Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.
“Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.”
Psalm 41: 9
We have included Judas in our series of articles on People of the Bible, not because he is a good example to us, but because the course that he pursued in betraying his Lord for thirty pieces of silver is a warning example to all true Christians. We may be sure that Judas did not reach this depth of iniquity suddenly, but rather that the disposition toward unrighteousness had grown upon him during the three and a half years of his intimacy with the Master, when the reverse disposition should have had control.
At the time Judas was chosen to be an Apostle he was evidently a good man, so far as outward appearance, at least, was concerned. His name, which signifies “Praise,” would seem to indicate that his parents were religious and had wished that he would be a messenger of God to sound forth His praise.
Love of Money
From the little that is mentioned in the Gospel records we may reasonably infer that the beginning of Judas’ downfall was the harboring of a love of money. Instead of resisting this wrong spirit and seeking instead to cultivate generosity, love and benevolence, he permitted selfishness to have more or less control in his heart and life. Judas apparently chose the office of treasurer for the little company, whereas, had he been sufficiently aware of his own weakness, his proper course would have been to refuse it. But on the contrary, he sought and obtained the office, and carried the bag with the money put therein; and the Apostle John tells us that he was a thief (John 12: 6).
Probably Judas made the same profession of consecration as the other disciples did, but he wished to be associated with such a great Kingdom as the Messiah would set up. So there was perhaps a measure of selfishness connected with his consecration, something that may be true with all of us. We know that the Lord has a Kingdom and we hope to have a share in it, but the thought of a reward for service should be secondary. The spirit of avarice seemed to grow upon Judas. As matters progressed he began to see that things were not reaching the culmination for which he had hoped and looked. Probably Judas began to think that he could manage affairs better than Jesus.
The Last Supper
While they were at supper Jesus, appearing very sorrowful, gave as an explanation that it would be one of His own chosen twelve that would betray Him. Then He pointed out that although this was all written (Psalm 41: 9), nevertheless, it was a cause of great sorrow to the Lord that the traitor should be one who had been a bosom friend and disciple. When Jesus passed the sop to Judas, he perhaps understood in some measure our Lord’s meaning; but the other disciples did not understand (John 13: 26-30).
Judas no doubt reasoned that he needed to force circumstances, so he carried out his part. He undoubtedly expected that Jesus would escape. He never expected that Jesus would suffer; for when he found that his plan had been carried out and that Jesus would be crucified, he went and hanged himself, and then fell headlong, at the breaking of the rope. We have thus strong evidence of the willful intention which marked Judas’ crime and makes clear the meaning of Jesus’ words when he called him “the son of perdition” (John 17: 12), and declared that it would have been better for him if he had not been born (Matthew 26: 24).
A Sobering Lesson
But while loathing such a character as Judas, let us recognize that one could, in a less degree, commit a crime similar to that of Judas; to sell the Lord for the good things of this present life – for a salary, for social position, for honor amongst men, for popularity and titles; who are even willing to sell their lips, as Judas did; so that while professing to honor and serve the Lord they are willing to join with those who misrepresent His character, His Plan, His Word. Let us be watchful against the spirit of selfishness, so that we may avoid a similar fate to that of Judas.
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