Dare to Be a Disciple: Defeated Judas

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Sunday - 9:15 AM Sunday School, 10:30 AM Worship Service

by: Denise Robinson

02/21/2022

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Dare to Be a Disciple: Defeated Judas

Mark 14:17-21; Matthew 27:3-5; John 17:11-12

Judas Iscariot. The name alone conjures up all kinds of images: a kiss by a friend, a stab in the back by a traitor, thirty pieces of silver. Many of us, if asked to name the twelve disciples called by Jesus, would immediately come up with the big three – Peter, James, and John; and then maybe we might name Matthew and Thomas. The others: James the lesser, Simon the zealot, Philip, Bartholomew, and the other Judas, also called Jude, tend to get overlooked. Judas, the betrayer, we all remember. We are ending a sermon series focused on discipleship as seen through the lives of several of the disciples. From Thomas we learned that a disciple will have doubts but never stops asking questions and seeking answers. From John we learned that the greatest single attribute of a disciple is to love others. From Peter we learned to keep our focus on Jesus and who Jesus claimed to be, and to remember the depth of God’s love and grace for us. Peter was the one who wrote these simple words: “Love covers a multitude of sins.” What can we learn from Judas? 

It’s interesting, well to me at least, that every time Judas is mentioned in the Gospels with the other disciples, he is mentioned last. Was it because he was chosen last or because of his betrayal? The truth is we don’t know. Biblical scholars agree that Iscariot was not Judas’ last name; it refers to his place of birth. Jesus of Nazareth. Simon Peter of Capernaum. Saul of Tarsus. Judas Iscariot (in Aramaic) – in Hebrew, Judas Ish Queriot – in Greek, Judas of Kerioth. Kerioth was a village in southwestern Judea. There was Galilee, then to the south of that was Samaria, and south of Samaria was Judea. Bethlehem and Jerusalem are in Judea, but near the northern end of the Dead Sea; Kerioth was further south almost out of Palestine entirely, closer to Egypt than to Galilee. Judas was the only non-Galilean disciple; the outsider from south of Jerusalem. 

Nothing tells us how Judas came to be in a place for Jesus to call him as a disciple given that almost all of Jesus’ ministry was in the northern part of Israel, certainly north of Jerusalem. But the Gospels make it clear that just like the other disciples, Judas was only of the called. Judas was there when Jesus fed the 5,000, preached the Sermon on the Mount, healed lepers, blind men, and the lame, and raised Lazarus from the dead. Judas heard Jesus speak of his death and resurrection, and heard him claim to be God. In Mark 6, when Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs to teach, to heal, and to call on people to repent, Judas was one of those who went. What happened?

We can’t be sure of the reason, but what is clear is that at some point in the three years, Judas allowed his heart to shift from what Jesus was teaching to what Judas wanted. Or, perhaps it was about what he wanted from the very beginning. There is speculation by scholars, based on Judas’ home territory, that he was a member of the Zealots, a group of Jewish nationalists who favored armed rebellion against the Romans. Did Judas believe that Jesus, as Messiah, would ultimately take up the sword, overthrow the Romans, and re-establish a Jewish nation like what existed under King David? If Judas thought this, he wouldn’t have been alone – but fairly early in Jesus’ three-year ministry it would’ve become obvious that this was not Jesus’ plan. Did anger and disappointment overwhelm Judas to the point that he felt betrayed by the one who called him to follow? Maybe it was something as simple as greed and pride that caused Judas to betray Jesus. In John 12, we read how Judas, when Mary used expensive oil to anoint Jesus’ feet, criticized her and wondered out loud why the oil hadn’t been sold instead to raise money for the poor. A nice sentiment, but John makes it clear that Judas didn’t care at all for the poor – John refers to Judas as a thief who regularly stole from their common purse and makes the claim that Judas wanted to pocket the money from the oil for himself. Jesus openly rebukes Judas for his statement and just six days later Judas will go to the priests and agree to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Whatever the underlying reason, John 13 makes this statement: Judas allowed the devil to prompt him into betraying Jesus. 

This is the first lesson we can take from the life of Judas. We don’t use the word “devil” much in our culture today. There’s a common saying, “The devil made me do it,” but it’s said as a joke rather than a reality. To the early Christians and writers of the New Testament, the devil was no joke. Peter wrote that the devil is our adversary, prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Revelation refers to the devil as the deceiver of the world. In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul wrote of the devil as the spirit that is now at work to sow in believers’ disobedience and lead them to destruction. In Corinthians, Paul wrote that Satan works to blind minds to keep us from seeing the light of the gospel. John’s Gospel calls Satan a liar and the father of lies. In Matthew, Satan unsuccessfully tempted Jesus to sin; but in Luke 22:3-6 we read that before Judas went to meet with the chief priests about betraying Jesus, Satan entered into him.

When you follow Christ, the truth is that Satan pursues you with the goal of turning you away; and his M.O. is to do that not with threats but with thoughts that play into our human pride, vanity, and greed. Satan doesn’t enter into us without our consent. Think that you are more intelligent because you’ve walked away from some naïve belief in God? Think that the church is full of hypocrites and you can do better on your own just being “spiritual?” Think that Jesus’ words of blessed are the poor and the meek will inherit the earth are just too simplistic in a world that says we should care only about ourselves and those we love? Watch out … because those are words the devil uses to draw you away from Jesus. Think that only religious nuts would believe in a man dressed in red with horns and a long tail? That’s exactly what Satan wants you to think. Billy Graham wrote, in his book, The Journey: Don’t think of Satan as a harmless cartoon character with a red suit and a pitchfork. (Because that’s not what he looks like at all.) Satan is very clever and powerful, and his unchanging purpose is to defeat God’s plans at every turn – including God’s plans for your life.” If you are thinking of following Christ, Satan will do everything in his power to prevent it. If you have made a decision to be a disciple, Satan hates your faith. The lesson we learn from Judas is to be on guard for voices that draw us to what we want rather than what God wants for us. 

In the middle of Judas’ story, we come to a question. Did Judas have to betray Jesus? Was it all part of God’s plan, such that he had no control? I’ve heard it said that we wouldn’t have had the resurrection had it not been for the kiss. Is that true? The prophet Zechariah, in the Old Testament, writing hundreds of years before Christ, wrote of a worthless shepherd, a destroyer, whose price was thirty shekels of silver. Ps. 41 speaks of betrayal by a trusted friend who has broken bread, or eaten with, the person he betrays. Jesus himself, at times during his ministry, predicts that he will be betrayed by one of his disciples. In John 13:21, Jesus says, “One of you is going to betray me!” However, it isn’t until the night of the betrayal, after Judas has made his deal with the chief priests, that Jesus states that Judas is the one. In John 17, Jesus speaks of Judas as “the one destined to be lost, so that scripture might be fulfilled.” Was Judas born to betray?

The Bible is clear that from the time of creation we are given free will, and it also states that God is not willing for any to perish but for all to have eternal life. The decision to believe or not to believe, to follow or to turn away, is up to us. Prophecy spoke of betrayal, but I believe Judas exercised free will and allowed himself to be the one to fulfill the destiny of Scripture. This, by the way, illustrates a difference of opinion between John Calvin and John Wesley. Calvin believed that God predestines or decides our destiny before we are born and, therefore, we have little, if any, free will. Wesley rejected this view in the strongest possible terms believing that God places no restrictions on God’s love, salvation, and grace; these are gifts offered to all who chose to believe. Scripture prophesied a betrayal; Judas made his choice. Acts 1:25 says that Judas rejected a place in Jesus’ ministry and the apostleship to “go to his own place.” To accept Christ or to reject Christ and go our own way is a decision each person here makes. Lesson two is that if we choose to go our own way, we can’t blame God. 

Our final lesson from Judas’ life comes from his death. As we learned last week, Peter denied knowing Christ three times and when he was faced with what he had done we are told he wept bitterly. Peter, however, knowing what he did, remained with the other disciples and later came face-to-face with Jesus. It would have been so easy to run, but Peter stayed and Jesus offered him redemption by allowing Peter three times to unconditionally affirm his love for Jesus. Matthew 27:3-5 says: “When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, Judas departed; and he went and hanged himself.” Just like Peter, Judas knew he had sinned and it appears he even felt remorse. But Judas didn’t go to the right source for forgiveness. 

Jesus addressed the topic of forgiveness in Mark 3, vv. 20-30. In v. 28, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter” but…. What is the “but?” It’s not an act that someone commits randomly, a sudden thoughtless word or an instant reaction. What will not be forgiven is a progressive rejection of Christ, a hardened attitude and angry, bitter heart. The grace of God is still available, but when we have that attitude, we push away from it. What cannot be forgiven is walking away from, or rejecting, the forgiveness that Jesus offers. It’s what Judas did. Jesus, you see, was about to die for Judas. But Judas didn’t see it. He went out and hung himself first.  

In John 17, Jesus is praying for his disciples. Earlier we looked at the last half of v. 12, but here is the first half: “While I was with them (the disciples), I protected them in your name that you (God) have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one.” Jesus says that Judas is lost. The sad truth is that Judas would have been forgiven, but Judas didn’t, at least as far as we know, allow Jesus the opportunity to forgive. Judas gave up on himself and he gave up on Christ. The final lesson we learn from Judas is that Christ will always, right up to the very last moment of life, forgive us of anything and everything if we ask. No one here may have ever betrayed Christ, but perhaps you have denied knowing him. Perhaps you’ve, like almost all of the disciples, had fears and doubts. Perhaps you’ve questioned his existence or wondered whether his death accomplished anything or if he’s really coming again like he promised. None of that matters. 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, Jesus is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” Romans 8:1: “There is now, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The last lesson of Judas is to not be like him. 

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Dare to Be a Disciple: Defeated Judas

Mark 14:17-21; Matthew 27:3-5; John 17:11-12

Judas Iscariot. The name alone conjures up all kinds of images: a kiss by a friend, a stab in the back by a traitor, thirty pieces of silver. Many of us, if asked to name the twelve disciples called by Jesus, would immediately come up with the big three – Peter, James, and John; and then maybe we might name Matthew and Thomas. The others: James the lesser, Simon the zealot, Philip, Bartholomew, and the other Judas, also called Jude, tend to get overlooked. Judas, the betrayer, we all remember. We are ending a sermon series focused on discipleship as seen through the lives of several of the disciples. From Thomas we learned that a disciple will have doubts but never stops asking questions and seeking answers. From John we learned that the greatest single attribute of a disciple is to love others. From Peter we learned to keep our focus on Jesus and who Jesus claimed to be, and to remember the depth of God’s love and grace for us. Peter was the one who wrote these simple words: “Love covers a multitude of sins.” What can we learn from Judas? 

It’s interesting, well to me at least, that every time Judas is mentioned in the Gospels with the other disciples, he is mentioned last. Was it because he was chosen last or because of his betrayal? The truth is we don’t know. Biblical scholars agree that Iscariot was not Judas’ last name; it refers to his place of birth. Jesus of Nazareth. Simon Peter of Capernaum. Saul of Tarsus. Judas Iscariot (in Aramaic) – in Hebrew, Judas Ish Queriot – in Greek, Judas of Kerioth. Kerioth was a village in southwestern Judea. There was Galilee, then to the south of that was Samaria, and south of Samaria was Judea. Bethlehem and Jerusalem are in Judea, but near the northern end of the Dead Sea; Kerioth was further south almost out of Palestine entirely, closer to Egypt than to Galilee. Judas was the only non-Galilean disciple; the outsider from south of Jerusalem. 

Nothing tells us how Judas came to be in a place for Jesus to call him as a disciple given that almost all of Jesus’ ministry was in the northern part of Israel, certainly north of Jerusalem. But the Gospels make it clear that just like the other disciples, Judas was only of the called. Judas was there when Jesus fed the 5,000, preached the Sermon on the Mount, healed lepers, blind men, and the lame, and raised Lazarus from the dead. Judas heard Jesus speak of his death and resurrection, and heard him claim to be God. In Mark 6, when Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs to teach, to heal, and to call on people to repent, Judas was one of those who went. What happened?

We can’t be sure of the reason, but what is clear is that at some point in the three years, Judas allowed his heart to shift from what Jesus was teaching to what Judas wanted. Or, perhaps it was about what he wanted from the very beginning. There is speculation by scholars, based on Judas’ home territory, that he was a member of the Zealots, a group of Jewish nationalists who favored armed rebellion against the Romans. Did Judas believe that Jesus, as Messiah, would ultimately take up the sword, overthrow the Romans, and re-establish a Jewish nation like what existed under King David? If Judas thought this, he wouldn’t have been alone – but fairly early in Jesus’ three-year ministry it would’ve become obvious that this was not Jesus’ plan. Did anger and disappointment overwhelm Judas to the point that he felt betrayed by the one who called him to follow? Maybe it was something as simple as greed and pride that caused Judas to betray Jesus. In John 12, we read how Judas, when Mary used expensive oil to anoint Jesus’ feet, criticized her and wondered out loud why the oil hadn’t been sold instead to raise money for the poor. A nice sentiment, but John makes it clear that Judas didn’t care at all for the poor – John refers to Judas as a thief who regularly stole from their common purse and makes the claim that Judas wanted to pocket the money from the oil for himself. Jesus openly rebukes Judas for his statement and just six days later Judas will go to the priests and agree to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Whatever the underlying reason, John 13 makes this statement: Judas allowed the devil to prompt him into betraying Jesus. 

This is the first lesson we can take from the life of Judas. We don’t use the word “devil” much in our culture today. There’s a common saying, “The devil made me do it,” but it’s said as a joke rather than a reality. To the early Christians and writers of the New Testament, the devil was no joke. Peter wrote that the devil is our adversary, prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Revelation refers to the devil as the deceiver of the world. In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul wrote of the devil as the spirit that is now at work to sow in believers’ disobedience and lead them to destruction. In Corinthians, Paul wrote that Satan works to blind minds to keep us from seeing the light of the gospel. John’s Gospel calls Satan a liar and the father of lies. In Matthew, Satan unsuccessfully tempted Jesus to sin; but in Luke 22:3-6 we read that before Judas went to meet with the chief priests about betraying Jesus, Satan entered into him.

When you follow Christ, the truth is that Satan pursues you with the goal of turning you away; and his M.O. is to do that not with threats but with thoughts that play into our human pride, vanity, and greed. Satan doesn’t enter into us without our consent. Think that you are more intelligent because you’ve walked away from some naïve belief in God? Think that the church is full of hypocrites and you can do better on your own just being “spiritual?” Think that Jesus’ words of blessed are the poor and the meek will inherit the earth are just too simplistic in a world that says we should care only about ourselves and those we love? Watch out … because those are words the devil uses to draw you away from Jesus. Think that only religious nuts would believe in a man dressed in red with horns and a long tail? That’s exactly what Satan wants you to think. Billy Graham wrote, in his book, The Journey: Don’t think of Satan as a harmless cartoon character with a red suit and a pitchfork. (Because that’s not what he looks like at all.) Satan is very clever and powerful, and his unchanging purpose is to defeat God’s plans at every turn – including God’s plans for your life.” If you are thinking of following Christ, Satan will do everything in his power to prevent it. If you have made a decision to be a disciple, Satan hates your faith. The lesson we learn from Judas is to be on guard for voices that draw us to what we want rather than what God wants for us. 

In the middle of Judas’ story, we come to a question. Did Judas have to betray Jesus? Was it all part of God’s plan, such that he had no control? I’ve heard it said that we wouldn’t have had the resurrection had it not been for the kiss. Is that true? The prophet Zechariah, in the Old Testament, writing hundreds of years before Christ, wrote of a worthless shepherd, a destroyer, whose price was thirty shekels of silver. Ps. 41 speaks of betrayal by a trusted friend who has broken bread, or eaten with, the person he betrays. Jesus himself, at times during his ministry, predicts that he will be betrayed by one of his disciples. In John 13:21, Jesus says, “One of you is going to betray me!” However, it isn’t until the night of the betrayal, after Judas has made his deal with the chief priests, that Jesus states that Judas is the one. In John 17, Jesus speaks of Judas as “the one destined to be lost, so that scripture might be fulfilled.” Was Judas born to betray?

The Bible is clear that from the time of creation we are given free will, and it also states that God is not willing for any to perish but for all to have eternal life. The decision to believe or not to believe, to follow or to turn away, is up to us. Prophecy spoke of betrayal, but I believe Judas exercised free will and allowed himself to be the one to fulfill the destiny of Scripture. This, by the way, illustrates a difference of opinion between John Calvin and John Wesley. Calvin believed that God predestines or decides our destiny before we are born and, therefore, we have little, if any, free will. Wesley rejected this view in the strongest possible terms believing that God places no restrictions on God’s love, salvation, and grace; these are gifts offered to all who chose to believe. Scripture prophesied a betrayal; Judas made his choice. Acts 1:25 says that Judas rejected a place in Jesus’ ministry and the apostleship to “go to his own place.” To accept Christ or to reject Christ and go our own way is a decision each person here makes. Lesson two is that if we choose to go our own way, we can’t blame God. 

Our final lesson from Judas’ life comes from his death. As we learned last week, Peter denied knowing Christ three times and when he was faced with what he had done we are told he wept bitterly. Peter, however, knowing what he did, remained with the other disciples and later came face-to-face with Jesus. It would have been so easy to run, but Peter stayed and Jesus offered him redemption by allowing Peter three times to unconditionally affirm his love for Jesus. Matthew 27:3-5 says: “When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, Judas departed; and he went and hanged himself.” Just like Peter, Judas knew he had sinned and it appears he even felt remorse. But Judas didn’t go to the right source for forgiveness. 

Jesus addressed the topic of forgiveness in Mark 3, vv. 20-30. In v. 28, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter” but…. What is the “but?” It’s not an act that someone commits randomly, a sudden thoughtless word or an instant reaction. What will not be forgiven is a progressive rejection of Christ, a hardened attitude and angry, bitter heart. The grace of God is still available, but when we have that attitude, we push away from it. What cannot be forgiven is walking away from, or rejecting, the forgiveness that Jesus offers. It’s what Judas did. Jesus, you see, was about to die for Judas. But Judas didn’t see it. He went out and hung himself first.  

In John 17, Jesus is praying for his disciples. Earlier we looked at the last half of v. 12, but here is the first half: “While I was with them (the disciples), I protected them in your name that you (God) have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one.” Jesus says that Judas is lost. The sad truth is that Judas would have been forgiven, but Judas didn’t, at least as far as we know, allow Jesus the opportunity to forgive. Judas gave up on himself and he gave up on Christ. The final lesson we learn from Judas is that Christ will always, right up to the very last moment of life, forgive us of anything and everything if we ask. No one here may have ever betrayed Christ, but perhaps you have denied knowing him. Perhaps you’ve, like almost all of the disciples, had fears and doubts. Perhaps you’ve questioned his existence or wondered whether his death accomplished anything or if he’s really coming again like he promised. None of that matters. 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, Jesus is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” Romans 8:1: “There is now, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The last lesson of Judas is to not be like him. 

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