The Face of Folly: Judas Part 1
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Series: The Early Church
Title: The Face of Folly: Judas
Text: “The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:24).
Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:14-16, 47-50; 27:3-10
Judas played the part of a fool. When he placed the kiss of betrayal on the face of the Lord Jesus, he acted as a fool. This is the opinion of history.
The writer known as Dante pictured Judas in the very bottom of hell. He pictured him as isolated from all other sinners and gripped by the most horrible torment.
Jesus said, “THE SON OF MAN INDEED GOES JUST AS IT IS WRITTEN OF HIM, BUT WOE TO THAT MAN BY WHOM THE SON OF MAN IS BETRAYED! IT WOULD HAVE BEEN GOOD FOR THAT MAN IF HE HAD NOT BEEN BORN” (Matthew 26:24).
Only after his betrayal did Judas feel that he had played the fool. And then he considered that the only appropriate response was to end his life in suicide.
Let me ask you a question, “What was so terrible about Judas’s crime?” Actually, his crime is different only in degree from the crimes that many people commit. It is a matter of rejecting the claims of Christ and handing Him over to His enemies.
Let’s consider this face of folly beneath the cross.
First, the decision that Judas made to betray Jesus was the decision of a fool.
We must go to the beginning to understand Judas’s decision. Judas was the only one of the twelve from Judea. He was the only southerner in the group. Apparently, he joined the company of Jesus with burning hopes for a glorious and powerful earthly kingdom. While some of the others were able to move from this kind of hope to an acceptance of Jesus as a different kind of Messiah, Judas could never make that change.
He was first drawn to Jesus, as others were, by the preaching of John the Baptist, or by his own hopes that He was the Messiah, or by the teaching of Jesus—for He taught as no one ever taught before.
The apostle John wrote that Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him from the beginning. He wrote, “BUT THERE ARE SOME OF YOU THAT BELIEVE NOT. FOR JESUS KNEW FROM THE BEGINNING WHO THEY WERE THAT BELIEVED NOT, AND WHO SHOULD BETRAY HIM.
The evil which led Judas to commit treason grew gradually. The rules of poverty which Jesus had given His disciples early in His ministry, no doubt sheltered him from the temptation that would have been so very dangerous to him. In the eighth chapter of Luke, life may have improved for Jesus and His disciples for we read, “AND JOANNA THE WIFE OF CHUZA HEROD’S STEWARD, AND SUSANNA, AND MANY OTHERS, WHICH MINISTERED UNTO HIM OF THEIR SUBSTANCE.” They were still poor, even by the standards of that time, and Jesus would tell one young man that the foxes have their dens, but He didn’t even have a place to sleep.
But better times brought temptation with it. The Twelve became recognized as a body, and as they traveled from place to place with their Master they received money and other offerings, which they redistributed to the poor. It became necessary for someone to be responsible for the collections, and that job fell to Judas. Larger sums of money in the hands of this man led to covetousness, unfaithfulness, and embezzlement.
Why was such a man chosen to be one of the twelve? I believe that it was part of God’s plan. Perhaps to teach the Church that God can bless and the gospel can succeed even though some bad men may creep into the fold.
Judas made the final decision at the dinner meeting at which Mary broke the alabaster box and anointed Jesus’ feet. It was just too much for Judas. He spoke up to rebuke her gesture as being a waste. But Jesus hastened to Mary’s defense. Nothing given in love to Jesus is ever wasted. Judas was the one who ended up wasting his life! Up to this time, Judas had been the keeper of the funds for the Twelve, and John tells us that he had been stealing from them. Out of this experience, Judas went to the enemies of Jesus and offered to deliver Him to them for a reward. He agreed with the priests to do it for thirty pieces of silver.
I want to ask another question, “What was Judas’s motive in betraying Christ?” There are several explanations which have been proposed.
First, it may come from his anger at the public rebuke given him by Christ at the supper in the house of Simon the leper.
Second, his decision may have been based on the profit principle. If Jesus wouldn’t be what he wanted, he could at least make some money by pointing Him out to His enemies. He was ready to salvage anything he could out of the situation.
Third, he may have believed that he could hasten the coming of the kingdom by forcing Christ to defend himself.
Fourth, perhaps he was disappointed because Christ insisted on foretelling his death instead of receiving his kingdom. He began to fear that there was to be no kingdom, after all.
Fifth, Perhaps, Judas abandoned what seemed to him a failing cause, and hoped by his treachery to gain a position of honor and influence with the Pharisees.
This is how the meeting between Judas and priests is reported in God’s word. “THEN ONE OF THE TWELVE, CALLED JUDAS ISCARIOT, WENT UNTO THE CHIEF PRIESTS, AND SAID UNTO THEM, WHAT WILL YE GIVE ME, AND I WILL DELIVER HIM UNTO YOU? AND THEY COVENANTED WITH HIM FOR THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER. AND FROM THAT TIME HE SOUGHT OPPORTUNITY TO BETRAY HIM” (Matthew 26:14-16). This wasn’t a large sum of money; thirty pieces of silver was a month’s wages or the price of a common slave. The next thing that I want you to consider is that…
The act of betrayal was not only the decision of a fool; it was the deed of a fool.
It was a foolish deed because, by it, he spurned genuine love. Jesus loved Judas and He expressed that love. Jesus’ love for Judas is what prompted Him to choose Judas for one of the Twelve. Jesus’ love reached out to Judas on that last Passover. At that last dinner, Jesus dipped a piece of unleavened bread into the bowl of herbs and handed it to Judas. This was a gesture of special friendship and love. Judas knew what it meant. At that same moment, out of love, Jesus warned him of the consequences of his present course of action. Even in the garden as Judas betrayed him, Jesus expressed warmth toward him by calling him “Friend.” But Judas chose to commit his deed anyway. He shunned this great love with the kiss of betrayal.
This is the way Matthew describes that kiss of betrayal: “AND WHILE HE YET SPAKE, LO, JUDAS, ONE OF THE TWELVE, CAME, AND WITH HIM A GREAT MULTITUDE WITH SWORDS AND STAVES, FROM THE CHIEF PRIESTS AND ELDERS OF THE PEOPLE. NOW HE THAT BETRAYED HIM GAVE THEM A SIGN, SAYING, WHOMSOEVER I SHALL KISS, THAT SAME IS HE: HOLD HIM FAST. AND FORTHWITH HE CAME TO JESUS, AND SAID, HAIL, MASTER; AND KISSED HIM. AND JESUS SAID UNTO HIM, FRIEND, WHEREFORE ART THOU COME? THEN CAME THEY, AND LAID HANDS ON JESUS, AND TOOK HIM” (Matthew 26:47-50).
A kiss can either be a sign of acceptance or rejection. In this instance, Judas bestowed a kiss of betrayal upon the Lord Jesus, and it was one of the most despicable acts of man. Some theologians contend that Judas was predestined to betray Jesus and could do nothing else. If that was true, Judas was nothing more than a robot. I believe that Judas made up his own mind to betray Jesus and that he had every opportunity to change his plans. I believe that it was the evil in his own heart that caused him to carry out his evil plan. You might say, “Yes, but it was prophesized that he would betray Jesus.” I have to agree with you. It was prophesized, and our Lord marked him as the man. However, after Judas had fulfilled the prophesy after Jesus was betrayed, Judas could have repented. Jesus gave Judas one final opportunity to repent and accept Him. Even after he gave Jesus that hot kiss of betrayal, Jesus called him, “Friend.” Later, when Judas went to the temple and threw down the silver given to him to betray our Lord, he could have changed his mind. As the priests were taking Jesus to Pilate, Judas could have fallen down before Him and said, “Forgive me, Lord, I did not know what I was doing.” The Lord would have forgiven him.
What makes this deed so hard to understand is that Judas acted with knowledge. He had both eyes open to the truth. He knew what he was doing. He understood who Jesus was, but he didn’t want any part of that kind of a Messiah. He had enjoyed three years of helpful instruction from the Master. He had been confronted with the best evidence of Jesus’ mission in the world. And yet, he acted not out of ignorance, but out of foolishness.
How much do we know about Jesus? We may actually know more than Judas. We have hindsight, the advantage of two thousand years of Christian history. We know the outcome of His death on the cross. If we refuse Him a place in our lives, we too are sinning in spite of all the knowledge we are blessed to have.
Another reason why we know that this was the deed of a fool is that by this act he aligned himself with the enemies of Jesus. Some scholars believe that Judas was displaying his inner resentment through the betrayal. They see Judas’s frustrated ambition behind his deed. He would get even by turning Jesus over to His enemies. Whatever the motivation, it made Judas one with the enemies of Jesus.
I want to ask another question, “What attitudes and actions have you taken toward Jesus?” Do you believe in Him? Do you obey Him? Do you love Him?