MATTHEW 10:4c (part one)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 10:4c (part one) “. . .who also betrayed him.”
First, what did Judas do? He betrayed the only perfect life ever lived. When Judas’ name appears in the Gospels, it is usually accompanied with this reminder of his act of betrayal, as if the fact never ceased to amaze the writers.
Second, are you and I capable of the same treachery? Yes, let’s not overestimate ourselves. “Lord, is it I?” is the critical question. Don’t be the last to ask it.
Third, why did Judas do it? Herein lies one of Scripture’s deepest mysteries. At best we guess and hazard suggestions. How can we explain what happens to anyone who yields to unbridled evil? Alcibiades was originally an admiring follower of Socrates and sought to lead a noble life, but eventually turned to unbounded ambition, unscrupulousness, licentiousness, and treason. He said every time he thought of Socrates, he felt a sense of shame, but this did not deter him.
A young Frenchman resigned as a provincial judge because it violated his conscience to pronounce the death sentence on a person found guilty of a capital offence. The young man was Robespierre, who went on to become the evil bloodthirsty genius of the French Revolution, and who sent thousands to the guillotine.
How can anyone totally explain such drastic and deviant changes in behavior? Judas himself may have been unable to explain fully why he did what he did.
Even we believers do things we don’t understand. Often we desire to do good, but don’t, or don’t want to commit a sin, but do so anyway. Christians never find power equal to their desires. Our aspirations always exceed our reality. If Christians undergo such turmoil, then what do prechristians like Judas experience?
Ultimate explanations for Judas’ evil elude us, but for some reason we can not let the “Why?” question rest. We can’t help but be inquisitive. Thus, we will seek to determine at least some contributing factors to the crime. In doing so, we might hopefully be kept from doing similar deeds ourselves. Why did Judas do it?
First, disillusionment. Judas held to low earthly ambitions. He followed Jesus because he wanted to rule in a political, messianic kingdom. Judas was attracted not by Christ’s teachings, beauty, and character, but by His political potential.
As the true picture of Christ’s work dawned on Judas, he became weary of it all. As Jesus more and more turned His back on an earthly crown, Judas more and more turned his back on Jesus. When crowds soured, and Jesus began talking of His death, Judas opted to bail out, to salvage what he could from a faltering cause.
Beware the destructive drift of disillusionment. We all enter the Christian life with certain expectations that somewhere along the way begin to sputter.
We begin to experience things we did not anticipate. Weaker than we thought, we break sacred vows, and sin more often than we ever dreamed possible.
Life eventually surprises and disappoints us. The Church and loved ones let us down. God does not grant us the job promotion, good health, and peaceful family life we had assumed would come our way. Life becomes complicated, and doesn’t turn out the way we expected it to. These all fester into stress factors that strain our commitment to Christ. They force us to examine why we serve Christ.
Are we in love with Jesus, or in love with what we thought He would do for us? Years of life going sour will test our mettle. Disillusionment, long extended, will reveal to us the true depth or shallowness of our own commitment to Jesus.
Second, resentment. This danger may have simmered in Judas a long while. From the first, he probably expected to receive a preeminence among the Twelve that never materialized. Judas was the only non-Galilean disciple. Iscariot means man of Kerioth, a small town located 23 miles south of Jerusalem. Thus, Judas alone was from the favored tribe of Judah. Jesus and Judas were not only national kinsmen, as Jews, but also tribal kinsmen as Judeans. Jesus showed partiality to Judas by choosing him alone from Israel’s foremost tribe. Judas was meant for honor, a truth underscored by the fact Jesus made him treasurer of the Apostles.
Unfortunately, Judean Jews usually felt superior to Galilean Jews, a prejudice Judas would have had fueled, for as time went by, the Galilean Peter, not the Judean Judas, kept rising to the fore. Judas surely felt an inner pressure of resentment growing, and then came the final blow, the public reprimand from Jesus.
Near the end of Jesus’ public ministry, Mary lavished her love on Him by anointing His feet with costly perfume. It was a sacred moment, but cold-hearted Judas rebuked her. Selfishness can’t understand love’s impulses and deems them absurd. The worldly minded enjoy making sport of spiritual deeds of devotion.
Jesus immediately reprimanded Judas’ intrusion, “Let her alone” (JN 12:7a). This public rebuke of a Judean in the presence of Galileans was evidently the straw that broke the camel’s back, for immediately after this censure, Judas, totally unsolicited, sought out the religious leaders, and held his first interview with them.
The reprimand inflamed Judas, causing his simmering resentment to finally boil over. Injured pride and vindictiveness spurred him on in his hell-ward flight.
Beware resentment. It can lead to serious, yea fatal, complications. Did someone recently point out a weakness in us that has left us with a root of bitterness? Are we jealous of someone? Did another receive the accolade or promotion we wanted? Are we guilty of sucking poison out of someone else’s happiness?
Don’t become trapped in a scarcity mentality. Toward us as believers, abundance abounds. Blessings aplenty are being showered around us all. Don’t let the success of another blind us to the bounty God has placed in our own hands.
Third, greed. Judas, on his own initiative, approached the religious leaders, and asked, “What are you willing to give me to deliver Him up to you?” (MT 26:15 NAS). For thirty pieces of silver, Judas sold Jesus’ life, and also his own.
As treasurer, Judas “had the bag” (JN 12:6). The word denotes a bag shepherds used to hold the reeds of their pipes, the wind instruments they enjoyed playing while wiling away the days they spent in the fields with their sheep. Ed Meyer well says, what was intended for harmony, Judas transposed into discord.
Since he was put in charge of the common fund, money given by men and women to support Jesus, Judas obviously had proficiency in handling funds. Sadly, his talent became his downfall. He was a thief (JN 12:6), a victim of his own ruinous avarice. No one has better shown the cancerous, acidic affect of covetousness. Truly, “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil” (1 TM 6:10a NAS).
Judas’ thievery proves he was a materialist. He never loved Jesus. He robbed Him. Judas stole from the blessed Son of God, a thought so staggering it sends us reeling. Judas’ outward problems began in the bag, in self-centered greed and dishonesty with regard to money. From this root, spiritual gangrene spread into every aspect of his life. It spread to the personal–if things didn’t turn out the way he wanted, he quit. It spread to the social–if anyone else was promoted above him, he quit. It spread to the political–if a crown would not adorn his head, he quit. Dishonest self-centeredness kept swallowing him up in ever growing concentric circles till he was finally transformed into a vile misfit who self-destructed.
The Lord seemed to speak directly to Judas on several occasions, but Judas did not listen. He heard, but did not heed, the words. Some of Jesus’ pronouncements take on extra solemnity when we remember Judas was listening to them.
“Beware of covetousness, for a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses” (LK 12:15). That evening, as the other disciples came to grips with their own erroneous obsessions to become wealthy, Judas stole away into the night and callously slipped a coin from the bag into his own pocket.
“It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (LK 18:25). That night, as the other eleven huddled to discuss how they could overcome their own misconceptions about health and wealth theology, Judas went for a walk by himself, and pilfered another coin.
Jesus rebuked the religious leaders for overlooking weightier matters of the law, but told them not to neglect tithing (MT 23:23). Later, each disciple calculated what ten percent of his income was. Eleven gave theirs to Jesus, but Judas grimaced, and clutched his. It seemed too much to give. “We do have to pay for clothes we wear to worship, and for cars we drive to church.” Robbing God of His ten percent wasn’t enough, so Judas pirated more coins from the bag. Instead of bags, we have checkbooks. Don’t let greed put your pen on what belongs to God.