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Grown-Up Bible Stories

The Making of a Traitor

One of history’s most despised individuals started out as one of the privileged few.

Countless people swarmed around Jesus Christ. They came eager for His teaching, eager for His touch, eager for some personal attention. Jesus always drew a crowd, and He did it by sheer goodness. Where else could a word bring healing to the disease of years? Where else could one’s heart burn to hear a man speak about Heaven as if He’d been there? Where else could an evil person hear the words, "Your sins are forgiven," spoken with full authority?

Doubtlessly, many of the adoring masses longed for the chance to be part of an inner circle, to always be with Jesus, to hear his most challenging sayings explained in easy terms, to be given His power against illness and evil spirits, and even to be sent out as His messengers. It was an honor that only twelve men received. The man in question was one of those twelve.

Judas Iscariot was a man of privilege. He was along when Jesus healed the blind and raised the dead. He was in a position to help people get closer to Jesus, or to try and discourage them from coming. Judas heard Jesus teach about love. He heard Jesus preach that God’s law must be kept, not just outwardly, but with the inner being. Judas got to travel and do miracles in Jesus’ name. He was sent to preach about Jesus’ coming kingdom. He likely entertained dreams of greatness in the Messianic age when Jesus will reign as history’s greatest king. He even had the acumen not to come around begging to sit next to Jesus’ future throne like a couple of his companions did. Furthermore, Judas was trusted. He was the treasurer for Jesus and His inner circle. Judas carried the moneybag. Accounting was up to him. It was a position of honor and trust, and it was all his.

Judas had the privilege of being part of something very pure and clean. The prevailing religious sects of his day mixed religion and politics. Unfortunately, their politics were often stronger than their religion. We think of the left-wing Sadducees with the scorn of those who have read Jesus’ expose of their sins. We think of the right-wing Pharisees with a scorn based on the evils Jesus revealed behind their holier-than-thou appearances. Both groups played politics, one by openly denying true religion, the other by enforcing the claims of genuine religion on others while denying those claims in their own lives. Jesus demanded something better of His followers. He insisted that they had to be inside what they professed to be outside. He had come to destroy sin, and He taught that sin was a product not of society, not of circumstances, but of something inside the human personality.

Judas also knew that Jesus put great emphasis on the needs of the poor. As the one who actually dispensed the funds, he knew all about the importance of social giving. He knew, and he could spot the person with less lofty ideals. A lady once brought an extremely valuable bottle of ointment and poured it on Jesus’ feet. Judas protested such waste. A truly godly woman would have sold the ointment and brought the money for Jesus’ treasurer to dole out to the poor. Of course, Jesus defended the woman’s devotion, but to an onlooker, Judas might still have seemed a thinking man with a burden for the needy.

So, Judas spent the three most promising years of his life. He followed the man many believed to be the Messiah. He heard His stirring words. He shared in His popularity. He was entrusted with handling the finances of no one less than Jesus Christ. He even demonstrated spiritual power. What a place! Had we been in ancient Palestine, we might well have found ourselves struggling with jealousy.

Then, of course, we come to that eventful night. During the Passover supper, Jesus humbly washed Judas’ feet. Jesus passed him food. Jesus told him to do what he planned to do quickly, and Judas left on what seemed a special errand. Within a matter of hours, Judas showed up in a private place where Jesus often went. Only, now he was guiding a small army of Jesus’ enemies. When he gave Jesus a kiss—a symbol of friendship and brotherhood in ancient Palestine—he gave the enemy the sign that he’d led them to their prey. In what seemed like a sudden, totally unexpected move, Judas became history’s greatest traitor.

Two thousand years later, we still struggle to understand Judas. Some people say that Judas was disillusioned because Jesus wasn’t rising to power quickly enough. Others say that he really believed in Jesus and expected Him to make whatever power play He needed to in order to stay ahead of His enemies. Others sadly reflect how one temptation can take down a man of God in short order. The record, however, paints a different picture.

The Gospels, written in the aftermath of the betrayal, probe the evidence carefully, and in them we find a different Judas--a man with secrets. While He stopped short of naming names, Jesus told his followers that one of them was a devil. We learn also that when Judas so vocally advocated donations to the poor, he was also quietly embezzling from those funds. When Jesus sent Judas out from the Passover, He knew that Judas had already contracted to betray Him—for money. Yes, Scripture tells us that Satan entered into Judas that awful night. But don’t think for a moment that Satan ever enters into a heart burning with loyalty to God. No, Satan found a heart that was already fickle.

After Jesus’ was killed, Judas did have second thoughts. He returned the blood money, but by then it was too late. His suicide was especially gory and also especially tragic. Still, as shocking as his end seems, it wasn’t sudden. Judas had spent far too long looking like a good man while allowing his inner thoughts and secret actions to be something else. When the Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death, it isn’t only talking about public performance. It is, in part, recognizing that spiritual ruin starts on the inside and works its way out. The betrayal of Jesus Christ wasn’t a sudden mistake. It was the result of the choice to be less than genuine.

There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. . .That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man. (Jesus Christ in Mark 7:15-23)

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. (Ephesians 5:11-12)

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. (Galatians 6:7-8)

He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins (Of Jesus Christ in Colossians 1:14)

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (Romans 10:9)

These Bible passages point out the deadly consequences of an impure heart and also the provision God has made in Jesus Christ to take care of that situation. Jesus’ death and resurrection were for the purpose of making a way for us to be forgiven and made pure before God, to be saved as Romans 10:9 describes it.

For more information on how to be saved, click here: How to Have a Relationship with God.

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How to Have a Relationship with God

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