Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2 and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3 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.
I always hear people say, “If I was Jesus, I wouldn’t have washed Judas feet or let him participate in the Lord’s Supper”. Of course, I always laugh at their statement, but the laugh always ends with a heavy sigh.
Judas Iscariot has always intrigued me.
On this Wednesday of Passion Week, we will focus on the notorious Judas Iscariot. On this day, while Jesus was in the temple teaching, Judas was busy. He sought out the religious leaders that were against Jesus, in order to see how he could conspire to betray Jesus.
So, who was this Judas that betrayed Jesus?
The gospel writers present him as one who is a mysterious antagonist of Jesus. Sadly, the little that we know about him is jaded by his one act of betrayal. Judas was the son of Simon Iscariot. Judas’ epithet Iscariot meant that he was “a man of Kerioth”. Kerioth was a small town in the southernmost part of Judea. This area was part of the land inheritance for the tribe of Judah. This meant that Judas was like Jesus, from the tribe of Judah.
Over time, theologians have translated epithet Iscariot to mean numerous things, like murderer or assassin. Ironically, Judas was a very popular name in that time. He was not the only Judas in the Bible. The name Judas is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew name Judah. From the Gospels we find that Judas was the treasurer of the group. Not only was he the treasurer and kept the money box, he was marked as a thief and a traitor (Luke 6:16, John 12:3-6). In Jesus’ prayer he is named the “son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.” (John 17:12).
Judas Iscariot has always piqued my interest because his story is one that seems to have no redeeming factors to it. For one who believes in a God who redeems, it is curious that he was not. I have always wondered why until I read Jesus’ prayer. Judas is called the “son of perdition”. Perdition, as a biblical term, means ruin or loss. In context it is biblically noted as “to be lost”, like the missing coin and missing sheep in Jesus’ parables. In this text “to be lost” signifies one who has become estranged from God. Judas had become estranged from God. It was the only way that Satan could enter him. God and Satan can not thrive in the same space.
After Satan entered Judas, he conferred with the religious leaders on how to betray Jesus. He agreed to 30 shekels of silver for his price of betrayal (Matt 26:15). Ironically, 30 shekels was the fine for male maid servants accidentally killed (Exodus 21:32). After the Passover meal, while Jesus and the disciples are in the Mount of Olives, Judas led a mob to Jesus and identifies him with a kiss. Once Jesus was handed over and condemned, Judas feels remorse. He gives back the silver and hangs himself (Matt 27:3-9).
Judas was lost, but he did not seek God after he had betrayed Jesus. He did not go to Jesus or pray to God for forgiveness. He had seen Jesus forgive and heal others, but he did not seek it for himself. For this reason, he could not be redeemed. Judas’ story teaches us a great lesson – ask for forgiveness. Ask for forgiveness from the people you offended. Pray for forgiveness from God. Forgive yourself for the wrong you have done. I truly believe, that if Judas had gone to Jesus or prayed to God he would not have been turned away. I dare to believe that his story would have ended differently. He would not have committed suicide. He would have had a past that gave him a nickname like Doubting Thomas and Peter Denial the third. But it would not have discounted him from the salvation he helped to cause. He would have been an Apostle in the Book of Acts. He would have gone on to help build Christ’s church. Only if he would have sought Jesus. But that’s only in my sanctified imagination. For the Jesus I know, would have washed Judas feet. The Jesus I know, would have given Judas communion. Because the Jesus I know prayed for Judas. He loved Judas, even if Judas could not receive it.
Today’s take away is verbally simple but mentally and spiritually daunting – receive forgiveness and give forgiveness. Yesterday’s sinner’s prayer reminded us that there is nothing that can separate us from God, the caveat, when we seek forgiveness for it. For the Bible reminds us
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15
Judas story is a testament to the life and death power of unforgiveness. Today I urge you to do some soul searching to find those places of unforgiveness in your heart. Pray to God and do the necessary work of forgiveness. If you need help processing unforgiveness seek professional help. If you need a referral for a mental health professional please reach out to our Congregational Care Team at email@example.com. Forgiving and being forgiven is important. Let’s start today!