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Life of Christ (1996-1998)

Judas

Matthew 26:1-16, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 21:37 - 22:6

Judas Iscariot

(various)

(Mat 26:1-5 NIV) When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, {2} "As you know, the Passover is two days away--and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified." {3} Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, {4} and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him. {5} "But not during the Feast," they said, "or there may be a riot among the people."

(Mat 26:14-16 NIV) Then one of the Twelve--the one called Judas Iscariot--went to the chief priests {15} and asked, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?" So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. {16} From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

(Mark 14:1-2 NIV) Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him. {2} "But not during the Feast," they said, "or the people may riot."

(Mark 14:10-11 NIV) Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. {11} They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

(Luke 21:37-38 NIV) Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, {38} and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple.

(Luke 22:1-5 NIV) Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, {2} and 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. {3} Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. {4} And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. {5} They were delighted and agreed to give him money.

There is a man, named Al, who once was a preacher. Some thought him a fine preacher. He became the preacher of our previous church when the former minister retired. He had been there about two years when – rather suddenly – he announced his retirement. The action smelled fishy. At that time I was neither elder nor deacon, but his wife was in my class and so I paid a call upon him. The truth quickly came out.

Simply put, his daughter-in-law had accused him of sexually molesting his grandchildren (her children). Al had resigned to protect the good name of the church he loved. For the next several years he went through an agony of psychological testing, court cases and expenditures which he could not afford. Lawyer fees ate up his retirement funds. Gradually, in the course of defending himself, he became nearly destitute.

What pained him most, however, was the reaction of his friends. At the time this began I would not have been on that list. But many of the men he had worked with over a long period of time quickly came to believe that he was guilty. For some there was an almost delicious sensation of discovering the man to be a fraud. Al was devastated by this.

Gradually the truth came out. Al’s daughter-in-law was conducting a divorce proceeding, and this was her weapon to pry the children away from her son. It took over five years, and cost him the career he loved. The scars of friendship severed are still with him, though he is an obedient and forgiving soul. He was betrayed; he was nearly destroyed.

The Judas in all of us

A preacher gives us an example from a famous trial, that of Adolf Eichmann. One of the witnesses, a survivor of the death camps, was called upon to identify the man. He did so, but later confessed in a television interview that to do so tore him up inside. Why? Because now that he saw Eichmann sitting in the glass defendants box, the man appeared quite ordinary. Indeed, the man saw Eichmann as the reflection of himself. The beast of betrayal is in all of us.

Why, then, does a man betray another? In our instance here, why does Judas betray Jesus, the Christ? Some reasons have been suggested:

·         One possible explanation is the love of money. The verses missing from this passage above clearly indicate that he carried the financial matters for the disciples. If so, the amount received was rather trivial.

·         A more likely explanation is this. He may have been afraid of being discovered for the thief he was. If so, this desire to “save face” was a grave expression of pride, the killer of Christians.

·         Some have suggested that Judas was trying to force Jesus to become an earthly king. If so, this too is pride, for what ego does it take to not only give God advice but attempt to force him into taking it?

·         Luke charitably suggests that this was the work of Satan entering into Jesus. Whatever that means, it is not good for Judas.

Christ’s efforts for Judas

Judas was the only Judean among the disciples (Iscariot means “from Kerioth”). Jesus was to go to quite some effort to be sure that Judas had every chance to repent. For example, by carefully examining the placement of individuals at the Last Supper, it has been shown that Judas was placed in the position of honor. Beyond that, Jesus presents him with “the morsel” – a gesture of friendship.

But these efforts fail, and Christ must do that for which He came. So he tells Judas to move quickly. It’s like taking a bandage off; do you pull slowly or rip it off all at once. Jesus chose the quick method.

John, in his Gospel, ends the story of Judas leaving quickly with the phrase, “and it was night.” To leave the light of the world is to walk into the world’s darkness. As we shall see, Judas was not the only one to stumble.

On Being Betrayed

Please note that in the last moments all the disciples left Jesus. Judas plotted it; they did not plan to but could not resist. It is all too common a thing. How, then, should we handle it?

·         First, being betrayed starts with trust. Some trust of other human beings is good, but this inevitably opens the door to betrayal. What, then, to do? Put your trust in God first and foremost, for He never will fail you or forsake you.

·         Do not judge. It is easy to say at two thousand years distance that we would not have left our Lord. All the disciples then said the same thing. We cannot see the weakness in others, therefore we should not judge. We need to be imitators of our Lord, who did not come to judge the world, but to save it.

·         When all has cleared up, be the one who pleads for reconciliation. It is our ministry. Do not let the betrayal fester, but rather be the one who initiates the attempt at bringing all back into the fold.

Thomas à Kempis put it this way:

GRANT me help in my needs, O Lord, for the aid of man is useless. How often have I failed to find faithfulness in places where I thought I possessed it! And how many times I have found it where I least expected it! Vain, therefore, is hope in men, but the salvation of the just is in You, O God. Blessed be Your name, O Lord my God, in everything that befalls us.

We are weak and unstable, quickly deceived and changed. Who is the man that is able to guard himself with such caution and care as not sometimes to fall into deception or perplexity? He who confides in You, O Lord, and seeks You with a simple heart does not fall so easily. And if some trouble should come upon him, no matter how entangled in it he may be, he will be more quickly delivered and comforted by You. For You will not forsake him who trusts in You to the very end.

Rare is the friend who remains faithful through all his friend’s distress. But You, Lord, and You alone, are entirely faithful in all things; other than You, there is none so faithful.

Oh, how wise is that holy soul (St. Agatha.) who said: “My mind is firmly settled and founded in Christ.” If that were true of me, human fear would not so easily cause me anxiety, nor would the darts of words disturb. But who can foresee all things and provide against all evils? And if things foreseen have often hurt, can those which are unlooked for do otherwise than wound us gravely? Why, indeed, have I not provided better for my wretched self? Why, too, have I so easily kept faith in others? We are but men, however, nothing more than weak men, although we are thought by many to be, and are called, angels.

In whom shall I put my faith, Lord? In whom but You? You are the truth which does not deceive and cannot be deceived. Every man, on the other hand, is a liar, weak, unstable, and likely to err, especially in words, so that one ought not to be too quick to believe even that which seems, on the face of it, to sound true. How wise was Your warning to beware of men; that a man’s enemies are those of his own household; that we should not believe if anyone says: “Behold he is here, or behold he is there.”

I have been taught to my own cost, and I hope it has given me greater caution, not greater folly. “Beware,” they say, “beware and keep to yourself what I tell you!” Then while I keep silent, believing that the matter is secret, he who asks me to be silent cannot remain silent himself, but immediately betrays both me and himself, and goes his way. From tales of this kind and from such careless men protect me, O Lord, lest I fall into their hands and into their ways. Put in my mouth words that are true and steadfast and keep far from me the crafty tongue, because what I am not willing to suffer I ought by all means to shun.

Oh, how good and how peaceful it is to be silent about others, not to believe without discrimination all that is said, not easily to report it further, to reveal oneself to few, always to seek You as the discerner of hearts, and not to be blown away by every wind of words, but to wish that all things, within and beyond us, be done according to the pleasure of Thy will.

How conducive it is for the keeping of heavenly grace to fly the gaze of men, not to seek abroad things which seem to cause admiration, but to follow with utmost diligence those which give fervor and amendment of life! How many have been harmed by having their virtue known and praised too hastily! And how truly profitable it has been when grace remained hidden during this frail life, which is all temptation and warfare!

On Being the Betrayer

All of us a quick to condemn a betrayer; but how many of us have been guilty of the same thing? It is a terrible thing to be a Judas, a dreadful sin, and therefore we need all the more to look out for it and prevent it if we can. Failing that, we can detect it.

Detecting the Betrayer in Yourself

May I give you the one sign that I would look for? I do not know about others, but for myself it is mockery. Some of you have noticed in my lessons that I will sometimes not use a particular example that involves my wife Betty when she is there. That’s because it may be seen as mockery. So I give you husbands a test: how do you refer to your wives when you are absent from them? Do you sneer at them behind their backs? Do you refer to your wife as “the old lady” or “the ball and chain?” Faithfulness to a woman you adore is easy; faithfulness to one who is an object of mockery is much more difficult.

I suspect there is the female equivalent; I just don’t know what it is. But the principle applies as well to the church. Do you laugh at Jesus when you’re not at church? If so, remember that if you deny him he will deny you.

How to prevent yourself from being the betrayer

Fortunately, there are many ways which can help you avoid this. Most of them involve dealing with temptation. Here are three:

·         “Lead us not into temptation.” Are you where you are supposed to be, or in the bar? Are you with the mockers, or with the faithful?

·         Seek no praise. Remember that Judas held the money. Someone must have thought him capable of doing it. It’s just possible that the beginning was a word of praise for his astuteness.

·         Do not meddle in things above you. You are not James Bond, nor Superman. Do not take on a task that is clearly beyond your capability just to show how wonderful you are.

How to deal with being the Betrayer

But suppose all this fails, and you betray someone. The essence of church discipline is restoration, not punishment. May I suggest the following:

·         First, make sure there is genuine repentance. The word in the Greek is evidently not the normal word for it. There is grief, but no genuine desire to change. Repentance means turning around.

·         Remember always that the problem is yours. Judas attempted to return the money; the priests rightly reminded him that his betrayal of innocent blood was his problem. They were right.

·         Always, always – humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

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