Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
This brings us to Matthew’s appropriately brief reference to Judas who, we are told, went to the chief priests and offered to betray Jesus to them in exchange for thirty silver coins (vv. 14-16). For Judas certainly did lose his soul! Jesus called Judas “the one doomed to destruction” (John 17:12), and just a few verses further on in Matthew 26 Jesus says of him, “Woe to that man who betrays the Son of ManIt would be better for him if he had not been born” (v. 24). Clearly Judas perished and his money with him!
What a terrible thing it was to have betrayed Jesus Christ. It was, to use the words Franklin Delano Roosevelt chose to inform the American public of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which brought the United States into World War II, “a day that will live in infamy.” Judas had spent three years in the closest possible association with the only perfect man who ever lived. Yet in the end he turned his back on him and gave him up to be murdered. It was a horrible thing, and Judas had a horrible end. But it is not altogether different from the decisions of those who turn their backs on Jesus today and whose end is the same as the betrayer’s. Like Judas, many seek the world and its pleasures and forfeit their souls.
What could possibly have induced Judas to betray Jesus to the priests? The only clues we have are his demand for money and the disclosure in John 12 that Judas kept the disciples purse and stole from it (v. 6). I suppose Judas was worldly in the sense that he evaluated things only by what they were worth in hard currency, and he was probably badly disillusioned when he realized that Jesus was not going to be the kind of Messiah he expected and wanted. Jesus was not going to set up an earthly throne and dispense earthly honors, starting with the faithful Twelve. He was probably bitter, believing that he had wasted three years on an utterly hopeless cause.
How could Judas have missed learning what was truly valuable and giving everything for it? I do not know, but I know that millions are doing exactly that today. Let me remind you that it is possible to be quite close to Jesus Christ, to sit in a Christian church listening to good sermons, to hear good Bible teaching by radio or television and even to understand what you hear, to have Christian friends who are living strong Christian lives and bearing strong testimonies to the gospel of God’s grace, and yet fail to love Christ and come to the point of making a personal commitment to him as your own Lord and loving Savior.
It is a tragedy to come that close and yet be lost. But it is not at all necessary. It is possible and much wiser to look into the eyes of Jesus and learn to love him as the one who died for your salvation.