Sometimes it takes only the mention of a name for us to see a picture in our mind. The name “Einstein” conjures up the mental picture of an intellectual giant. The name “Benedict Arnold” translates to a traitor, one who would sell out his own country to the enemy. If I were to call someone a “Solomon,” many would perceive that person to be one of considerable wisdom. When I was an 18-year-old high school graduate, I spent my first summer working at Swift & Co., or “the Packing House,” as my father called it. Most of that summer I cleaned out refrigerator cars that had returned from delivering tons of beef to every state in the union. But one day I was sent to work on the “killing floor” where the animals were slaughtered. I saw something that day that I cannot forget. They were slaughtering sheep that day, and in order to bring them to the place of slaughter, they had an old goat named “Judas.” He led the others up the ramp to the killing floor, then was taken aside and sent back for more sheep. No one had to explain to me why the goat was named “Judas,” for the name is synonymous with one who would betray his own kind. The portrayal of Judas in the Bible reveals the deceitfulness of a man who was determined to get his own way, regardless of the cost. Men have been asking, “Why did Judas do it?” for many years, but we may never know his real motive. Some think Judas merely wanted the thirty pieces of silver, less than $20 in that day’s value. Others suggest Judas was merely trying to force Jesus to establish his kingdom so he (Judas) might have a place of prominence therein. William Barclay suggests Judas was at one time the leader of the apostles. The words in Mark 14:10 say he was “one of the twelve,” and that those words can indicate prominence, leadership. It is pure speculation, but his view implies that Judas had grown jealous of Peter, James and John, and sought a perverted form of revenge. Whatever his motive, Judas’ name is forever held in dishonor. What Do We Know About Judas?
- Jesus and the apostles had trusted him. In John 12:1-8 we see that Judas “carried the bag,” indicating a position of trust. Surely the other apostles would not have let Judas betray Jesus if they had thought he might do so. But trusted or not, Judas delivered Him for 30 pieces of silver. Shame!
- He was enamored with money, and willing to be deceitful in order to get it. Again, in John 12 Judas criticized Jesus for allowing the sinful woman to “waste” some very expensive ointment. He said it could have been used for the poor, but the Holy Spirit knew Judas was really just “a thief,” John 12:6.
- He planned the betrayal. In Matthew 26:14-16 we read: “Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they agreed with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.” This was not an impetuous act, but deliberately, carefully planned.
- He was under the influence of Satan. Both Luke 22:3 and John 13:27 say “Satan entered into him.” For whatever reason, Satan now had more control over Judas than Jesus did. Paul would later warn about the “devices” of Satan, 2 Corinthians 2:11. Jesus told Peter: “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat,” Luke 22:31. Years later, Peter himself wrote, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour,” 1 Peter 5:8. If Satan could, by means of temptation, cause Judas to betray Jesus and Peter to deny Jesus, how careful we should be, knowing his power, Acts 26:18.
- He realized his mistake. When the gravity of his sin was finally realized, Judas sought relief by returning the money to the priests. They refused, knowing it was “blood money,” and Judas was left without hope. Jesus had been arrested. There was talk of crucifixion. All of the rest of the apostles had scattered, and Judas was alone. The kiss by which Jesus had been betrayed lingered on the lips of Judas. Matthew 27:3 says, “when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver.” The word “repented” describes regret, or a change of feeling, not a true change of mind toward his sin. He regretted his act, but, like Esau, Judas “found no place of repentance,” Hebrews 12:17.
After all He had done for Judas, Jesus was repaid by betrayal. You wouldn’t do that, would you? Would you?
Carl B. Garner