Judas would betray him, then did Judas have a choice in the matter?” Furthermore, “Did Judas truly repent and receive forgiveness for what he did?”

Although we may not be certain of these answers, we will examine some of the possibilities. First, we are told in Luke 22:3 that “Satan entered Judas, one of the twelve.” Does that mean his actions were totally controlled by the enemy, and if so, was Judas culpable (at blame) for his actions? Even the most demonized person in the Bible, the man of Gadara in whom the evil demon called itself Legion, was still able to run toward Jesus as soon as he saw Christ (Mark 5). If the demon was in full control, he would have run away from the Lord. No, all of us are responsible for the wrong actions and motives we undertake. None of us will be able to say in the Day of Judgment that Satan made us sin. As to Judas’ repenting, Jesus said, “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:24).

Judas could not hide his treachery from the Lord. He was very good at looking like a believer, doing the same things, attending the same meetings, dishing out bread to the hungry, but at the core of his heart, there had been no change wrought in that inner place at the center of his life. Jesus made it clear about the need for an inner change, saying, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). Judas had been with Christ for more than three years. In that time, he had seen much evidence of Who Jesus was, yet his heart had grown darker as he hardened his heart to the Spirit’s promptings. In fact, in one place Jesus calls Judas the embodiment of the devil: “Then Jesus replied, ‘Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!’” (John 6:70). The Lord knew early on in His ministry just where Judas’ heart was:

“Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him (John 6:64).

Can I ask you, dear reader, do you really believe—are you trusting Christ with your life? Or is it all a sham in front of others? Only you and the Lord know the true answer to that question. You need a change in your inner person—you must be born-again or born from above (John 3:3).

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

Judas Iscariot

To us in the twenty-first century, the very name Judas is a picture of treachery and betrayal, a name that is not given to new-born babies, but in the time of Christ, it was an honorable name. One of the twelve tribes of Israel was named Judah, and King David emerged from that tribe. Judas may also have been named after Judas Maccabeus, an Israelite who led the Jews to victory over the Seleucid Empire, more than 175 years earlier after Antiochus Epiphanes sought to destroy the Jewish faith and Hellenize the Jews. His surname, Iscariot, tells us the town that Judas came from, i.e. ish (“man”) of Kerioth, a small town in the south of Judea.

Judas had so mastered the art of hypocrisy and deception that, when Jesus told the twelve during the Last Supper that one among them would betray Him, none of the eleven had figured out which of them was the betrayer:

20When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” 22They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?” (Matthew 26:20-22).

Judas was still trying to hide his treachery from the others by saying, “‘Surely not I, Rabbi?’ Jesus answered, ‘Yes, it is you’” (Matthew 26:25). Judas was more than likely sitting at table in the place of honor to Jesus’ left side as he tried to hide what he was planning. We know this because Jesus was in easy reach of Judas to hand him the piece of bread that Jesus had just dipped into the dish. The apostle John gives us more information here:

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. 27As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him (John 13:21-27).

The order of seating was John’s reclining to the right of Jesus with his head against Jesus chest. Although we do not know for sure, some have assumed that Peter was to John’s right because Peter asks John to ask Jesus a question (“Ask Him which one He means.”) Does this mean that Judas was at the left hand of Jesus? It would appear that he was close to Jesus as He handed Judas the piece of bread.

How did Judas get to the other seat of honor at Jesus’ left? Luke tells us of a dispute that went on at the Last Supper over which of them was considered the greatest (Luke 22:24). It could be that Peter was upset at getting a lesser position around the table due to Judas beating him to the seat alongside Jesus. We don’t know more than what we are told; logic can only go so far. Their desires for position could have been driven to the fore due to the fact that there was an expectation that Jesus would soon reveal His kingdom. This desire for position must be rooted out of the heart of the Christian. We are servants, and we should be ready to take the lowest position, and with a glad and willing heart.

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

The Plan to Kill Jesus

1Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 6He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present (Luke 22:1-6).

To the Jewish person, Passover is the biggest meal of the year, like the Thanksgiving meal for an American or the Christmas meal for a British person. God had commanded the Israelites to appear before Him at the Temple in Jerusalem three times a year (Exodus 23:13-15), and the Feast of Unleavened Bread called Passover was one of the three times. In the time of Christ, it was difficult to accommodate all the pilgrims that would come to Jerusalem for the annual Feast.

Estimates of the time tell us that Jerusalem swelled to over 2,700,000 people during Passover. With such a huge throng of people, we can understand why the disciples and Jesus would sleep out in the open on the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Garden of Gethsemane was less than half a mile from the temple, an easy short walk to arrive early in the morning for all the people to hear Christ teach in the temple (Luke 21:37-38).

We have the benefit of hindsight in knowing that Jesus had no designs on taking over the religious government of Israel, but the priests and the seventy elders of the Sanhedrin did not know that. It is possible that they were afraid of a religious coup against them and that there would be an accounting for their money-making schemes. It is also possible that they were fearful of a riot and losing their positions if the Roman government didn’t think them capable of keeping order. With more people arriving day by day, their fear of the people grew. They felt they had to do something before the Passover, when religious sensitivities would be at their highest. But how were they to arrest Him? It had to be in secret. The religious leaders had sent the temple guards once before to arrest Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles, but when the temple guards came back, they had not arrested the Lord. Why not? Because His hour had not yet come. The guards were under direct orders of the High Priest, yet they refused to arrest Jesus. The reason that they gave was even worse; they directly disobeyed the chief priest’s orders because they were overcome with Christ’s words:

45Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” 46“No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards declared. 47“You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted (John 7:45-47).

Such influence and spiritual authority over men was scary for the chief priests and teachers of the law. Thousands were attending His teaching from early morning till dark during the days leading up to Passover. No wonder they sought some way to get rid of Jesus (v. 2). (The Greek word anaireō is translated into English with the words get rid of; it means to kill, put to death.) While they were trying to figure out a way to get Him (apart from the crowd) and to the great relief of the religious leaders, one of the disciples, Judas Iscariot, came to them with a plan of how he would betray Jesus. We’ll continue this thought over the next few days…

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