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December 14, 2011

The Tragic Story of Judas Iscariot, Pt 2

by imreformedbaptist

Why did Judas betray Jesus?  Consider one commonly held view. Judas had embraced the pop theology concerning the Messiah. There was no room for a concept of the Messiah as Jehovah’s Suffering Servant. When He arrived on the scene, He would manifest his glory and power, overthrow the Romans, and set up His eternal kingdom. Judas signed up with Jesus eagerly waiting for that moment to arrive. However, as His earthly ministry developed, it became increasingly clear to Judas that Jesus would not meet those expectations. He became disillusioned, perhaps bitter. What really pushed him over the edge was when Jesus began to speak plainly about going to Jerusalem, not to manifest His glory, but to die. That was enough. In his state of disillusionment and unbelief he did something that will haunt him for all eternity. I am quite certain that Judas held to that view of Messiah, but the Scripture does not give us that as the answer. It is speculation. If it did play a role, there had to be more serious underlying factors, especially when you realize that the other disciples had the same misguided hopes (Mt 16:16-23; Lk 24:19-27, 44-48; Ac 1:6-7) So, why did Judas do it?

The Power of Satan

It was under the direct influence of Satan that Judas conspired with the chief priests (Lk 22:3). In fact, we are told that it was Satan who had put this evil design into his heart (Jn 13:2). Poor Judas! The guy didn’t have a chance. There he was, minding his own business, and Satan “sprang upon him.” He took possession of all his faculties and Judas was no longer at the steering wheel. Therefore, in the Day of Judgment, he can plead innocent by reason of Satanic possession. He can use Flip Wilson’s famous line, “The devil made me do it.” No. The Scripture on this point is very clear. There was another factor. Judas was totally responsible for his actions.

The Power of Sin

It was into Judas’ heart that this evil intention was inserted by the devil (Jn 13:2). The heart is the seat of the soul. It is the location of the hidden springs of motive and desire where a person purposes and determines to do things (Pr 4:23). Judas was not forced against his will. Satan’s desire and purpose did not come to pass apart from Judas desiring and purposing it. In other words, Judas’ heart was fertile soil for the devil to work. The Apostle John tells us,

Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped is feet with hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one His disciple, who was intending to betray Him, said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” 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. Therefore Jesus said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me (John 12:3-8 NAS)

Why does John tell us this information about Judas’s real motive in objecting to what Mary did? It is natural to assume that he is giving us insight as to the reason Judas betrayed Jesus-covetousness. Furthermore, Matthew and Mark record in succession Mary’s anointing of Jesus, and Judas’ treachery (Matt 26:6-16; Mk 14:3-9). More than likely, their organizing principle was to show a connection between the two events.The contrast between them is striking. In one scene, we have, “What can I give to Jesus?” In the next, “How much can I make on Jesus?” Apparently, Judas was already intending on betraying Jesus before the anointing (Jn 12:4), but what happened at Bethany may have solidified his plan. How so? Judas was perturbed as he watched Mary take his potential gain (a clip of almost a year’s wages) and “waste” it on Jesus (he may also have been upset at Jesus for the rebuke). So, he goes to the chief priests to make up for the money he lost at Bethany. Leon Morris comments,

The sequence of stories may be significant. Matthew has just told the story of the pouring out of the costly perfume, and John tells us in connection with this that Judas was the treasurer of the little band and he had wanted to get control of the money that might have been theirs had the perfume been sold ( John 12:4-6). Disappointed of gain from one source, he now sought it from another. [1]

The Confluence

In nature two streams often converge to form one. It is called a confluence. You cannot tell with absolute precision the exact point where the two streams meet and become one. You just know that the one has been formed from the two. The scripture does not answer all of our technical questions regarding the case of Judas, like, “How precisely did Satan enter him?” How did the devil plant the desire without violating Judas’ free agency?” It simply tells us that two streams converged in Judas’ heart that led him to betray the Son of God-the power of Satan and the power of sin. We do not know exactly how and when the two streams met, but we have enough light from scripture to identify at least two factors that brought them together.

First, Judas never experienced particular and thorough repentance. By particular repentance, I mean a repentance that forsakes those specific sins which characterize an individual. By thorough repentance, I mean a repentance that does not spare any known sin. How do we know that salvation came to Zaccheus? Because, he repented thoroughly of the particular sins which characterized him-covetousness and thievery (Lk 19:8-10). John says that Judas was a thief (Jn12:6).  Whatever form of repentance he had experienced, it was not of the saving kind for it allowed him to live in habitual violation of God’s law. Had he been a drunk and the message of the kingdom sobered him? Maybe. Had he been a fornicator, and since meeting Jesus he had been pure? Maybe. We don’t know. But, one thing we know for certain. He spared at least one sin, covetousness, and it got him in the end.

Second, Judas had greatly hardened his heart. To become such an easy tool of Satan does not happen overnight. John Calvin comments,

Judas was inflamed with the desire to steal; long practice had hardened him in wickedness; and now when he meets with no other prey, he does not scruple to betray basely to death the Son of God, the Author of life, and, though, restrained by a holy admonition, rushes violently forward. [2]

It is one thing for a person to have inconsistencies between what he says and what he does. It is another thing to consciously use the concerns of the kingdom as a cover for secret sin. Judas, a supposed champion for the poor, was using benevolence to further his thievery. It takes a lot of conscious hardening of one’s heart to become that brazen. It is a dangerous state of soul, for it leaves one vulnerable to the powerful influence of Satan.

Perhaps we would like a more complex answer to the question, “Why did he do it?” Maybe it would go down easier if we knew that Judas had some deep psychological problem stemming from a troubled childhood. Who can blame anyone for wanting to think that Judas was a misguided young man who out of the pain of unfulfilled hopes hardened his heart against Jesus? There is something in those types of scenarios that tends to mitigate the heinousness of his sin.

However, the fact is, Scripture never says Judas quit viewing Jesus as the Messiah. It never says he ceased having hopes that He would usher in the kingdom of God. It never says that he sold Him out, knowing for sure that it would end in his death. In fact, it is possible that Judas never knew that things would go as far as they did (Matt 27:3-4). Jesus had escaped his enemies’ grasp before. Perhaps, Judas thought he could do this and things would return to “business as usual” with no one the wiser. The plain ugly truth-under the influence of Satan, he did it to make money.


[1] Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to Matthew, p.651. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmands Publishing Co., 1992.

[2] Calvin, John. Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, p. 193. Grand Rapids Michigan: Baker Books, 2003.

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