In this week’s lessons on Judas’s betrayal, we see that despite spiritual advantages, one can still miss salvation in the end if the sinful heart is not regenerated by God’s grace.
Scripture: Matthew 26:14-30
In terms of Judas’ credible profession I think that it means that Judas was guilty of no outwardly immoral acts. Now there is an interesting little detail that John gives us in the twelfth chapter of John, verse six. John points out that Judas was treasurer of the company. John’s way of putting it is to say he kept the bag. That is, he carried the purse along with him. When people would contribute something to this missionary band, as they apparently did, Judas was the one who would carry it. And John says almost in passing, as it were, he was a thief and he used to steal from it. But it’s only in John that we’re told that. Nobody else mentions it, and there is nothing in the story anywhere along that indicates that anybody was suspicious of that.
So here was a man, who although he was a thief, and who apparently came to dislike Jesus toward the end of his life, he didn’t betray this in any outward way of immoral actions or loose talk. It would be different if Judas had sat around telling the other disciples that he used to believe in Jesus but has since come to have a lot of doubts. His credible profession would have been seriously questioned if he expressed his wishes for Jesus to be a great revolutionary and military leader—the Messiah who will be a conqueror and to establish the throne of David—and that Judas wants to rule in power, too. But now with all Jesus’ talk about being crucified and for his disciples to have to take up their cross and follow him, that’s not what he got into this for. He’s not interested in the way this is going.
If Judas had sat around talking like that the disciples would have picked up on it. They would have known what was going on. They would have said to Jesus, “This man is not with us anymore. We’ve got a problem here.” Peter, who we know at that same time said quite openly, “I will defend you even if I have to die with you,” would certainly have got on Judas’ case and driven him out of the apostolic band if he thought he was unfaithful. You see, he gave no indications of that. Here he was on the very verge of the betrayal and nobody except the Lord knew it. In fact, none of the disciples had any suspicion of it.
What we have in this chapter is first of all his offer to betray Jesus. We’re told that he initiated it. Judas went to them and he said, “Look, what will you give me if I hand him over to you.” And then later on in the same chapter we find that he actually did it. He betrayed his Lord.
How can that happen? I think perhaps there’s something of an explanation that we find in John’s Gospel. There are two places in which Jesus describes himself as the light of the world. One is in John 9 in the context of the story of the healing of the man who was born blind, and the other is in John 8 immediately after the story that tells about the attempt of the leaders of the people to trap the woman who was taken in adultery.
Now, it strikes me that this use of light is not accidental. You know if you go out in a field and there is a board setting there, when you turn the board over you’ll find that there’s nothing growing underneath because it has no sun. But if you leave the board off that particular area of the field, the sun is allowed to shine upon it, and very soon the seeds that are there in the soil will begin to grow. That’s what happened in the case of the man who had been born blind in John 9. He didn’t understand anything at the beginning, but Jesus shone upon him, healing him not only of his physical sight but of his spiritual blindness as well. As a result, this man’s spiritual perception began to grow.
But then you go back to the earlier story in John 8. These men burned in such hatred against Jesus because he exposed them. He was really righteous and holy and they were not, although they had the reputation for it; and they hated him for it and they tried to trap him. They brought before Jesus this woman who they claimed was taken in adultery. They probably set the whole thing up, since it would have been difficult to find two genuine witnesses to her sin, which was needed to convict someone of a capital offense. They wanted to trap Jesus by saying to him, “Are you going to obey the law of Moses and have her stoned? Or are you going to try and show mercy and disobey the law of Moses?” They knew it was a great problem. How can God show mercy and uphold his law at the same time? But trying to put Jesus into a corner in order to catch him in his words was demonic. In that context, you see, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”
I ask the question: What does light do if it shines upon clay? Well the answer is it gets harder as the light shines upon it. Now that’s what happened to Judas during the three years of Christ’s ministry. I don’t believe that at the beginning he had any idea whatsoever that the time would come in his life when he would betray the Son of God. I think when Jesus came to him and called him and said, “Follow me,” as he did to the other disciples, Judas with anticipation of good years ahead and perhaps even a certain measure of attraction to this remarkable rabbi, left what he was doing, just as Peter and John and James and Andrew and all the others did, and followed Jesus.
But what could not be seen was that his heart was not right. The work of regeneration had not been done in him. And as he was with Jesus week after week, month after month, for three years, instead of softening and growing and coming to understand spiritual things and respond to them in love and obey his Master, he became increasingly distant and hard. And because he was in the company of the disciples he disguised what he was really like, and he played the hypocrite so well that not one of them suspected. And in the end, as we know, he betrayed the very Son of God.
How did Judas maintain his “credible profession” in front of other people?
What caused Judas to go to the chief priests and offer to betray Jesus to them? How does John 8 and 9 help to answer this?
Application: Have you ever been betrayed by someone, particularly another Christian? How did you handle the situation and move on from the bad experience? Or if you are still having trouble with how someone treated you, what do you need to do to honor the Lord from your perspective?
For Further Study: To learn more about the sinfulness of the human heart, which only God can change through the work of Christ on the cross, download for free and listen to James Boice’s message from John 2, “Christ and the Heart of Man.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)
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