Why did the Holy Spirit tell us so many details about the apostle Judas Iscariot? We know very little about some of the apostles. What do we know about Bartholomew, or the other Judas (Thaddeus)? We know virtually nothing except for their names. So why wasn’t Judas Iscariot treated like that, his life and mistakes omitted from the New Testament and left a mystery to us? Evidently there is something there for us to learn. Let’s do that!
I can be part of the gospel effort for years and still choose to sin. “And He appointed…Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.” Jesus “summoned those whom He Himself wanted…And He appointed twelve” (Mark 3:13-14). Let’s not forget that Judas was an apostle, with all that that entailed. He was hand-picked by Jesus to take a special role in the work of spreading the gospel. Judas was exposed to as much teaching and as many miracles as anyone, and even participated (Mark 6:7, 12-13, 30). So whatever happened to Judas in the end, it was not due to lack of involvement. Still, Judas betrayed the Lord.
Here’s the lesson for us: no matter how involved we are, or how much good we’ve done, we must not let our guard down and choose to sin. We need to guard against any false comfort: “I’ve been attending services for 45 years” or “I’ve taught hundreds of Bible classes.” But what if, after all that, I still choose to sin? Let’s not rest on our laurels and overlook the need to rid ourselves of every single impurity.
A “small” vice can become my big downfall. “What are you willing to give me…?” Part of what we’re told about Judas is that he liked to steal money when he could (John 12:3-6). We’re not told how much money was typically in the money box, but I suspect it wasn’t much (they weren’t visiting fancy restaurants and wearing 3-piece suits as they traveled around). The amount is not important. What’s important is the character flaw revealed by this “small” vice: Judas was greedy.
Put that together with Matthew 26:15, where Judas said, “‘What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?’ And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him.” Judas didn’t say, “I’m sick and tired of that Man and His teaching. I want to rid the world of His influence.” He wasn’t objecting on principle; he simply wanted to cash in. Jesus was often in danger of being arrested, but always managed to elude capture (John 7:30, 32, 43-46). Perhaps Judas thought, ‘I’ll betray Jesus, He’ll get out of it somehow like He always has, and I’ll have an extra 30 pieces of silver!”
I know it’s a cliché, but there’s something to be said for “nipping things in the bud” when we are first enticed by lust (James 1:14-15). Judas should have repented of his greed and pilfering way back in John 12, even if the amount was piddly, before it escalated to betraying Jesus! Likewise, we’re setting ourselves up for trouble if we wait to address sin until it has already created a crisis. For example, we need to control our anger and root out lust (Matthew 5:22, 28) way before those things turn into murder or fornication. I shouldn’t wait until I’ve gotten drunk and landed in jail, or abused the child, or embezzled the money, before I realize that my “small” character flaw is a big problem. Let’s not just react to crises; let’s stop sin when it first begins to form in the heart (Matthew 15:19-20).
I shouldn’t give up on myself. “and he went away and hanged himself”
The truly sad part of Judas’ story is that he let his sins be the last chapter in his life (Matthew 27:1-5). He gave up on himself too quickly. He could have made things right. It’s tragically ironic that an apostle of the Savior did not seek to be saved. Hadn’t Judas heard Jesus telling people that He had come to seek and save the lost? Hadn’t Judas spread that message himself? Matthew 27:3 says Judas “felt remorse” (NASB). He was sorry for what happened, but he fell short of full repentance. Besides trying to return the money, he didn’t perform deeds of repentance, and we know he didn’t devote his life to God from that moment. How sad!
Was what Judas did any “worse” than what the apostle Paul did before his conversion? Judas simply showed the authorities where Jesus was. But Paul was having Christians imprisoned and killed! Why was Paul a great and influential apostle, whereas Judas was a man of disgrace? Because Paul repented and found forgiveness. Judas did not.
We’ve all sinned. Whatever we’re guilty of, whatever our shortcomings are, are they going to be the end of our story, or will we make a comeback? Have you ever been on a diet, and then cheated by eating a piece of candy, and then thought, “Well, I might as well go get a double-hamburger with fries now”? We give up on ourselves too easily.
Don’t be like Judas. My sin only becomes eternal if I fail to correct it. Be like Paul and repent (I Timothy 1:13-17).
By David Watson