"Let's Talk About Judas"

Let’s talk about Judas for a moment.  Judas was a disciple of Jesus.  He was one of the original twelve that accompanied Jesus for his entire three-year ministry.  Yet, Judas is most famous for betraying Jesus in exchange for 30 silver coins. 


He made a deal with the religious leaders to hand over Jesus.  No muss.  No fuss.  Just a silent, in the middle of the night while nobody is watching, ambush.  Which would allow the religious leaders to finally be rid of this pain in the you-know-what, rabble-rouser.


By Thursday, of that fateful Passover week, this was exactly what the religious leaders and even the civil leaders desired: For Jesus to be gone without any public protest.  Afterall, Jesus had been teaching in the temple all week, so he wasn’t all that hard to find and arrest.  If that was, in fact, what the religious and civil leaders truly wanted.


This sad story about someone who was a part of Jesus’ inner circle, was the catalyst for the crucifixion and the resurrection.  The very events that brought about salvation for the entire world.  In fact, we can argue that if Judas hadn’t betrayed Jesus then there wouldn’t have been the crucifixion and the resurrection.  Or, at least, someone else would have had to betray Jesus and hand him over to the religious leaders.  For betrayal was the only way that Jesus could have been captured, tried, convicted and crucified.


Combine all of this with the fact that Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, the Messiah, was prophesied in the Old Testament:


“Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me” (Psalm 41:9)


“If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide.  But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshippers.” (Psalm 55:12-14)


Judas’ story isn’t over with the betrayal of Jesus.  Wracked with guilt, Judas returns the money and then sadly dies as a victim of suicide.  He is so distraught with what he has done, that he sees no other way out then to take his own life.


“When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of sliver to the chief priests and the elders…So Judas threw the money into the temple and left.  Then he went away and hanged himself.” (Matthew 27:3,5)


What Judas did was bad.  Yet, what Judas did had to be done.  If Judas hadn’t betrayed Jesus, somebody else would have.  For the only way that Jesus was going to be crucified and the only way that the Old Testament prophecies would be fulfilled, was if someone betrayed him and handed him over to the religious authorities.


Thus, is our problem with Judas the fact that he betrayed Jesus?  Or is our problem with Judas the fact that he took his own life?  Ponder with me for a moment. 


While Judas was betraying Jesus, being filled with remorse, returning the thirty pieces of silver and falling victim to suicide, another disciple was also making bad decisions.  Peter was told by Jesus, in the upper room, that he would deny Jesus three times before the rooster crowd.  To which Peter adamantly denied any possibility of that ever happening.  Yet, that’s exactly what happened.  Peter denied knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crowd.      


Would our opinion of Peter be different today if he had, like Judas being overwhelmed with remorse, taken his own life?  Yet, Peter stayed alive and was able to later sit face-to-face with Jesus and take back his three denials (John 21:15-17). Thus, receiving the forgiveness that was his, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. 


Today Peter isn’t known as the guy who denied Jesus three times.  He is known as one of the greatest leaders in the church.  He is the guy who spoke on Pentecost and over 3,000 were baptized! 


What if Judas hadn’t died?  Could he have gone to the resurrected Jesus and received the exact same forgiveness as Peter?  I believe he could have.  I believe that what Judas did was no better or no worse than what Peter did.  I believe in the all surpassing grace of Jesus.  I believe that Judas could have gone on to a life of ministry in service of the risen Lord.  I believe we could be reading books in the Bible about his experiences. 


The difference is simply that Judas came to the exact same crossroads as Peter.  But, Judas turned a different direction.  Judas didn’t stick around long enough to experience the grace and forgiveness that was his in Jesus.  That is truly the tragedy of Judas’ story.  Not his betrayal of Jesus, but his betrayal of himself. 


Learn from Judas.  If you have messed up royally.  If you are thinking that you can’t come back from whatever it is that you have done.  You’re wrong.  It’s impossible to out-sin God’s love!