Judas the Betrayer
Judas was as complex as any modern person. It is a mistake to believe that his only motivation for betraying Jesus/Yeshua was to gain thirty pieces of silver. It is important to rise above Sunday School concepts of Bible characters in order to be inspired or adequately warned by the events in their lives and the decisions they made.
There was contention between Yeshua’s disciples about who would be the greatest among them. Just because Judas was not as forward about voicing his ambitions as James and John, the sons of Zebedee, it does not mean that he did not want to be at the top.
As many Jews in his time, Judas was angry and frustrated with the Roman occupation of his country. He wanted Yeshua to throw off their yoke, but Yeshua was not going about it the right way. He was not currying the favour of religious or political leaders, nor did He voice criticisms of the Roman government’s policies and abuses and stir the masses to follow Him in a revolution to oust them from power.
Judas did believe, however, that Yeshua would eventually get around to putting the Romans in their place and take over the world for Himself. He wanted to stick close to Jesus, to remain one of the inner circle, so that he could reap the benefits: influence, power, prestige, widespread admiration, and wealth. While enduring the hardships of following Jesus, he possibly had daydreams about the luxurious palace he would build for himself some day, the superb horses he would own, the multitude of servants who would do his bidding, the gorgeous garments and jewels he would wear.
On the entrance into Jerusalem in the third year of Jesus’ ministry, Judas was sure that the Jews were making significant progress in getting rid of the Romans and taking over the world. Jesus consented to riding into the city on a donkey, with people waving palm fronds and tossing their cloaks in His path to make a carpet for Him.
They were also chanting "Hosanna," which means "God save us." The people wanted God to use Jesus, the great prophet from Galilee who healed many and performed wonders, such as causing missing body parts to grow back, casting out evil spirits, multiplying food, and raising the dead, to be their saviour from the Romans and their new king. It was particularly significant that they waved palm fronds, for they were a symbol of the last Israelite kings who ruled Israel – the Maccabees. This was a move that Caesar would interpret as sedition and rebellion, but the Romans allowed the parade to proceed. They had to because God did not permit them to interfere; it fulfilled prophecy.
Yes, there was greed involved in what compelled Judas to betray Jesus, but his motives were also heavily political.
Yeshua, however, seemed to have no notion of how to navigate politics. He just kept teaching religious stuff after they entered Jerusalem. Judas decided that Yeshua needed some help to speed up the agenda to liberate Israel from the Romans, and also to dominate the religious hierarchy. He decided to put Yeshua in a corner to force Him to exert His power over the competition.
Judas did not believe for even a second that any harm would come to Yeshua. After all, He had escaped harm before. He knew in advance where there was danger and He had steered clear, up until now, of places where He could be trapped. There was also the incident of when the people in Nazareth tried to throw Him off a cliff, but He passed through their bodies and escaped harm. And there was also that business of Him walking on the water and telling the storm to cease on another occasion on the Sea of Galilee. No indeed, Judas did not think that Jesus was going to suffer any kind of harm when he pointed Him out to the Temple guards.
So Judas made a deal with the Pharisees and then attended the last supper with Yeshua. Jesus knew of the pride and ambitions in Judas’ heart and of what he had done, thinking that He could be forced to act according to a man’s agenda. He knew that Judas was a tare among the wheat, one who was in His company, but did not know His heart, that he had latched onto Yeshua’s invitation to join His inner circle in hopes of gaining worldly status.
Nonetheless, Jesus was deeply disappointed to see that Judas was going to go through with his betrayal. He reached out with one last gesture of friendship by dipping a piece of bread in wine and offering it to Judas. This was a symbol of favour; Judas, because he was not in tune with Jesus, missed its true significance. He thought that Jesus was ratifying his plan to point Him out to the Temple guards when they came to arrest Him that night when it was dark. It was to take place at night, in a solitary place, so that it would not be observed and start a riot.
Judas figured that Jesus was a mind reader. Many times, Jesus spoke out what was in people’s hearts and in their situations. I suspect that when Judas protested Mary’s anointing of Jesus with costly ointment, Jesus gave him a look that told him He knew that Judas would have loved to sell that ointment and keep a portion of the proceeds for his private stash of treasure. I think that he was annoyed that Jesus could read him like that, and his political reasons for betraying Jesus was how he justified betraying Him, getting back at Him for seeing through him.
Regardless of how noble one might think their motives, when they do something wrong, their heart knows its own bitterness, though their conscious mind is in denial because they want to think better of themself. Judas could tell that Jesus knew he was not fully on board with His values and agenda. Actually, he was quite distant from being in agreement with Jesus. He was there to use Him, not worship and serve Him.
He wanted to get back at Yeshua for not thinking of highly of him as Judas thought of himself. How many people, who believe themselves to be Christians, harbour a burn of resentment that God did not think that they were good enough in themselves to be part of His family and go to Heaven, that He thinks they have a lot of things to repent of because He takes their sins more seriously than they do? How many think that they are doing God a really big favour by adopting Christianity as their religion and going to church and getting involved in good works, and that should be enough?
Judas did not see anything wrong with wanting to be wealthy and powerful and pushing the timeline ahead to achieve it. He might have thought of how much good he could do. Jesus had twelve disciples and the world was a big place. The disciples would be set over provinces to rule them and teach Yeshua’s values to the heathen. Sure, he could do the latter, if it was the price he had to pay to be a ruler. After all, he was on board with law-abiding people being safe, not over–taxed, people no longer raped by brutal soldiers or corrupt officials, nor beaten or killed on a whim. Judas was fairly decent in that regard.
But he wasn’t happy with his boss. Not just because of Yeshua being so slow to take power, but also because he knew Yeshua could see his flaws, and he was concerned that it was going to cost him some influence with the Master and corresponding rewards. It was going to hinder his control over Jesus in getting Him to grant his requests.
But here Yeshua was, offering him the choicest part of the meal, so Judas took that to mean that Jesus knew all about his plan and approved of it. Well, well. He even said to do what he was going to do quickly. Judas did not leave that table in anger or shame. He was excited and eagerly went to the Temple to meet up with the guards, thinking that Jesus was going to show them His power and start to take over Israel that night. This is why the other disciples had no idea what Judas was going to do. He appeared to them to be an obedient servant who was eager to do his Master's will.
Jesus had much greater things in mind than to free Israel from Roman rule. He was going to save the whole world, and in the way that mattered the most. He was going to fulfill the ancient prophecies of offering Himself up for mankind’s redemption from sin, so that we could be cleansed from our sins and restored to our Heavenly Father. He was going to save us from going to Hell, and also save us from the inclination to sin. He was going to make it possible for Him to live on the inside of our soul, for us to become His habitation and conveyers of His plans and power, rather than have to make do with only His visitation upon selected individuals who did exploits on behalf of the faithful.
Judas must have been surprised when he kissed Jesus, and He asked him, “Do you betray me with a kiss?” Jesus used the term betray and Judas’ heart possibly began to sink. Had he figured this out wrong? But no, all the soldiers fell backwards at their first attempt to arrest Jesus. It was all good. Jesus showed that they could do nothing to Him. But then they got up and managed to lay their hands on Him and roughly haul Him away.
What was happening? Were Yeshua's powers fading? Judas calmed his heart, remembering that the crowd in Nazareth had been rough, as well. Jesus walked out of that predicament. But Judas did not see Jesus escaping the mob’s clutches or making any attempt to do so. Judas did not understand that Jesus had demonstrated that He was consenting to arrest and what followed, that it could not be done to Him otherwise.
Judas followed them to the High Priest’s palace. He watched with dismay as Jesus was shoved about and then blindfolded and slapped and punched and mocked. When was Yeshua going to put a stop to this? Why was He allowing Himself to be abused and ridiculed? Was He waiting until the soldiers and priests got themselves deep into error, so that they would be terrified of retribution when Yeshua showed His power?
It just went on and on, with one accusation after another, and Yeshua not denying any of it. That was because we were the ones who were really on trial and he was taking our place. Finally, He was accused of blasphemy when He pronounced the holy Name of God, confirming that He believed Himself to be God. The High Priest dramatically tore his robes and Judas was probably thinking, "No, no, no! Yeshua, that is the last thing you should be claiming. They will think you are either insane or criminally arrogant and the boldest liar they have ever met!"
I wonder if Judas ever believed that Yeshua is God. I doubt it; he had the spirit of antichrist in him. He probably thought that Yeshua was slightly delusional, but He was capable of doing so many powerful things and enabled Judas to do them, too, so Judas was willing to overlook this "quirk." But not now.
The display of power to back up this claim did not come. Yeshua was condemned to death and Judas was finally able to see that Yeshua was going to go along with it. His blood was on Judas’ hands. He was the one who told them where to find Yeshua that night. He was the one who was able to recognize Him in the dim light of the torches and signify that this was the man they wanted to arrest.
Judas started to backtrack, to try to undo what he had done. He hurried to the Temple and cried out to the priests that he had betrayed innocent blood and did not want its reward. They told him that was his problem and refused to take the money from his hand. He threw it to the floor and ran away in anguish.
The Pharisees did not let the money go to waste. They could not take it for their personal profit, lest it bring a curse on them because it was blood money, but it conveniently supplied them with a plot of land in which to dispose of paupers’ bodies. It was the same place where Judas fled in remorse and distress, and, instead of humbling himself to receive Jesus as his Saviour, attempted to expiate his sins himself through suicide. He remained his own god right to the end.
Do we regard ourselves as our god? Do we ignore what God says about forgiving others and do spiteful things in revenge for having been wronged or our selfish demands refused? Do we ignore what God says about not coveting what others have and gratify our envy and jealousy by refusing to help when we have the power to do them a good turn, or make snide remarks about them, gossip about them or slander them? Do we work against God’s desire to save souls and prosper them by speaking negatively about people whom we dislike or have wronged us personally?
Are we attaching ourselves to Jesus for what He can do for us in this life, as well as in the hereafter? Do we get angry at Him or at those who teach how to obtain His blessings, if those blessings do not come to us according to our timetable? Do we seek His Hand, or do we seek His Face? It is His Face that He wants us to seek, which means that He wants to have spiritual intimacy with us, to be His friend. When we get involved with Him in that way, material things stop being so important to us. We become more concerned about what we can do to help people get saved and stay faithful to Jesus.
There is much soul–searching to be done in regards to our relationships and activities. Do we deceive ourselves like Judas deceived himself, putting a good spin on our decisions when they are actually prompted by selfish motives?
Many years ago, I tried to cheer up a lady who tended to complain a lot and it was apparent that she was very jealous of her pastors. After the church paid for her pastors to go on a vacation in Hawaii, she sourly complained, "Why doesn’t anyone send me on vacation? " I thought, "Because you don’t do a lot of good stuff like what those pastors do for the church." After she heard about their upcoming holiday, she went to them and asked them to return the money she had put in the last offering, which they did. Red flags were waving, but I was too naive to heed them. I just kept trying to encourage her to thank God in every situation and trust Him.She said she could see that I was blessed (in my attitude), but challenged me to be real, to tell her the truth about what I thought of how my ex–husband was treating me. So, I shared with her a very traumatic incident where he behaved horribly and satan used it to tempt me with suicidal thoughts. I, however, resisted those thoughts, knowing that it would make everything worse and that God was going to bring me through my fiery trial, and that good things would again happen in my life.
I have no doubt that the woman understood what I was saying, but after I left, she thought about what a juicy story it would be to tell. But to tell it would be a betrayal, so she had to justify it to herself. She therefore worked herself into a pitch where she convinced herself that she was concerned for my safety and that of my children, then confided the story to someone, asking them to not tell anyone else, to just pray.
Yeah, right. That person felt it was their duty to inform my ex of my supposed suicidal tendencies, which prompted him to call me and say some very ugly things out of his embarrassment that I told someone about what he did that upset me so much.
I immediately afterwards called the woman to confront her about spreading this misreading of my character and she was downright vicious and insulting in her reply, making evident the evil motives for her disclosure. I really should have listened to that wise, older lady in my church who tried to warn me that this person I was trying to help overcome her depression was very self–centred and I needed to be wary.
I was very angry, of course, and thought that God would feel the same way; after all, what she did was not something He would approve of. But, instead of asking Him, "What do You think about what she did? " I asked, "What do you think of her?" In my spirit, I saw Him grin and say, "I think she’s wonderful! I love her!" I thought grudgingly, "Yeah, You would!" I wasn’t pleased with the answer, at first, but it did reassure me that He always loves me, too, and sees Jesus when He looks at me, in spite of there being ugly stuff inside my heart that still has to be worked out.
We need to search our hearts for impure motives and possibly reconsider some plans of action, and do some repenting of past deeds that we hadn't thought were wrong, or that we excused. The Bible says in Psalm 51:6, "Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part you shall make me to know wisdom."
Your word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against you.