I’d like you to turn to the twenty-sixth chapter of Matthew and give attention as we study Judas. In this Gospel he is mentioned early on where there’s a listing of the disciples, and then again later on when we’re told of his death in chapter 27. But there is no doubt that here in chapter 26 we are told the most about him. He’s one of three characters in this chapter which provide the cast of those who are clustered around Jesus Christ, who of course is the central character.
In addition to these three characters there’s a background grouping. The Sanhedrin, the religious leaders, are mentioned at the very start, and then come in again at the end in this matter of Jesus’ trial. This group is out to condemn him, and they do, and that’s the movement of the story. But in addition to this background grouping, there are three other characters that are brought in. There’s Mary of Bethany, who we were looking at last week. The second is Judas, who were are studying this week. And then there is also Peter. What a contrast there is between those three characters!
Mary of Bethany is a good woman who had great understanding, coming to learn that Jesus was going to go to the cross and die. She may have even understood at this early point something of the truth that he was going to die for her and for all who believed on him. We’re not told a great deal of what she knew or understood, but Jesus does say in the story that she anointed him for his burial. So here you have a good woman who waited upon Jesus and who learned from him and really did understand.
Then there’s Judas, the second character, and he is a bad man. People have speculated for many years about why Judas, who had spent so much time with Jesus and who had opportunity to see goodness in the highest degree, should betray the Lord. A lot of theories have been put forward, but the Bible doesn’t go into all that. It simply tells us that he did. He was bad, and he betrayed his master.
Did Judas understand what he was doing? Well, quite possibly. One of the theories is that Jesus had made clear to Judas that he was going to go to the cross, and Judas had well understood. Jesus wasn’t going to be a powerful messiah who was going to drive out the Romans, and it was out of frustration and anger in hearing this that made Judas betray Jesus. As I say, I don’t know whether that’s the explanation, but at any rate, it is quite possible that Judas understood a good deal and yet rejected it.
And then finally there is Peter. Peter understood very little, and yet Peter had a good heart because Jesus had made it so. He really loved Jesus and Jesus loved Him. And so the outcome of the fall of Peter on the one hand and the betrayal brought about by Judas on the other was entirely different.
Now, what is so striking about Judas the betrayer is not that somebody would betray Jesus. After all, there were many people in his day who hated him, and there are many people who hate him today and everything he stands for. What is really striking about the case of Judas is that Judas was one of the twelve, one of the disciples, one that Jesus had chosen, one who had spent all these many long years with him, had traveled about the country with him, and yet, nevertheless, betrayed him. He had enormous spiritual advantages, and it is worth listing some of them.