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Phony Man Judas, Mr. Traitor
Part 12 Real Men #12 from Mark 3:19–part 1
Aldrich Ames betrayed his country while working as a CIA agent. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg sold the secrets of the Atomic Bomb to the Russians after World War II, intensifying the Cold War. Robert Hanssen betrayed his country while working for the FBI. John Walker betrayed his country while in the US military. The most infamous traitor of the United States lived during the birth of the nation. His name is now synonymous with disloyalty–Benedict Arnold.
During the American Revolutionary War, Arnold began the war in the Continental Army, but later defected to the British Army. While still a general on the American side, he became Commander of the West Point Fort in New York, then offered to surrender it to the British. Through the interception of confidential documents, the plot came to light and Arnold barely escaped the clutches of an angered George Washington. By September 1780, Arnold joined the British Army as a brigadier general, with a sizable pension and a £6,000 signing bonus. His betrayal complete, he led the British in raids against Virginia and Connecticut before the war ended.
Arnold was frustrated at being passed over for promotion, he was dissatisfied with the conduct of the American troops, he was married to a loyalist lady, he was in financial trouble and indebted. He was sickened by others taking credit for his achievements, and angered by a recent reprimand at misappropriation of resources. So Benedict Arnold became a turncoat. Arnold died in London, and is only remembered as a traitor.
What is a traitor? The dictionary says it is somebody who is disloyal or treacherous, a conspirator, defector, spy, double agent, collaborator, one who betrays another’s trust or is false to an obligation or duty.
I know some of you have been betrayed, spoken against, or lied about by those you thought were your friends–even by your family. Yet all of us have to own the fact that we too can play the role of traitor to our family, to our friends, to our church, and saddest of all to our Savior. Do you have any traitorous tendencies? Have you ever turned on a spouse, a parent, a friend, a pastor, an elder or a fellow Christian? Do you play both sides of an argument, depending on who you talk to? Do you agree with the Hatfields, then sympathize with the McCoys? Do you live one way at church, and another way at school? Could you be a traitor?
We need to own the reality of traitors in our midst. In the Church, there are real believers and make-believers. There are genuine Christians, and so-called Christians. There are wolves in sheep’s clothing, false teachers, apostates. There are wheat believers, and there are tares in the Church.
One heartbreaking example is Demas. At first Demas is listed with Mark and the great Doctor Luke as fellow workers in ministry, as part of Paul’s team. Philemon 24, “as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow workers.” Then Demas merely passes on greetings with Paul to the Colossians in 4:14, “Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas.” Finally, Demas is described in Paul’s final letter before his death as one who deserted Paul/Christ for the pleasures of this world. Second Timothy 4:10, “For Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.”
The key to preventing traitorous acts against God, and the most important test to evaluate the genuineness of your faith, is to examine your heart. Ask yourself right now–do I love Christ more than anyone or anything? In your heart, are you worshipping the Lord by offering your entire person to Him as a living sacrifice? Does your heart for Christ show itself in your use of time for His glory, and the use of your treasure for His purposes? Are your thoughts focused on loving Christ, your dreams centered on serving Christ, your hopes wanting to be with Christ?
When acting as a traitor, your heart will not be on Christ, and if you are a traitor, your heart will not be Christ’s. This was true of the final disciple–the last apostle on every list. The traitor, deserter, hypocrite, imposter, conspirator Judas Iscariot–Mr. Traitor.
Turn to Mark 3 and follow along in your outline. Slowing down and studying each disciple mostly one at a time has enabled us to see the kind of people God uses. Jesus used real men who were flawed, weak, unique, gifted men of character to serve alongside Him, train and carry on after He ascends to heaven. After Peter, James and John, Mark 3:18 and 19 say, “and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot; 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.”
The most notorious name and scorned of all the disciples, Judas’s name appears last in every biblical list of apostles except in Acts 1, where it doesn’t appear at all after he’s dead. Each time Judas is mentioned in Scripture, he’s noted as a traitor, since he is the most colossal failure in all of human history. He didn’t merely betray his country, he betrayed his God. His crime was not merely against Israel, but against all humanity. He committed the most heinous act of any individual ever. He betrayed the perfect, sinless, Holy Son of God–for money.
His dark tale is an example of the depths to which the human heart is capable of sinking. He spent three years with Jesus Christ, but during all that time, his heart only grew hard and resentful. The other eleven apostles are all great encouragements to us, because they exemplify how ordinary guys with typical failings can be used by God in uncommon ways. Judas, on the other hand, stands as a warning to you and me. His life is a danger sign describing the evil potential of spiritual carelessness, squandered opportunity, sinful lusts, and the gradual hardening of a heart. Judas is a warning of just how bad your heart can become while in the midst of worship, service, blessing and fellowship.
Here was a man who was as close to the Savior as is humanly possible. He enjoyed every privilege Christ gave. He was intimately familiar with everything Jesus taught. Yet he remained in unbelief, and went into a hopeless eternity. Judas was as ordinary as the rest–he had nothing in his life that made him really stand out from the group. He began exactly like the others. But the Gospel truth never took root in his heart by faith, so he was never transformed like the rest. While they were increasing in faith as sons of God, he was increasingly becoming a child of the devil. While they were growing in love with the door to heaven, he was deteriorating on the path to hell.
So take this warning seriously my friends–the life of Judas reminds us it’s possible to be near Christ and associate with Him externally, yet become utterly hardened in sin. And be encouraged in the midst of attack and betrayal–Judas reminds us, no matter how sinful a person may be, no matter what treachery he or she may attempt against God, the purpose of God cannot be thwarted by traitorous friends or family. Even the worst act of treachery works toward the fulfillment of God’s will. God’s sovereign plan can’t be overthrown, even by the most cunning schemes of those who hate Christ.
The New Testament tells us a lot about this double agent, so it will take us two weeks to work through his life. Do not miss next week, as we wrap up and learn from this life. But begin with me as we examine . . .
#1 His unique BACKGROUND
The name Judas in Webster’s dictionary means “traitor”, especially one who betrays another under the guise of friendship. His name is so dastardly, it is used to describe the Judas goat, the animal used to lead its fellow animals to the slaughter house. And a Judas hole–a peephole in a prison door that permits a guard to see into the cell without being seen by the prisoner inside.
Parents name their children Jude or Judah–but very few name them Judas, since it’s synonymous with betrayer. Judas’s name is a form of Judah, which means “Jehovah leads”, indicating parents who must have had great hopes for him to be led by God. The irony of the name is that no individual was more clearly led by Satan than Judas was.
Some say his surname, Iscariot, comes from a Semitic word meaning dagger-bearer, bandit or assassin. Others say it’s an Aramaic term meaning liar, or a man of the lie. The better view is that Iscariot is a place of birth. Iscariot is from a Hebrew word that spoke of “a man of Kerioth.” It is a geographical location. Judas probably came from Kerioth-Hezron, a humble town in south Judea, only 23 miles south of Jerusalem—apparently Judas was the only apostle who did not come from Galilee.
Though many of the apostles were brothers, working companions and best friends, Judas on the other hand was a solitary figure who entered this close group of twelve from afar. Because of the normal bias between sophisticated Judah, looking down on hillbilly Galilee, the apostles may have looked up to Judas as a classier dude than they were. Or they may have reacted to the Judean snobbery and looked down on Judas. And although there’s no evidence either way, Judas likely thought of himself as an outsider, which would have helped him justify his own treachery.
Plus, with the eleven Galilean, hillbilly apostles, their unfamiliarity with Judeans may have aided Judas in his deception. The others obviously knew little about his family, background, or life before he became a disciple. So it was easy for him to play the hypocrite. He was actually able to work his way into a place of trust, which we know he did, because he ultimately became the treasurer of the group, and used that position to pilfer funds. Speaking of Judas, John 12:6 says, “Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.”
Judas’s father was named Simon–a common name, but beyond that we know nothing of his family or social background. John 6:71 says, “Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.” Apart from a heart that continued to grow hard and hateful, Judas looked the same as the others, and blended right in. His imposter act was so convincing that when Jesus predicted one of them would betray Him in Matthew 26, no one pointed a finger of suspicion at Judas. He was so slick in his hypocrisy, no one–not one of the twelve distrusted him, except Jesus, who knew his heart.
Jesus knew Judas would betray Him. Read John 6:64b, “For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him.” Did Jesus know of the betrayal before He called him as a disciple? And if Judas’s betrayal was predicted long before his birth, does that bother anyone in the room? Was he predetermined to sin? Isn’t that unfair?
#2 The frightening TENSION of his sovereign selection
Unlike many of the twelve, the call of Judas is not recorded in the New Testament. But like the others, Judas did choose to follow Christ willingly—after all, Judas lived during a time of intense hope for the coming Savior. So when Judas heard about Christ, he became convinced
Jesus was the true Messiah. Like the other eleven, Judas left his career to follow Christ–even, remained with Christ when other less-devoted disciples began to leave, in John 6. Judas gave his life to follow Christ, but never gave Christ his heart.
Judas was most likely a zealous, patriotic Jew who wanted to be delivered from Roman rule. Judas hoped Christ would overthrow the foreign oppressors and restore the Kingdom to Israel. Judas witnessed the power of Christ over disease, death, even creation itself–so he became convinced Christ could remove Rome. Yet from what we read in the New Testament, it becomes obvious that Judas was not attracted to Christ spiritually.
Judas followed Jesus out of a desire for selfish gain, worldly ambition and greed. He saw Jesus’ power, and wanted that power for himself. He was not interested in the Kingdom so others could be saved or honor their Creator. Judas was only interested in what he could get out of Christ’s rule. Judas’s heart ambitions were fueled by wealth, power and prestige.
So Judas did choose to follow Christ, and continued even when following Christ was difficult. Judas did persist in following the Lord, even though it required him to be a cleverer hypocrite to cover up the reality of what he really was. On the other hand, Jesus did also choose Judas as one of His twelve. And that reality is difficult to comprehend. Yet the tension between God sovereignly choosing Judas, and Judas’s human choice to follow Christ is the same tension we feel in the calling of the other apostles. They had all chosen Jesus, but He chose them first–John 15:16, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit.”
Judas chose to follow Jesus, and yet Judas had also been chosen by Jesus, but not for redemption. His role of betrayal was ordained before the foundation of the world, and even prophesied in the Old Testament. In Psalm 41:9, a messianic prophecy says, “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” Jesus cites that exact verse in John 13:18, and says its fulfillment would come in His own betrayal. “I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.’”
Psalm 55:12 to 14 adds the painful fact that the Messiah will be betrayed by a friend, a companion, “For it is not an enemy who reproaches me; then I could bear it. Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me; then I could hide from him. But it was you, a man my equal, my companion and my acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in the throng.” The treachery of a friend and companion betraying God in a body was foretold a thousand years before Christ or Judas.
Hundreds of years before Christ, Zechariah 11:12 to 13 adds, “They weighed out thirty shekels of silver as my wages. 13 Then the Lord said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.’ So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the Lord.” Again the New Testament, in Matthew 27:9 to 10, clearly identifies Zechariah’s words as another prophecy about Judas, the betrayer.
The point is this—Judas’s role as traitor was foreordained. The Bible is pointed, our Lord knew when He chose Judas, that he’d be the one who would betray Him. The Lord knowingly chose Judas to fulfill that plan. John 6:64b, “For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him.”
Yet Judas in no way was coerced into doing what he did. No invisible hand forced him to betray Christ. He acted freely and without external compulsion. He was totally and completely responsible for his own actions. And our Lord Jesus let us know Judas would bear the guilt of his deed throughout eternity. His own greed, his own ambition, and his own wicked desires were the only forces that constrained him to betray Christ.
As I studied Judas, I was shocked by what commentators wrote. Many tried to whitewash his despicable deed, while others even blamed God for what Judas did. In fact, in debating who was responsible, there are three categories of explanations:
1) Those who blame Judas lightly for what he did–after all, they’d say Judas never thought the betrayal would result in Christ being crucified . . . he did return the thirty coins, and was so sad he hung himself.
2) Those who excuse Judas completely, since God is the one who brought this all about, having planned it from eternity.
3) Those who put the responsibility for the betrayal solely on Judas, since all of us are responsible for our actions even though God is sovereign.
So how do you reconcile the fact that Judas’s treachery was prophesied and predetermined with the fact that he acted of his own volition? You don’t. There’s no need to reconcile those two facts. They are not in contradiction. God’s plan and Judas’s evil deed concurred perfectly. This is another example of the doctrine of Concurrence:
Who wrote the Bible–God or man? YES
Is Jesus God or man? YES
Is God one or three? YES
Is God sovereign over all or are you responsible for your actions? YES
Judas did what he did because his heart was evil, and God works all things according to the counsel of His own will. God foreordained that Jesus would be betrayed, and that He would die for the sins of the world. Jesus Himself affirmed both truths in Luke 22:22, “For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”
Spurgeon said this about the tension between divine sovereignty and human choice: “God ordained the events by which Christ would die, and yet Judas carried out his evil deed by his own choice, unfettered and uncoerced by any external force. Both actions are true. The perfect will of God and the wicked purposes of Judas concurred to bring about Christ’s death.” Judas did it for evil, but God meant it for good.
Just like Joseph said to his brothers, who sold him into slavery, but the result was the entire family of Israel was rescued because of it. Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” There is no contradiction. Did God plan for Christ to go to the cross, or was He put there by evil men? Yes. Acts 2:23, “This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.”
From a human perspective, Judas had the same potential as the others. The difference is this–he never embraced Jesus’ teaching by faith. He saw Christ only as a means to an end. Judas’s secret goal was personal prosperity–to gain for himself. He never had an ounce of genuine love for Christ. His heart was never transformed–therefore the light of truth only hardened him into greater darkness.
Judas had every opportunity to turn from his sin–as much opportunity as was ever afforded anyone. Judas even heard numerous appeals from Christ Himself, urging him not to do the deed he was planning to do. Judas heard every lesson Jesus taught during His ministry. Many of those lessons applied directly to Judas–the parable of the unjust steward (Luke 16:1 to 13), Jesus’ preaching against the love of money (Matthew 6:19 to 34), against greed (Luke 13:13 to 21), and against pride (Matthew 23:1 to 12).
And Jesus candidly told the twelve, “One of you is a devil” (John 6:70). The Lord cautioned the twelve about the woe that would come to the person who betrayed him (Matthew 26:24). Judas listened to all of that, every last word, unmoved. He never applied the truth. He just kept up his deceit.
If I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is foreordained–that is true. And if I find in another Scripture that people are responsible for all their actions–that is true. It is only my proud, limited thinking that allows me to imagine that these two truths must contradict each other. I do not believe they can ever be, or should ever be, welded into one truth on Earth. But they certainly will be one truth in eternity, founded on the character of the infinite, unsearchable God.
These two truths are like two lines that run parallel in our human thinking and sight, and never seem to connect on earth. But in eternity, these two truths will converge in heaven in the person of God Himself. How did it happen? What led Judas to betray the only perfect one who ever lived on earth? How could he turn against God incarnate?
#3 His slow, dark PROGRESSION leading to betrayal
What sinister factors contributed to his horrible crime? Villains don’t blossom overnight—and Judas’s nefarious deed was not a sudden plunge, but the last step in his gradual descent to the waters of depravity. When he left all to follow Jesus, he never dreamed he’d be a betrayer. But progressively, he slowly began to slip down that slope, and as he did, Jesus lovingly issued several direct warnings.
Judas was looking for an earthly kingdom–he thought Jesus would deliver the Jewish nation from the Romans, and establish His messianic rule immediately on earth. Judas expected to share in the glory, power and riches of this new government. But over time, Judas heard teaching which didn’t fit his concept of Jesus’ mission. He heard Jesus teach on turning the other cheek, not worrying about tomorrow, do not lay up treasures on earth, full and final reward will not be now, but in the age to come, and don’t merely love your friends, but love your enemies–even Rome?
Since they were believing, the eleven disciples slowly began to understand in part. Though they still battled with who’d be the greatest, and didn’t quite understand Christ’s rule in their hearts, they did embrace the Lord’s teaching. But Judas didn’t get it. His loyalty began to erode when it became obvious he wasn’t going to gain money or fame. The Lord’s teaching increasingly didn’t sound like someone who would overthrow Rome and rule a “freed Israel”. As a result, Judas grew more disillusioned and embittered. But he kept it hidden from everyone, except Jesus.
We can see in the gospels early, like in John 6, that Jesus knew what no one else could see, that Judas was a devil, and was already becoming disgruntled. He was unbelieving, unrepentant and unregenerate, and was growing more hard-hearted all the time. After feeding the 5,000, Jesus taught hard truths about Himself, and many of his fringe followers decided to leave Him. Their departure was so dramatic, the Lord even asked the twelve if they too would desert Him. But happily Peter responded in John 6:68, “Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.’”
At that very point, Jesus gave a direct warning to Judas in verses 70 to 71, “Jesus answered them, ‘Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?’ 71 Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.” How did Jesus know? Certainly through the ministry of the Spirit, possibly through omniscience, and obviously by observing Judas–seeing how uneasy he was from the Lord’s teachings, maybe slackness in prayer, comments of resentment, even a heart of covetousness.
Toward the end of His public ministry, Jesus continued to predict His coming death. As He did so, it became evident to Judas that Jesus’s immediate Kingdom wouldn’t be political, but spiritual. Instead of sitting on a glorious throne for all to see and obey, the Lord would die a horrible death, which to Judas lacked any purpose. As the religious elite began to plot against Jesus, Judas saw all his aspirations and all his hopes dying with Christ.
Some say by betraying Christ, Judas was trying to force Jesus to take His stand against Rome, in effect causing a showdown, which Judas believed Jesus could win. Others say the sellout and thirty pieces of silver were intended to replace what he had already stolen from the money box—all very possible. But–by the time Jesus and the twelve went to Jerusalem for the final Passover and His sacrificial death on the cross for our sins, Judas’s spiritual disenfranchisement was complete.
At some point in those final days, his disillusionment turned to hate, and hate mixed with greed finally turned to treachery. Judas probably convinced himself that Jesus had stolen his life–robbed him of two years of money-making potential and prevented him from gaining influence and position. After three years, Judas is part of a ministry team that’s hated–so that sort of thinking ate away at him until finally he became the monster who betrayed Christ.
What specifically ate away at him? What were the heart issues that were un-dealt with? What was boiling inside that finally caused the kettle to whistle? For the answer to that, you have to come back next week. But for now, consider these sobering truths.
A. Judas shows you how easy it is to be a phony
You can be called to follow Christ, be trained to do ministry, devote yourself to ministry, profess to be a follower of Christ, associate with Christians, show signs of repentance, feel sorry for your sin, and not be saved.
Judas was all those things and more, yet was not born again. Judas did not intimately know Christ–he was not saved. Matthew 7:21 to 23, “’Not everyone who says to Me, ”Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” 23 And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”’”
John 4:20, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
Ephesians 5:5, “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”
This is serious friends–the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” Is Christ in you–IN you? Where is your heart at? Do you want what He wants? Are you willing to do anything? Do you love Him more than life, and does that changed heart show itself in the way you give, serve, treat others, confess sin and more?
B. Judas shows you the deadliness of hypocrisy
The story of Judas is repeated today. A person can be faithful in attendance, active in ministry, but end up eternally damned. Even after associating with Christ and His followers, we too can harbor a devil in our hearts. The hypocrite is an angel externally, but a devil internally.
They are light at church, and dark at home. They have warm speech, but cold hearts–clean gloves, but dirty hands. They are backslapping in crowds, and backbiting in private. They speak highly of the truth, but don’t live it. They say biblical things, but their hearts are far from God. And as Jesus said in Matthew 15:8, “‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me.’” Don’t be that guy.
If you’re saved, Christ will spank you for your hypocrisy. Hebrews 12:6, “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.” But if you remain in unconfessed hypocrisy, you are proving you’re not a Christian, but in need of salvation. Hebrews 12:8, “But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.”
C. Judas shows how desperate you are for true salvation
You can’t save yourself–you’re asleep. Christ must awaken you. You are dead in your sins–you can’t make yourself alive. You are blind in your sinfulness–you can’t make yourself see. You are poor in your fallen-ness–you can’t make yourself rich.
Salvation is what Christ accomplished on the cross, by dying there for the sins of His children. But salvation is not praying a prayer, or saying words, or walking an aisle–salvation is God showing you the ugliness of your sin, and causing you to see He died for you, rose from the dead, and can rescue you from your sin to give you a new life now and eternal life forever. Cry out for salvation.