Faithlife Sermons

The Making of Judas

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Scripture Introduction:
Last year 20,272 baby boys were named Liam---30 baby girls. That’s 1 out of every 92 babies. For girls the most popular name was Olivia—17,728 baby girls and 9 baby boys. Maybe a Boy Named Olivia will be a hit in about 20 years.
My name, Mike, was once the king of baby boy names. But last year only 9,041 babies. That’s one out of every 206 boys. Still a pretty popular name.
There are a couple of names that are coming back into fashion. Edmund, Claude, Percival, Alberta, Thelma, Hilda, and even Waldo are making slight comebacks in baby names.
There is another name making a slight comeback. Adolf. Only 13 babies from 2006-2013, but we’ve had 46 since 2013, though less than 5 and possibly zero last year.
Though 1 out of every 8,496 babies might be named Benedict, there is another traitor whose name is incredibly rare. Judas. One statistic said 1 out of every 80,898 babies....but I heard another statistic that I think would make it even more rare and that is that there have only been 481 boys named Judas in the past 200 years.
Nobody wants to be a Judas.
But this morning I want us to take a bit of a deep dive into the character of Judas. I think if we turn our nose up at him and think, “I could never do what he did” that may very well be true…but we also might be cutting ourselves off from learning…or doing business with our own hearts.
How did Judas come to be?
Luke 22:1–6 ESV
Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.
Sermon Introduction:
We’re going to be looking at more verses than just this six to fill out our picture of Judas.
First a bit of speculation. It’s pretty clear from the gospel accounts that Judas became disillusioned. His following of Jesus didn’t get him what he thought it was going to. Many today believe that Judas was a political activist—maybe even a Zealot—who became frustrated that Jesus’ kingdom wasn’t what he thought it was going to be.
Judas, it is thought, signed up for world domination only to learn it was really about washing feet. Now, let’s think about this for just a moment. Do you ever have times when your passions don’t match up with the passion of Jesus.
Let’s give kind of a silly illustration. A few years ago a well meaning football player would put Philippians 4:13 on his eye-black. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”. So a kid sees that and loves this football player and wants to be a pro. And he catches the idea that if he follows this Jesus guy then maybe he’ll be able to score touchdowns too.
Jesus helps me score touchdowns.
He starts to go to church and learn more about this Jesus guy. But it seems like they never get to the “scoring touchdowns” part. In fact, at times it almost sounds like following Jesus might even keep him from scoring touchdowns. Following Jesus is about reorienting his life.
Now, let’s add a little bit to this. All of his friends are at youth group. He’s kind of gotten identity wrapped up in being a church kid. He’s not really wanting to give up the dream of Touchdown Jesus. But he’s frustrated. It all feels so wrapped up and tied together.
Now what does this young man do? He can give up the whole charade, but again that is going to come with incredible loss. He could also fake it for awhile…or well, forever. He could get angry and let his disappointment out… “Jesus didn’t work. Jesus isn’t who he says he is. Etc.” He could decide to betray Jesus. Or he could try to reshape Jesus into that image that he thought he was in the first place—he can create his own Touchdown Jesus.
Now that’s a kind of silly illustration but replace “scoring touchdowns” with any aims, goals, motivations, etc. that we have when we come to Jesus.
Jesus will help me succeed in business. He’ll bless me financially.
Jesus will help us morally. He’ll turn our country back around.
Jesus will help us have power.
Jesus will help me feel better about myself.
Jesus will help me have a relationship with this other person.
Jesus will help me be smarter.
Jesus will help me not go to hell when I die.
So, that’s where Judas is. He’s at that fork in the road. Jesus isn’t who he thought he was. He’s far more. He’s not about a political revolution—not in the way that Judas might have thought. He’s not about filling Judas’ pockets. He’s not about making Judas awesome.
And we get some clues in the gospel accounts that Judas was disillusioned, he kept trying to reshape Jesus, he kept trying to fake it, but there came a moment of truth for Judas—would he follow Jesus or be the one to have others follow him into betrayal?
There are two places where we see that he didn’t get Jesus. One was when he rebuked Mary for pouring expensive perfume on Jesus. He didn’t understand the moment or the value of Jesus. And he was also greedy and wanted the money—but he had learned how to play the game. He had learned how to “sound” like a follower of Jesus.
There’s one other clue in the gospel of Matthew. See if you can pick up the difference in Matthew 26:20-25.
Matthew 26:20–25 ESV
When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”
Anytime we have Judas addressing Jesus he calls him Rabbi. He won’t call him Lord. He’s spiritually distancing himself. He’s using the same phrase that many of the religious leaders use of Jesus. Good teacher. Leader. A model to follow. Touchdown Jesus. The means to another end.
But not Lord. Not the one who calls the shots. Not the one who defines my life instead of the other way around.
Let’s look at our text here in Luke. Look at 22:1-2 to set up the scene for Judas to enter. It’s Passover. They are celebrating God’s redemption of his people. They’ll be sacrificing a lamb. It’s the highlight of the calendar for the Jewish leaders. It’s like Christmas or Easter.
How jarring would it be to read something like, “It was Easter Sunday. And the leaders of the church were plotting how to put to death the guy down the street who is stealing their members”. But that’s pretty much what we just read.
They are plotting the death of Jesus. The Son of God. How can we get this guy to be quiet. How can we get our power back over the people? And you see it at the end of verse 2, “for they feared the people”. They aren’t motivated by doing the right thing—they don’t truly believe that this guy is a false teacher, etc., not with proper vigor, because if they did they don’t care what the people think. They do what is right. But they are motivated by the fear of man and not the fear of God. And so they have to find out how to arrest him, how to take him, file charges, etc. but they can’t do it amidst a crowd. They need to find him when he’s alone with his disciples and in a quiet place....but to do do that they’d have to have one of his disciples.
Verse 3. Then Satan entered Judas called Iscariot, who was a number of the twelve. That little phrase there “who was a number of the twelve” is huge for Luke. He mentions it almost every time he talks about Judas.
It’ll come up again in Acts 1 when they have to fill his place. Luke wants us to know that Judas was really and truly part of them. He shared in all the stuff.
Jesus washed his feet just like the others. He taught him just like the others. He even put him in charge of the money box. He gave him tasks like all the others. I appreciate how Eric Geiger says this:
Judas knew all about Jesus. He heard every sermon Jesus preached. He personally saw Jesus confront the religious and welcome sinners. Judas saw Jesus put light into the eyes of blind men, tell paralyzed men to pick up their mats and walk, raise children from the dead, heal lepers, and cast out demons. He saw first hand the power and love of God perfectly displayed in Jesus.
That’s what Luke wants us to know when he repeatedly says “was one of the twelve.” But do you also see that phrase Satan entered?
Some of jumped on this and connected it with the fact that God had preordained for these things to take place and they come to the conclusion that Judas didn’t really have a choice in the matter…he was just a pawn in God’s plan. Well, that’s not what this text is saying. That’s not what we are to learn here.
It’s not as if Judas has no choice. Let’s pull in a couple other verses from Scripture to help us understand what is happening here.
1 Peter 5:8 ESV
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
So Satan is prowling around looking for who he can devour. He was doing this with Judas. He was trying to do this with Peter (we’ll see this in Luke 22:31 in a couple weeks)
Luke 22:31 ESV
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,
But what is happening here with Judas I think we can get some help from Ephesians 4:27
Ephesians 4:27 ESV
and give no opportunity to the devil.
That word there for opportunity can be translated “foothold”. What does that mean?
Our family used to watch a show called American Ninja Warrior. Various athletes try to conquer this obstacle course. At times it requires speed, at other times strength, and most of the time just sheer determination. Some of the best ones on the show are rock-climbers.
I remember a few years ago—when Isaiah was at that “I want to climb everything I possibly can” age and I was at the “I want to prove I can still climb everything I possibly can” age....we were at Branson. And there was this wall and we tried to climb it...We couldn’t get up very far though because it wasn’t made for climbing. There were places where we’d have to stop because there was no way to progress—we couldn’t put our foot anywhere.
We couldn’t get a foothold. We couldn’t establish ourselves on that wall. It didn’t have a place for us so we had to give up climbing.
Now, allow me to ask you a question. That little illustration is to give you a visual picture of what it means to have a foothold. Who among us would like to give the devil a foothold in your life? In your church? This is what that would look like. It’d be giving him a place to land his cloven feet. It’d be giving him a seat at the table—a place where he could interject his ideas, cause us to give weight to his thoughts.
Do you want to give the devil a seat at the table? Do you want to allow him to grab hold of something and say, “Ah, now here…here is a place where I can grab hold of? Here is a place where I can really stabilize myself and make some inroads? Yes, here is a place where I can worm my way into this person’s heart or this church body”.
That’s what is happening here. The religious leaders are looking for an opportunity to put Jesus death, and Satan is looking for an opportunity…and he finds a place to put his foot. Judas’ disillusionment and his greed.
Why here is a man who wants money, he wants status, he wants to be somebody, he wants a certain type of rescue, he wants Touchdown Jesus…and he’s discouraged...
Now listen to verse 4. He went away and conferred with the chief priests…how did he even know they were offering? We don’t know. Maybe they had prior conversations…but he is initiating this. This isn’t just a quick moment of weakness…this is premeditated…this is cold, calculating, intentional.
They are glad. They give him money. We learn from Matthew it was 30 pieces of silver…the worth of the despised shepherd in Zechariah 11. Verse 6… “he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of the crowd”.
Luke will have Judas appear again in verse 47.
Luke 22:47–48 ESV
While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”
That’s really all we have of Judas in the gospel of Luke. We don’t see him again until Acts 1:16-20
Acts 1:16–20 ESV
“Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For it is written in the Book of Psalms, “ ‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’; and “ ‘Let another take his office.’
But Matthew gives us a story that none of the other gospel writers give. Matthew 27:3-10
Matthew 27:3–10 ESV
Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”
He changed his mind. And in grief he hanged himself. This has led some to wonder whether or not Judas may actually have been saved. What do we do with his repentance?
For one, the word there is different than the one typically used for repentance. Judas clearly realized that he had messed up. Jesus was innocent. Sure, he wasn’t touchdown Jesus but he didn’t deserve to die. Judas realized that he blew it.
But still the text doesn’t lead us to believe that he had a heart change. And the gospel writers connect Judas’ betrayal with that of Peter. We will see that in a couple of weeks in Luke.
Judas’ repentance didn’t lead him to Jesus. Peter went out and wept bitterly but he followed the Lord at a distance, filled with shame, clinging to hope, he kept with the others, he stayed in the upper-Room, but not Judas…Judas took things into his own hands, literally. Again consumed by greed.
A little side note…many have a hard time with the two different ways the Bible says Judas died. Matthew has the COD as suicide by hanging. Luke has him falling down and bursting open. Some have tried to reconcile these—and very plausible—he hanged himself, but the rope break, the tree broke, and he plummeted to his death bursting open on jagged rocks.
Could be. But the Scripture doesn’t really tell us. I think what is happening there is that the gospel writers want us to see two different things. Matthew—he is cursed. Luke—he was greedy…that was how you had a greedy guy die, he just got so big he blew up.
Judas—a man driven by self. That’s the portrait. He was disillusioned and took matters into his own hands. He realized he messed up and so he took matters into his own hands. He was always trying to get more and more and more. That was Judas. That was the foothold for Judas.
Is Judas in hell today?
Well, I’m not 100% sure. I’m not going to declare that for anybody…but I think the Scriptures kind of do. One place is Acts 1:25
Acts 1:25 ESV
to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”
“to his own place” is another way of saying “hell”. He’s also called a son of perdition. I think the Scriptures are telling us Judas’ lot, his destiny.
Is he in hell because he betrayed Jesus? Well, what about Peter? He betrayed Jesus. Is the difference suicide? No. That’s not what to take from this. The difference is repentance. The difference is Jesus.
Disillusioned. He’s not Touchdown Jesus. So what did Judas do…he betrayed him. Then he realized he messed up but he still didn’t see him for who he was. He still wouldn’t acknowledge Him as Lord. He wouldn’t place himself in the Lord’s hands. He wouldn’t truly repent.
Peter…look at Luke 22:62. The rooster crows three times…Peter remembers…and this is what happened...
Luke 22:62 ESV
And he went out and wept bitterly.
We don’t see Peter again until Luke 24:12
Luke 24:12 ESV
But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.
But Peter rose...
From what? From where? From his sleep?…maybe…but maybe Luke is also telling us that Peter had hope. Peter was weeping bitterly but he was in the Lord’s hands. He wasn’t going to take things into his own hands…not this time…
Micah 7:8 ESV
Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.
The Scriptures have Judas going “to his own place” because he did not repent. He did not turn around. He never trusted in Jesus. He was with Jesus, he was one of the twelve, shared all the same benefits but never truly trusted in Jesus.
So what do we do with this tragedy?
You can be close to Jesus and never truly be a disciple.
And when our hopes are dashed we are in a dangerous place…and when that matches up with what is really driving our heart…we will give the devil a foothold.
Maybe, rather than asking, how could Judas have done what he did? Oh, the wonder of grace that I haven’t.
What is your “touchdown Jesus”? What is your expectation the thing that might really be driving your heart? Surrender that to the Lord and the devil won’t have a foothold.
In one sense, there isn’t a massive difference between Judas and Peter. And there isn’t a huge difference between Judas, and Adolf, and Liam and Olivia and Edmund and Claude and Mike.
Are you connected to Jesus and his accomplishment? If you aren’t, then you’re in the line of Judas. Trusting in himself, trusting in self to make things right, self-satisfication, self-provision. Or you’re trusting in Jesus and His record on your behalf.
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