The Temptation of Judas, Part 1
Topic: Expository Passage: John 13:10-11, Matthew 26:14-16
The Temptation of Judas, Part 1
Good evening! This is a different format, isn’t it? I am actually looking forward to teaching in this format, just because it is something new and different. I obviously won’t have PowerPoint this evening, but I will try to keep it engaging so that you can pay attention despite all of the other distractions that might be going on outside. Hopefully the change of setting will actually stimulate you to pay better attention.
As we prepare to wrap up our temptation series, there are still at least two Bible characters I want to discuss. The first is Peter, whom we will discuss, Lord-willing, starting in a couple of weeks. But tonight, I want to discuss the temptation of Judas.
Now, I could just jump right in at this point, but you already know a lot about Judas. So to start off, I want you to tell me everything you know about Judas, and I’ll write it on the board. What do you know about Judas?
Good! So we’ve put together quite a list, and that’s good. Let’s go back now and fill in the blanks.
First, let’s talk about Judas’s background. What does the Bible say about Judas’s background? That’s kind of a trick question, because the answer is, “Not much”; in fact, it tells us practically nothing.
Now, some people have speculated about Judas’s background based on the word “Iscariot.” So some people say that means that Judas came from a town in Judah. Others say it means he was associated with the Sicarii, or “assassins,” a group that practiced guerilla warfare against the Romans. Still others say that it means “liar” or “false one” and that it was a name given to him after his death. And some say that it means “dyer” or even “redhead.” As you can see, there is very little consensus there, and it’s really hard to tell what “Iscariot” means.
His Heart Condition
So we don’t know much about Judas’s background. But we do know about his heart. What was Judas’s heart condition? The Bible tells us in no uncertain terms that Judas was an unbeliever. Turn with me to John 13:10-11 (John 13:10-11).
Jesus is using a metaphor here to refer to salvation vs. relational forgiveness. Those who are clean are those who are saved, and those who need to wash their feet are saved people who have sinned and need to ask for forgiveness. But notice what Jesus says in v 11. He says, “You are not all clean”–in other words, “Not all of you are born again”–and the passage specifically says He was thinking of Judas when He said that.
Now flip over to John 17:12 (John 17:12). Judas was lost. He was “the son of perdition.” Acts 1:25 also talks about him “going to his own place.” All these verses clearly indicate that he was unsaved.
But the amazing thing about Judas is not that he was unsaved. There are lots of unbelievers in the world. What is the amazing thing about Judas? It is that he saw and heard so much and yet remained unsaved! So let’s talk next about Judas’s experiences.
Judas had the same experiences as the other eleven disciples! Whenever the disciples are mentioned as a group in the gospels, remember that Judas was there. That means that Judas heard the Sermon on the Mount–probably multiple times (at least twice) because Jesus was an itinerant preacher who probably repeated His sermons. Judas would have heard Jesus telling people, “You must be born again.”
Judas was there when the roof of a house opened up and a paralytic man was lowered so that he could get to Jesus. He heard Jesus say, “Your sins are forgiven you” and then “Arise, take up your bed, and walk.” Judas was one of the disciples passing out food at the feeding of the 5,000 and 4,000. He was on that boat on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus said “Peace, be still” and when He came walking to them on the water. Judas watched Jesus raise Lazarus to life after he had been dead four days.
What do we learn from all this? It is possible to have incredible access to teaching and even see miracles but still not believe. Can you think of anyone else in Scripture who had access to teaching and saw God do amazing things but didn’t believe? (Pharaoh, the wilderness generation, Ahab and Jezebel, the Pharisees and the rest of the Jews who crucified Jesus, Satan)
When it comes to our ministry to others, these truths should drive us to prayer. Only God can change a heart. These truths should also encourage us to give everyone individual attention. We cannot take for granted that, “Well, Jenny’s dad is a pastor, so of course she’s saved!” No! That is never the way that it works! We must individually call people to repentance and pray for them. Never take a person’s faith for granted!
Despite all that he said and heard, Judas not only remained an unbeliever, he also betrayed the Lord. So let’s talk next about that betrayal, which was Judas’s lasting legacy.
His Betrayal (Mat 26:14-16)
This scene is very abrupt. Seemingly out of nowhere, Judas walks in to the chief priests and asks, “What are you willing to give me to betray Jesus?” They say, “Thirty pieces of silver,” which we are to view as a further insult to Christ, since thirty pieces of silver was the price of a slave in the Old Testament. (Whether or not the chief priests intended that connection is a little bit hard to tell.) And Judas says, “Done.” No bargaining. That’s it. He’s going to try to get Jesus to them before Christ leaves town at the end of the week.
Judas got his opportunity on Thursday evening (John 13:18-30). This story takes place at the last supper. Jesus and His disciples are sitting around a low table sharing a meal together. And in that context, Christ quotes Psalm 41:9, “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted,
who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”
In this passage, David is most likely reflecting on the treachery of Ahithophel. Do you remember who Ahithophel was? He was David’s trusted counselor who defected and served Absalom during Absalom’s revolt. That desertion really knocked the wind out of David, because he and Ahithophel had been close friends. David had trusted Ahithophel; he had eaten at David’s table!
In the ancient world, to accept hospitality from someone was considered a pledge of loyalty. You didn’t just let someone feed and take care of you and then turn around and betray him. But that is exactly what Ahithophel did to David, and it is also what Judas did to Jesus. If you reconstruct this scene based upon this passage, you will find that Judas was most likely sitting to the left of Jesus, in the place of honor. One of the worst parts about his betrayal was that he betrayed a friend.
Jesus very clearly points Judas out to John as the betrayer in this passage. But the rest of the disciples are clueless, and even John does not comprehend the gravity of the situation.
Let’s find out next what happened later that night. Turn to Luke 22:47-48 (Luke 22:47-48). The way Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss is the perfect summary of his life of hypocrisy and duplicity. And Christ calls him out on it, too! He says, “Judas, are you really going to betray Me with a kiss? How low can you stoop?” This is the ultimate example of stabbing someone in the back.
Now, what’s the million-dollar question as it relates to all of this? Why did Judas do it? Have you ever asked yourself that question? I’d like to answer that question in three parts.
Judas betrayed Jesus because he was influenced by Satan.
Turn with me to John 6:70-71 (John 6:70-71). Without getting into all of the context, the point here is that Jesus calls Judas “a devil,” which should probably be translated, “the devil.” What does that mean? Is Judas actually Satan incarnate? No, because Jesus calls Peter “Satan” as well at one point! So we recognize this is a metaphor. It’s not that Judas is Satan but that he is being influenced by Satan.
Fast forward to John 13:2 (John 13:2). Who put it into Judas’s heart to betray Jesus? Satan did! Now skip down to v. 27 (John 13:27). The expression “entered into him” is used in the synoptic gospels to describe demon possession. So at this point, Satan takes over in an even greater way. Not only is Judas demon possessed; he is possessed by Satan himself.
What do we take away from the Bible’s description of Satan’s involvement in Judas’s life? We are reminded that we are in the middle of a spiritual conflict of cosmic proportions, and you can’t play Switzerland! You will inevitably fight on one side or the other. Either you will bow the knee to Jesus, or you will be used by the devil. Judas is an extreme example of that fact. He probably didn’t even know that he was being controlled by the devil, but he was.
By the way, does the fact that Judas was influenced or controlled by Satan get him off the hook for his actions? No. Judas still made free decisions. He was complicit with Satan. And because of that, he bears the punishment for his sins. Jesus said of Judas in Matthew 26:24, “The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” That is a scary, scary thought!
So we need to recognize the agency of Satan in Judas’s betrayal. If Judas’s actions don’t make sense to you, it may be because you are trying to give him too much credit. Consider the fact that Judas was controlled by Satan, and his actions make a lot more sense.
Judas betrayed Jesus because he was greedy.
Turn with me to John 12:3-8 (John 12:3-8). This is a fascinating passage as it relates to understanding Judas. First, we learn that he had an important position among the disciples. What was Judas’s position? He was the treasurer, which means that he must have been highly trusted by the other disciples. And in fact, that is exactly what we see throughout the rest of the story. None of the other disciples suspect Judas until the very last minute (even though Christ new he was false all along)!
The second thing we learn about Judas in this passage is that he was a thief. He was in the habit of embezzling money regularly, which was not only a sin against God, Jesus, and the disciples, but also a sin against those who donated the money and those to whom it was supposed to go! It would be like if Ben VanWyk or Danny DeWittie were stealing money out of the church benevolence fund! It displays a total lack of respect for the Lord and a lack of love for the poor, who actually need that money.
Judas is contrasted by Mary in this passage. Mary loves Jesus so much that she is willing to break this family heirloom in order to anoint Him with oil that cost about a years’ wages for a days’ laborer in those days. Judas, on the other hand, goes out and betrays Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, which was worth either a month’s wages or four months’ wages, depending on what type of silver coinage he was paid.
So clearly, love of money was part of what motivated Judas. But I don’t think we can stop at that. I think there was a third factor motivating Judas, and that was political frustration.
Judas probably betrayed Jesus out of political frustration.
Turn back to Matthew 26:6-16 (Mat 26:6-16). In this passage, Judas seems to be spurred on by what appears to be a second anointing of Jesus within the span of one week.
Now think about this: if Judas was motivated solely by greed, why would he give up his position as treasurer? I mean, sure, the chief priests offered him thirty pieces of silver, but couldn’t he have gotten more by stealing from the money box over time? Also, if he was motivated solely by greed, why didn’t he try to bargain with the chief priests? Judas had to know that he was presenting the chief priests with the deal of a lifetime. So when they offered him thirty pieces of silver, why didn’t he demand fifty?
To answer that question, let’s go back to the anointing(s) in Bethany. What did the act of anointing symbolize, according to Jesus? It symbolized His burial. In other words, the women anointing Him recognize based on His teaching that Jesus is going to die very soon. So they take this last opportunity to express their love to Him before His death. Most of the disciples don’t understand the significance of the parable that is acted out right in front of them because they are still somewhat clueless in the upper room that night that He is betrayed. But the women understand, and Jesus understands, and guess who else seems to understand? Judas.
I think Judas started off following Jesus with the expectation that Jesus would save them from Rome. But over time, it became clearer to him that whatever Jesus was about was not what he signed up for. Over time, distance grew in his heart between himself and the other disciples and Jesus. However, rather than be honest about this growing disconnect, Judas covered it up and pretended like everything was just fine. Not only that, but he used his position as treasurer to take advantage of the situation and steal money. He stayed in because it was easier for him to “stay in” than to “get out.” No one knew he was fake or that he was stealing money (at least, so he thought, although Jesus gave more and more indication as time went on that He was on to Judas, which probably made Judas nervous). Maybe Judas thought Jesus would change His mind and decide to fight after all!
But after the anointing, he thinks, “That’s it. That’s the last straw. Jesus is missing the PERFECT OPPORTUNITY to rebel against Rome! All of Israel is here for the Passover! Not only that, but Jews from around the world have gathered! Millions of them! And they were all laying palm branches before Him and hailing Him as their Messiah last Sunday! He is never going to get a better opportunity! He missed His shot! Not only that, but if I didn’t know better, I’d think that He WANTS to be a martyr! The way He keeps talking about death all the time… you would think that He knows what is coming! Well, if He wants to get Himself killed, He can be my guest, but I’m not going down with the ship! No! I’m taking what is mine and getting out of here!”
And so in exasperation, he goes to the chief priests and sells Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.
Now, I understand that is reading between the lines a little, but I think it is a faithful reconstruction based on the facts that are given us.
So Judas betrays Jesus because Satan was influencing him, because he was greedy, and because of political frustrations. We’ll talk about Judas’s death next time, but I’d like to wrap up today’s lesson by making two applications.
Materialism probably isn’t the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about Judas. And yet his story stands as a sobering reminder about the deceitfulness of riches. 1 Timothy 6:9-10 says it this way: “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” Love of money will destroy you.
In his book The Odyssey, Homer tells the story of Odysseus and the Sirens. In Greek mythology, Sirens are monsters who live on islands and attract their prey by singing to them. Sirens sing so beautifully that they make grown men go insane. The sailors pilot their ships toward the island, crash on the rocks, and die.
In The Odyssey, Odysseus is warned ahead of time about the Sirens. So he makes all his men stop of their ears with beeswax so they cannot hear the song. But Odysseus wants to hear it, so instead of stopping his ears, he instructs his men to tie him to the mast and tells him that no matter what he says when they pass by the island, they are not to untie him. In fact, if he begs to be untied, they must tighten the ropes.
Sure enough, when they pass by the island, Odysseus hears the irresistible song and begs to be untied. He thrashes and struggles so much to get free that the ropes cut into his arms and his legs. He screams and yells, but his men keep on rowing. Finally, when they are past the island and the song has died away, Odysseus returns to his senses. His men untie him, and he thanks them for obeying orders.
How many of you have heard that story before? It has survived for over 2700 years because it graphically reflects human nature. Now, we’re not going to psychoanalyze the Odyssey tonight, but my point is that money can be like the song of the Sirens. It can feel almost impossible to turn down. But God says that the love of money is a trap. If you give your heart to money, you will crash into the rocks and drown in the sea like those sailors who fell victim to the Sirens.
In our culture, love of money is not only accepted, it is applauded. You don’t even have to be embarrassed about loving money anymore!
And yet love of money was one of the sins that sank Judas. Now, I know there was more going on in Judas’s heart than simply the love of money. Most importantly, Judas didn’t believe. And yet, we ought to take seriously the fact that the motivation of Judas the Bible highlights the most is greed. Brothers and sisters, you must guard your hearts against materialism!
The story of Judas is a sobering reminder that not everyone who identifies as a disciple of Jesus Christ is actually born again. This truth should lead us to sober reflection. Do you serve God for what you can get here and now, or do you take up your cross for what He has promised you in heaven?
I heard a preacher one time tell a story about a missionary he knew who left the faith. He said he was talking to a friend of his about it afterwards, and he asked his friend, “How do you think that happened?” His friend said, “I don’t think he was ever saved to begin with.” The preacher said, “How can that be? After all, he went to Africa [or wherever it was]!” His friend said, “Yes, but you also have to understand that wherever he went, he was always the golden boy. Everywhere he went, people praised him. ‘You’re so smart. You’re so talented. You’re so kind. They’re so lucky to have you.’ Although he was a missionary, he never made a single major decision that cost him deeply, simply because he loved Jesus.”
So what about you? Do you serve God for the praise? Why are you here tonight? Kids, do you like to come to church just to play with your friends? Why do you do what you do?
Following Jesus sometimes results in earthly blessings. But true believers are willing to make sacrifices because they love Jesus and are focused upon eternity. People who merely profess to be saved don’t typically make those same sacrifices. At the end of the day, most of their choices are guided by raw self-interest. What about you?
We sang “The Church’s One Foundation” tonight. That hymn talks about how Christ will protect His Church from attack. One of the verses says, “Though there be those that hate her and false sons in her pale, Against the foe or traitor, she ever shall prevail.”
There will be those who hate the Church, and false sons in her pale. By the way, a “pale” is just an area protected by a boundary. The hymn is just saying that there will be people “in the Church” who profess to be Christians but turn out to be lost. And those types of people often do great damage when they defect, kind of like Judas. But the point is that we should expect that kind of a thing to happen! Because it has been happening since the very beginning with Jesus and His disciples!
How should you respond when you hear that a friend who used to profess to be a Christian has become an atheist or converted to Mormonism or Catholicism? Should that news sadden you? Yes! Should it shock you? It might very well even shock you! Should it rock you to your core and cause you to doubt your beliefs? Not if you have taken seriously the story of Judas.
Let me take it a step further. Even if Pastor Kit or I were ever to walk away from the faith and start preaching another gospel (God forbid), you stand firm. Galatians 1:8 says, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.”
So #3: expect Judases.
Praise God for Using a Judas to Bring about His Plan!
Let me ask you this question: did Jesus know all along that Judas was unsaved? Yes He did! Did Jesus know all along that Judas would betray Him? Yes! Then why did He choose him? Because His plan all along was to die!
It seems like we talk about this often, but it should never get old. Not only does God permit sin; He uses it to accomplish His will. The story of Judas was not a defeat for God, like, “Oh well. You win some, you lose some.” No, the story of Judas was a defeat for Judas, but God actually used Judas to accomplish His plan!
No matter how hard you try, you cannot fight against God! If you try, 1) you will destroy yourself in the process, and 2) God will still use your efforts to fulfill His plan. So don’t fight against God!
Not only that, but when you see other people sinning against God and you are tempted to think, “We are losing this battle,” check yourself. That is bad theology. God doesn’t lose any battles. So when you hear on the news about Christians being persecuted or the home or government being attacked or injustice taking place, remind yourself, “Those sinners are playing into God’s hand.” And then smile, just like God smiles or even laughs when the nations rage against Him per Psalm 2.
The story of Judas is one of the most sobering stories in the Bible. And yet, in the end, how much did Judas ultimately hurt Jesus or His Church? Not a bit. Don’t we serve a big God?