In Jesus’ time being called Judas was a GOOD thing! Judas is the Greek form of the Hebrew personal name Judah meaning, “Praise Yahweh”, and was quite a common name.
Judas Iscariot is placed by all of the Gospel writers at the end of the list of disciples because of the part he played in the arrest of Jesus. Judas is nothing like the man Julian Lloyd Webber portrays in the musical Jesus Christ superstar (which I love by the way).
Iscariot is an Aramaic word which means “man of Kerioth”, a town near Hebron. He was the only disciple from Judea. He acted as treasurer for the disciples but was known as a miser and a thief, so for example when Jesus was anointed at Bethany, it is Judas who says “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” And John’s assessment is that “He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” (John 12:5-6).
Ultimately though, what Judas is remembered for is not the fact he was a thief, but that he betrayed Jesus, so much so that in our unchristian secular culture, the name Judas has become such a negative term that it has all but ceased being a name at all. I don’t know of anyone called Judas today, and I don’t know anyone who would call their son Judas, so I searched that fount of all knowledge, Google for stats on how many people have been named Judas and found that in the USA, in 2018 (the last year for which I could find figures for the name) of the 3 million births that year, only 17 were named Judas.
So, what can we learn today from this disciple who is pretty much universally regarded with repulsion?
Proximity to Jesus will not necessarily give you immunity from Sin.
“Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than going to MacDonalds makes you a hamburger!” We all know that being in Church is not what makes us Christians. We go to church because we are Christians, we are not Christians because we go to church! But this points to something deeper than that. Some people regard Jesus or their faith in Him as some kind of charm or talisman against sin. All I have to do to keep from sinning is to stay as close as I can to the Lord and I won’t sin. Well the story of Judas teaches that this is not necessarily the case – Judas sinned. – spent 3 years as one of Jesus’ disciples, he saw the miracles, he heard and listened to the teaching, yet he still sinned. He still let the Lord down.
Jesus himself alludes to this …. Why do you call me Lord, Lord? Matthew 7:21ff., Luke 6:46
We also read in Hosea 8:2ff.Israel cries out to me, ‘O our God, we acknowledge you! ’But Israel has rejected what is good – and then Hosea spells out what that looks like: Just saying I love you God and not living it is called “lip service” in the Bible and it is worthless.
Understand this – It was not just Judas who failed – but also Peter (denied him), Thomas (didn’t believe he was risen), all of the disciples (ran away and hid) in one way or another they all misunderstood and fell away even though they spent time in Jesus company.
Why do we Fall into Sin?
So, why sometimes, despite our proximity to Jesus, do we do things which we know are not His wish for us?
We Choose To
Often people sin because they choose to. There might be all sorts of reasons why, but in the end, it all boils down to choice, far too frequently sin is in our lives because we are not willing to remove it.
illustration of Bob saying “I know I should be a Christian, but I am aware that there are things in my life which are not compatible with l;Irving as a Christian and bluntly I don’t want to give them up”
We read of Judas that he was a thief and the keeper of the Disciples’ purse. That he kept the purse may not have been a choice for him, but that he was a thief was entirely under his control. Too commonly nowadays we have a culture which will do everything it can to justify abhorrent actions. People rioted in the summer, they burnt and looted shops, they destroyed property, they engaged in all sorts of antisocial behaviour and some people on the media were not only refusing to condemn the violence and law-breaking, they were condoning it. Why? Because people were angry. Nut every single person in every single riot, whether in Bristol or Washington or anywhere else, made a choice. Every single one chose to break the law.
Even in churches, where the right choice should be obvious, people choose to disobey God. Sadly all too often we see people in churches who are not living as the Bible teaches, some don’t bother to hide it and occasionally you find people are even proud of themselves in it, but this is not always the case. More frequently people who have deliberate sin in their lives look exactly like everyone else, they try hide their sin, so for example, there have been a couple of high profile Christian leaders in the last couple of years who have accommodated and even pursued sinful behaviour despite preaching the way of Christ. I won’t name them, but it seems to me that with frightening regularity one person or another fails because some hidden sin has been uncovered. The damage to the Gospel in such instances is saddening, and the church far from being salt and light, becomes like the culture it is supposed to challenge.
Paul speaks of this kind of person in Romans 1. He says this …
Romans 1:28-32 (NIV) “they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
My point here is not to list categories of sin, but to note that although such people do know the difference between right and wrong, they choose to do the wrong, and furthermore, some even approve of others who do likewise.
When Judas went to the priests and agreed to betray Jesus, we read this in their attitude. Luke 22:5 tells us “they were delighted and agreed to give him money”. We need to understand that sometimes (I venture even to think often), sinfulness on our part can trigger delight and approval from those around us AND material or some other kind of gain for us. Approval of others does not mean we are doing the right thing.
Humanity / Weakness
This is different to deliberate sin – we all have weak spots, areas where for one reason or another we fail again and again.
Paul speaks of this struggle too, he speaks of an inner battle against sin … Romans 7:15-19 (NIV) “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”
Jesus says the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak – Matthew 26:41, Mark 14:38
This is the experience of many Christians. We fight this battle daily. It is hinted at when Jesus talks about “daily we must take up our crops, deny ourselves and follow him”
But we slip and fall from time to time. The good ones, though is that we have forgiveness in Christ: 1 John 1:9 (NIV) “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
But realise this – there is a world of difference between falling into sin, realising it and fighting against it, to consciously and deliberately engaging in activity we know is sinful. Or even approving of it.
Direct Spiritual Attack
We must understand that we are in a spiritual battle, Ephesians 6 says this quite clearly, and our enemy Satan does not rest. Paul says
1 Peter 5:8 (NIV) “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
It was Satan who entered into Judas. See Luke 22:1-6 and John 13:27 (only occurs here in John’s gospel!)
Resist the Devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7) What hope is there? How do we resist? -how do we keep from sinning?
We must recognise what it is and how it works – know your enemy and know how he works. Understand where we are vulnerable
Characteristics of Sin
I know this morning majors on Judas agreeing/planning to betray Jesus, but there are some characteristics of sin we need to recognise so we can guard against them …
Matthew 26v14-16 – Then one of the Twelve–the one called Judas Iscariot –went to the chief priests 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. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over
Mark 14v10,11 – Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over
Luke 22v3-6 – Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present
I want to make two seemingly unconnected statements:
My big brother Nige claims to be an atheist. He claims that the terms “God” and the “Devil” are just our way of putting substance on Good and Evil.
When we did children’s and youth work we used a parachute canopy that we used for playing games with young children. One of the games they love is called “cat and mouse”, two or three young children get under the outspread chute, and one of them gets on top. The rest of the kids fan the chute, and the job of the child on top – the cat – is to catch the kids underneath. It sounds easy, but since the parachute is being rippled, and the mice are trying not to be caught, often the cat has great difficulty in even seeing where the mice are, let alone catching them!.
Do you see the connection? The devil is a great deceiver. John 8:44 says that the devil is “a liar and the father of all lies” he likes nothing better than people who don’t believe he exists. If you don’t believe that he exists, you cannot resist him – he is rippling the chute, and hiding his true identity. If we are to resist the devil who the Bible tells us is the prince of the realm of evil (Ephesians 6:12, Luke 11:18 Matthew 25:41) We have to learn to recognise him.
Sin Creeps in Privately
Most people if asked would say Judas betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, but I would like to suggest that his betrayal happened much earlier than that, in a private meeting with the priests.
- Gethsemane = public
- Meeting with the priests = private
Sin doesn’t enter in publicly, it comes in the private in the dark, Sin is not born in front of people – it is there long before, in the private place.
darkness and light – people in sin prefer the darkness: John 3v19 men prefer the darkness instead of the light because their deeds were evil.
Sin is in the hidden recesses of our hearts that our true character and personality lie. Our public faithfulness to God is rooted in our private faithfulness to Him. . That is why Jesus is the LIGHT of the world. You don’t dispel darkness by fighting it, you dispel it by turning on a light. Integrity is about being in the light, with nothing hidden, it is being the same both sides of the front door (Adam). Are we? Am I / Are you one person at work, another when out with friends and yet another at home? That is hypocrisy and we know what Jesus thinks about hypocrites!
Motivations are not always what they seem – even a motive that “cares” for others may not be all it seems. Changing your actions is important, but it is not enough, it’s like putting the cart before the horse. It is in the hidden recesses of our hearts that our true character and personality lie.
1 Samuel 16v7 “man looks at the outward appearance , but God looks at the heart”. The light of the world shines His light into our hearts (2 Corinthians 4v6)
The bottom line is this one – We DO what we do because we ARE what we are. We don’t become righteous and forgiven by doing stuff – we do stuff because Jesus made us righteous and forgiven.
Sin Doesn’t Happen by Accident
When did the betrayal happen? – it was NOT at the Last Supper, it was NOT in Gethsemane, it was long before then, it was in the heart and inner man of Judas when he went to the chief priests. This was not an uncharacteristic slip, it was not a man who was trying to follow Jesus and failed in a moment of temper or of weakness. Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was premeditated and planned out.
- He planned the kiss
- He planned the location and the time
- He waited for his opportunity to strike.
Satan is waiting for an opportunity to strike us. Romans 7v7 and 11 describe Sin as seizing an opportunity …
How many times do we watch on our TVs or hear people saying – “it just happened, I didn’t plan it!” CODSWALLOP!!
When you don’t take care with your character, with who you are, when you don’t watch out for and take steps to avoid the pitfalls of life, you are being as irresponsible and reckless as someone who doesn’t maintain their car and then claims they are completely innocent when it fails, causes an accident and kills someone.
Guard your heart and your spirit because for every one of us, sin is waiting in the sidelines to grab us, and the battle is not won or lost in the event (whatever that is), it is won in our wills and in our Spirits.
1 Timothy 4:16 (NIV) “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) “guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
So, what is the good news this morning?
God Knows and STILL He Loves
Jesus was well aware of Judas’ plans to betray him, yet he still included him in everything he did. He still was one of the 12 sent out, he was still amongst the disciples whose feet were washed by Jesus he is served with the bread and wine by the Saviour.
Jesus Knew Judas’s heart, the gospel writers tell us this on a number of occasions, yet Jesus still loved him and included him in everything he did. Judas was one of the 12 Jesus sent out and who came back with stories of miracles, Judas was one of the disciples who distributed bread and fish to the crowds when Jesus fed 5,000 miraculously. Judas was among the disciples whose feet were washed by Jesus. Judas is served with the bread and wine by the Saviour.
Jesus serves the one who has ALREADY decided to betray him. Jesus knew Judas’ heart, yet loved him anyway. At the last supper – Jesus ministered bread and wine to disciples BEFORE Judas left to betray him.
This is remarkable if you think about it. It tells us so much about the love God has for us. He knows our weaknesses, he knows our wickedness, yet he still loves us. God knows all we ever have done or ever will do, yet the Bible is clear that:
While we were still sinners Christ died for us Romans 5v8
I know about the dipping the bread at the same time etc., but the declaration of “This is my body …. This is my blood” was given for Judas as well. The dipping of the bread is not just to reveal who will betray him – in fact the disciples we are told thought that Judas was going out to pay for something. John 13v27ff. “What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him, but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor.
The dipping of the bread was yet another fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy that reveals Jesus as Messiah … John 13v18. Describes the bread thing is a fulfilment of messianic prophecy – from Psalm 41v9
God knows all
While we were still sinners Christ died for us – Romans 5v8
In Matthew 13 in the parable of the wheat and weeds, we are told not to remove any (and the implication is that we serve all), and that at the right time, God will deal with it – leave that up to God.
He will reveal what is in our hearts – even if not in this world, our hearts will be revealed for what they are when we meet Him face to face.
This is or should be so encouraging for us, that despite ourselves, Jesus knows what we are like and still he offers us salvation and victory over evil – not though our own goodness, but through the cross.
It is through the cross that Salvation is possible, not by our works, or even our proximity to Jesus, but through the very thing that the Devil used to try to defeat Jesus – the cross. When we resist evil, when we flee towards the Cross, we gain the very thing that the devil is trying to take from us, our salvation, and our peace. Now that’s Good News!
Our confidence is in the Lord, and we can say “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory for ever and ever” (2 Timothy 4:18)