“Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the Passover? 18 And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at thy house with my disciples. 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the Passover. 20 Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve. 21 And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. 22 And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I? 23 And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. 24 The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born. 25 Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said. (Matt. 26:17-25)
It is a harsh thing to say, but it would have been better if Judas Iscariot had never been born. He who had every gospel privilege, was, in the end, nothing but an ambitious, greedy, self-willed, son of Satan.
In recent years, Bible scholars have tried to rehabilitate the reputation of Judas so that he does not appear to be as evil as the Scriptures portray him.
According to John Ruskin, “We do great injury to Judas in thinking him wicked above all common wickedness.
He was only a common money-lover and, like all money-lovers the world over, did not understand Christ, could not make out the worth of Him, or the meaning of Him.”
Surely, in his final analysis, Mr. Ruskin is wrong, for it is not said of a common money-lover that Satan entered into him, as it is said of Judas.(Luke 22:3)
The sin of Judas Iscariot went far beyond petty avarice, or love of money. His sin was that he dared, to deliberately, betray the precious Son of God.
Not to be outdone in his charity, Dr. William Barclay writes in very moving and eloquent language about the possibility of Judas being a Zealot, and thus a patriot.
The Zealots were a small band of radical Jews that desperately wanted Israel to be free of foreign rulers. Rome was hated, for the thumb of the Roman Senate was constantly being pressed against the political throat of Palestine.
It was Rome, who determined the rulers of Judea.
It was Rome, who imposed the taxes that were to be paid.
It was Rome, who decided cases of capital punishment.
It was Rome, who demanded that Caesar be worshipped as a God.
The Zealots hated the Romans with a cold, self-righteous fury, to the point that they would quietly assassinate any Roman soldier, or citizen, in any place, provided there was good opportunity for escape.
Dr. Barclay sees in Judas a patriotic fanaticism, which motivated him one day to try to force Jesus to use the supernatural power Judas knew the Lord possessed.
What Judas wanted to do was to provoke civil unrest, and launch a final fight for freedom. When his plot failed, Judas realized how foolish he had been, and, in an act of repentance, he went out and hanged himself.
As entertaining as this portrait is, the Bible presents no such picture of a misguided, patriotic, religious zealot in Judas Iscariot.
Rather, the final motive that drove Judas into the waiting arms of the Jewish religious leaders may have been an irrational response to an open rebuke Judas received in the home of Simon the Leper. The story is briefly told by Matthew.
Six days before the Passover, the Lord was having dinner with His disciples in the home of a friend in Bethany. Jesus had been talking about His coming death, but the disciples did not seem to understand.
However, a godly lady named Mary did understand, and in an act of spontaneous love, she was moved to anoint the Lord’s body for the great ordeal He was about to endure.
Taking an alabaster box that was filled with expensive oil, Mary anointed Jesus while He was eating His meal. When Judas saw what was being done, his covetous heart protested the action behind a facade of religious indignation.
“Why was not this oil exchanged for money,” he said, “and the poor helped?”
The other disciples thought that Judas had made a good point.
Suddenly, they too were unreasonably upset with Mary, who had done a good thing. Mary did not say a word to the twelve angry men, but Jesus did. With sharp and pointed words, the Lord silenced those who dared to speak out against this lady of great grace. While all the disciples were addressed, Judas in particular was rebuked for his unjustified critical spirit.
If Matthew’s Gospel provides a chronological sequence of events in chapter 26:14, it was this open correction at a dinner party which so angered Judas, that we read,”THEN, one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests, and said What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you? And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.”
Judas, who had heard the Sermon on the Mount, Judas, who had witnessed the mighty miracles of the Christ, Judas, who had walked and talked with the Son of the Living God, came to a position in the mentality of his soul which poisoned all rational thinking. He would deliver Jesus into the hands of His known enemies, and by so doing, Judas would secure his destiny with damnation.
It was not for money alone that Judas was willing to betray Christ. Thirty pieces of silver was nothing. It was the amount of compensation for a common slave (cf. Ex. 21:32). Had Judas truly wanted money, he would have held out for much more, knowing that the religious leaders of the land had the wealth of the national Temple at their disposal. What Judas wanted was to hurt Jesus for hurting him, and so he sold his soul cheaply.
As Judas watched, the silver coins were being counted into his rough hands, the words of Christ may have drifted briefly into his calloused conscience. “Judas, what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and yet lose his soul?” “Judas, what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” “Judas, you are selling yourself cheaply.”
History is filled with sad stories of other individuals who have also sold their souls cheaply.
King Saul, exchanged his soul for the bleating of a few sheep.
Esau surrendered his eternal life for a bowl of soup.
Cain, gave his soul away for the satisfaction of venting his jealous rage in an act of murder.
Queen Jezebel, gave her immortal self away in order to worship her false, and dead god, Baal.
King Ahab, threw his soul away for a vineyard.
Ananias and Sapphira, gave their souls away in an attempt to find social respect.
Demetrius preferred to have the pre-eminence in the church rather than to have the favor of heaven.
Alexander the coppersmith, exchanged his soul for the pleasure of persecuting the Apostle Paul.
Herod’s cruel heart ,wanted nothing more than to be the ruler in Judea. To kill the Christ child, he would give his soul, and he did.
Herodias, exchanged her soul in order to satisfy the insatiable lusts of her body.
Today, men, women, and young people, are still cheaply exchanging their eternal souls for sin. And some are selling their souls for less than thirty pieces of silver.
Taking his money from the religious leaders of Israel, Judas returned to be with the Lord and the other disciples who were about to celebrate the Passover. What Judas had done in darkness, would soon come to light.