December, 2005: Judas Iscariot

As we wrap up the year of looking at the original twelve disciples, we come to the one whom we least want to consider: Judas Iscariot.

We want to get as far away from Judas as possible. His name brings nothing but shame. He is the betrayer. He is the thief. He is the murderer. He is the one about whom Jesus said, “But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24, Mark 14:21).

We want to stay as far away from Judas as possible. He is dirty.

“When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty silver coins, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”” (Matt. 27:3-10, NIV)

We want to keep Judas as far away from ourselves as possible. Yet, Judas is a cautionary tale appropriate for considering as we enter into this Advent Season.

Judas is not all that different from us.

The most interesting account of the betrayal comes in Mark 14:17-19, ““When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.” They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I?”” (Mark 14:17-19, NIV)

They were saddened but they were not surprised. Each one – individually – had to ask whether they would be the one to betray him. For each, they recognized that betraying Jesus was possible for them; that in one way or another they were fully capable of failing to obey his call and command. They saw their own sinfulness and their propensity to continue sinning. What a scary moment that must have been for each one, asking, “Surely not I?”

 

Judas demonstrates what life without Jesus is like.

The one important distinction between Judas and Christians is that Judas did not receive Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

Though all the other disciples deserted Jesus, Judas was the only one to take his own life before the resurrection. He was the only one to not know the power of God in raising Jesus from the dead. He was the only one not to receive the hope of salvation by the grace of God; the forgiveness of sins and the promise of life eternal in communion with God. He was the only one of the original twelve to not witness the pivotal event in history: the resurrection.

A life of rebellion against the saving grace and lordship of the risen Jesus Christ brings about the existence that Judas exemplifies. He was filled with remorse. He had no hope. He was a slave to sin and saw no alternative to destroying himself. Judas represents the highest form of lost-ness; believing that we have power to destroy God’s plans and purpose.

Paul sums up the difference well in Romans 6:20-23, ““When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:20-23, NIV)

Judas’ hopelessness demonstrates what an amazing gift life with Jesus is.

The joy of the hope we have in Jesus Christ is the only alternative to remorse, hopelessness, and death seen in examples like Judas. Do you know others who refuse or have yet to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Do you see the end towards which they are heading?

Do you see the hope we have assured in Jesus Christ – the one who defeats death, who pays the price for our sinfulness, who calls us to be sisters and brothers and co-heirs of the kingdom of God with Him? It is good news worthy of sharing. It is a testimony worth proclaiming. It is a witness worth bearing. It is a gift worth celebrating.

In this Advent season – a time where we both remember (with thanksgiving) Christ’s first coming and prepare with great anticipation Christ’s second coming – we can appreciate the difference between life with Christ and life (or, more accurately, death) without Christ.

During this Advent season, let us equip ourselves by praying for those who do not yet know Jesus. Let us prepare ourselves by practicing sharing the good news of what God has done for us. Let us live into the fulfillment of the hope in God’s promises.

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Merry Christmas! (It’s ok to say it.)

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