Judas the Betrayer
© 2023 C. O. Bishop
15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. 17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
18 I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. 19 Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he. 20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.
Calling out the Betrayer
21 When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. 22 Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. 23 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24 Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. 25 He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?
26 Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. 27 And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. 28 Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. 29 For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.
30 He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.
31 Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
We could draw numerous lessons from this text. But we are going to focus on the person of Judas, the Betrayer, and the “anatomy” of his decision to betray Jesus.
In verses 15-17, Jesus completed his teaching of how the the disciples were to cleanse one another and restore one another to fellowship. In verses 18-20, Jesus cited Psalm 41:9, a prophecy about the Betrayer, and He gave teaching about people’s response to the Gospel and to the ambassadors of Christ. There are several deep messages in the passage, and we may come back to them later. But today we will focus on the question of who the betrayer was and how he came to be what he was.
In verses 21-30, Jesus was disquieted, and “troubled in Spirit,” because He knew what a catastrophe was about to finally overtake Judas. He was compassionate toward Judas. He had known all along who Judas really was. He knew, despite His having chosen Judas as a disciple and having fed him on God’s Word for three years, that Judas was going to betray Him.
So, why is He troubled in Spirit, now, when He has known for years what was going to happen?
In some cases, God has chosen a person for a specific “role” to play in history. We then assume that the person “never had a choice.” It is more accurate to say that God knew from eternity-past what kind of choices they would make, and He arranged for them to be “in the right place at the right time,” to make that choice. He provided a destination. Let’s see some examples:
Pharaoh’s Choice in his Chosen Role
Pharoah (in Exodus chapters 1-12) is one such example. This Pharaoh continued to rebel against God, until Egypt was ruined by the plagues. The Bible says he initially hardened his own heart against God’s Word. He hardened his own heart against Moses and against the command to let the people of Israel go. That was his choice.
But, as the plagues became catastrophic, the Bible then says that “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” All his counselors and advisers eventually protested against him, because the destruction was so bad. They said, “Are you the only one in the country who does not know that Egypt is destroyed? You are fighting against God!” He rebelled further than any sane, normal person would have gone.
Why? Because, in Exodus 9:16, God says He raised that man up for the specific role he was then playing. God had chosen him as an “insane rebel” and God raised him to “be the Pharaoh” at that time. He did so, specifically so that He could show His glory to Israel and thoroughly judge Egypt. And God saw to it that the foolish Pharaoh would maintain that “insane rebellion” to the end. The Pharaoh and his chariots followed the Children of Israel into the Red Sea, where he was drowned, along with his entire army.
That was his destination.
God is not cruel, capricious, or despotic, as His enemies commonly assert. The God of the Old Testament (our Creator, Savior, and Judge) is Jesus! He is the “Sinner’s friend,” and the Holy Messiah who calls the lost human race to be reconciled to Himself. The Creator God, in His plan for the redemption of the human race, had to show the result of rebellion and sin. He knew who he could “count on” to carry that rebellion to a ridiculous, insane conclusion.
We laugh at Pharaoh, today, because we see the insanity of his choices. But rebellion against God is always an “insane choice.” And, we do it every day! We want what we want, and we choose to go our own way. We know that His choice will always be wise and perfect, but we still choose to do “something else.”
Jeremiah’s Choice in his Chosen Role
The prophet Jeremiah had an assigned role to play, too: and he still had to choose to play that role. In Jeremiah 1:4-10, God told Jeremiah what his role was to be. He made it clear that Jeremiah was “hand-picked.” He was chosen before he was conceived, to be God’s messenger. But Jeremiah was not happy with that choice, and he tried to “beg off.” God rebuked him for the “attempted rebellion.” Jeremiah unhappily complied with God’s demand. He obeyed, though often weeping.
Jeremiah did have a choice. Had he chosen to just “do what he wanted,” he could have said, “send somebody else!” Jeremiah did not want the role he was given. But after his initial protest, he responded faithfully in every case. God was glorified through Jeremiah’s struggles, grief, and inner turmoil. God sustained him through the abuse he suffered, and we received the “Book of Jeremiah.” (Jeremiah arrived at his destination and his eternal reward with God.)
Jonah’s Choice in his Chosen Role
You remember that Jonah was commanded to go and preach in Nineveh. Jonah had a choice, and he ran the other way! God used circumstances, a major (supernatural) storm, and a gigantic sea-creature, to bring him to a point of repentance. And God brought him to a specific destination.
Jonah eventually changed his mind about his choice. He repented, (that means “changed his mind“) and we know the rest of the story. But he could have chosen to continue in rebellion. God would have used someone else to deal with Nineveh, but Jonah would not have survived the encounter. Jonah would have died in the belly of the fish. Instead, he finally chose to obey God, after three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish. A prophecy was thereby produced. Jesus pointed it out as a picture of His own “three days and three nights in the heart of the Earth.” (Matthew 12:40) (So he arrived at his “destination,” too, but under God’s chastening.)
Judas’s Choice in his Chosen Role
We can’t be sure exactly when Judas began to make his choice. We do know that he was unregenerate and hiding his sin: He was pretending faith. Perhaps he thought that all the other disciples were just as phony as he was, and that they, too, were “just going along for the ride,” hoping to see the kingdom restored in Israel. (And they did harbor that hope…that is a good hope to have. But their hope was in the Person of Jesus, not just in the “coming Kingdom.”)
In John 6:70, Jesus predicted the coming betrayal, saying, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” And, during the “foot-washing lesson,” in John 13:1-17, Jesus warned (v.10, 11) that they were “not all clean” and John pointed out that it was because Jesus knew who was going to betray Him.
In the Gospel of Matthew, the betrayal is mentioned fourteen times all told, either predicting it, commenting about it, or, (in Judas’s case,) confessing the deed. In Matthew 26 alone, there are nine references to that betrayal. So, it isn’t just an “historical fact:” it is serious enough for us to spend some time looking at it.
The Foundation of his Betrayal
The “foundation” of Judas’s eventual betrayal of the Lord was laid in his own unbelief. We don’t see it clearly, at first: he is just “one of the twelve.” But, in John 12:4-6 Judas criticized the worship offering brought by Mary of Bethany: He said it “wasted money that could have helped the poor.” But John, reflecting on that incident, revealed the real problem. Judas did not care about the poor: He was a thief,and (ironically) he was also the treasurer for the group! He wanted that money himself. Regarding that same incident, Matthew 26:6-13 says the other disciples agreed with Judas about the “waste.” Jesus rebuked all of them collectively.
But, in Matthew 26:14-16, immediately after that same incident; Judas alone went to the chief priests and volunteered to betray Jesus for money. His unbelief had allowed his rebellion to grow strong, and his values to become entrenched against those of Jesus. When he complained (along with the others) that Mary’s gift was a waste of money, Jesus rebuked them all, fairly gently. While the others accepted the reproof and learned from it (as we see later,) Judas remained indignant, and he offered his services to the Enemy.
The longer a person “plays the game,” pretending faith (for whatever reason) the greater the danger is, that, eventually, they will absolutely reject the Lord. Now, in John 13:2, we see that Satan (in this verse, called “the devil”… “the accuser”) had “put into the heart” of Judas, to betray Jesus. The idea originated in the Pit, just as so many other wicked human ideas in history have originated there. But, at every step, Judas made a choice. His hand was never forced.
The Son(s) of Perdition
In John 17:12, Jesus referred to Judas as “the Son of Perdition.”…”The son of destruction.”
[I used to think this just meant “being lost,”… “the son of lostness,” because the Spanish and Portuguese word “perdido” means “lost,” and I assumed they were the same idea. But the New Testament Greek word is “apoleias” and it is only translated as “destruction, perdition, and damnation.” It means eternal condemnation in Hell!]
Does that mean that Judas was “Born to be destroyed…born to spend eternity in Hell?” Does it truly mean that he had no choice?
Not exactly: God knew, before the Creation, what each of us would do, and He provided a payment for all our sins, through Jesus, at the Cross. We choose to believe His promise, or we choose to reject it. Judas is no exception. Salvation was offered to him exactly the same as it was offered to the other disciples. Unlike them, Judas rejected it. And he arrived at his destination!
Another Son of Perdition
In 2nd Thessalonians 2:3, we see one more person called “the Son of Perdition.” In that passage, it is the Antichrist. But here is a sobering thought to consider:
In John 3:18, Jesus said, “He that believeth on Him (the Son of God) is not condemned: but, he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
The whole world is under the same judgment as Judas and the Antichrist! We were all the “children of wrath” according to Ephesians 2:3. Anyone you know or meet, who has not trusted in Jesus as their Savior, is already headed to the same place as Judas and the Antichrist! We were all lost together, when Adam sinned. No one is “more lost.”
The ground is level at the foot of the Cross!
“Selling Out Cheap”
Once Judas decided to “sell out” Jesus, he “sold out cheap.” It was about a month’s wages: thirty pieces of silver. After he realized the enormity of his error, he tried to return the money to the chief priests. But they rejected it. He found no place for repentance. Only remorse.
Don’t sell out cheap! What can this world possibly offer that is superior to the Reward of God? Some sins have long-term effects. In reality, all sin has long-term effects, but we usually are unable to see the connection between our “small choices” and their eventual consequences.
But Jesus offers us Eternal Salvation through His Shed Blood. The consequence of persistence in rejecting that offer, is eternal loss, just as it was for Judas. We need to keep in mind the consequences of sin, and reach out to others while there is still time.
Lord Jesus, raise us up as Your ambassadors: Give us a passion for lost souls that overcomes our personal fears of rejection. Give us Boldness, Grace, and Wisdom to reach souls for You.