Tonight, we take a closer look at Judas. What comes to mind when you hear the name Judas? Betrayer? Thief? Good for nothing backstabber? Knowing what we know about Judas and what he did, these names seem to fit well. But was this always the case? Remember, Judas was chosen by Jesus to be one of those twelve disciples. These were guys who had the privilege of being in Jesus’ inner circle. They talked with him and witnessed all of the miracles he performed. Jesus led them, guided them and trained them.
Outwardly, Judas seemed to be just one of the twelve, but inwardly there was a problem. His greedy heart had turned cold to Jesus’ true mission. As it became more and more apparent that Jesus never intended to establish a kingdom on earth that Judas would benefit from, he turned away from Jesus. As Jesus talked about suffering and death, Judas saw the writing on the wall. He began to plan how he could salvage something from what he thought was a dead-end street.
From that point on, Judas’ spiritual life went downhill. He stole from the small treasury the disciples had. He got angry when a woman showed her love for Jesus by pouring expensive perfume on his feet. Finally, he willingly assisted in the murderous plot of Jesus’ enemies and betrayed Jesus for the going rate one would pay for a slave, a messily 30 coins. Judas had plunged head first into the depths of hell itself. Luke tells us, “Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5 They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 6 He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.”
As you know, Judas never got to enjoy that money. Tormented by what he had done, he tried to return it. However, he refused to look to Jesus for help and forgiveness. Sadly, hell had claimed Judas and even before Jesus was crucified for his sins, he plunged into eternity at the end of a rope.
What a tragic end to this one-time disciple of Jesus! Jesus offered Judas everything: friendship, a place among the twelve, forgiveness of sins and a place in God’s family forever. Even when he came to betray Jesus in the Garden, Jesus reached out to him one more time to reclaim him as his child. Sadly, Judas plugged his ears and closed his heart to Jesus’ offer of forgiveness and life.
As we consider the story of Judas, maybe we wonder, why? Didn’t Jesus know what Judas would become? Why would Jesus have chosen Judas, the greedy thief and potential traitor and welcome him into his midst? Our answer is Jesus’ love. Jesus came to save sinners. That included Judas, you and me.
You see, we have more in common with Judas than we want to admit. When we listen to these Bible stories about Jesus’ followers, we don’t mind being compared to Peter, the bold one, or Matthew, the grateful to be forgiven tax collector. But Judas? No way, we are not like him!
Yet, haven’t we, too, acted just like him? How often don’t we let our selfish ambitions get the better of us? How often don’t we seek the things of the world as he did? Like Judas, we are by nature sinful, and, as sinners, we all too often fix our eyes on our own earthly welfare. Truth be told, every time we sin we are really no different than Judas. Every selfish action we take, every dirty thought we have, every cutting word spoken to another, every time we neglect his words and do our own thing, we betray our Savior and deserve only his punishment now and forever. Because of our sins, Jesus should damn us right here and now!
Yet, by God’s grace this is where you and I differ from Judas. Jesus searched out Judas to the very end. He offered him forgiveness. Judas didn’t have to kill himself in despair and unbelief. But he did because he refused what Jesus came to do for him.
If you have made a mess of your life and want to know if Jesus still loves you, look to his cross and know he does. When you are confronted with your own sins and see how they have betrayed, Jesus don’t run away from him in despair as Judas. Instead, look at your Savior. See him suffering for you. Look at the cross and see how far he was willing to go to forgive you all your sins. Then listen to your Savior who has searched you out and found you say, “I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine!” Amen.