Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Polar Opposites Part Two

I apologize in advance for the length of this post. Not much has been written or preached about Judas. Our similarities to him makes us uncomfortable. Still, we will benefit by examining his actions, as compared to Peter’s, in order to learn from his mistakes. Part One of Polar Opposites focused on Peter, the disciple who denied Jesus. Part Two looks at Judas, the one who betrayed Him.

Diversity is a hot buzzword today. A quick look at Peter and Judas shows the disciples differed in personality and background. Peter was the rugged fisherman at home on a boat riding the waves. Judas possibly felt more comfortable on dry land working with finances and figures than fish. Peter was impetuous, flew by the seat of his pants (or tunic); always in the thick of things. Judas a low key, behind the scenes type of guy, did little to attract attention or raise any eyebrows. Peter, loud, boisterous, suffered from Foot in Mouth Disease; you always knew what he thought or felt. Judas chose his words carefully while behind the scenes stole money from the ministry. Peter, one of Jesus’ three, close companions; Judas was just one of the guys. It is interesting that His treasurer was excluded from Jesus’ inner circle. This speaks volumes about what little importance He placed on finances, or a lack thereof, in His decision making process. Peter attacked by Satan and prevailed. Judas possessed by Satan and damned, Polar Opposites!

 A question begs for an answer – why did Judas betray Jesus? His reason, I don’t know. The Bible does not tell us but I offer some ideas to consider. “There is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9 People today are the same as when Jesus lived on earth. Those things that cause them now to become upset with and abandon God are not new phenomena. Disappointments and offenses come. God fails to meet expectations. He does not act the way one confidently predicted He must. Too much time passes with no visible evidence of change. Frustration and the sense of being sold a bill of goods creep in. Throwing up their hands in disgust, people walk away; they did not sign up for this program. Could this have been the root of Judas downfall?

Luke 9:16 gives insight into a very important subject that the disciples heatedly discussed. “an argument (emphasis mine) arose among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest.” The mother of James and John went a step further and asked, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right hand and the other at your left in your kingdom.” Matthew 20:20-21 The lady had chutzpah! Everyone jockeyed for a position.

Some scholars believe Judas’ betrayal was a ploy to force Jesus to take up arms and resist arrest. Rome would see this as rebellion and Jesus could be perceived as a credible threat. The people supported Him. John 6:15 He healed injuries Luke 9:11 and raised the dead. John 11: 43-44 He fed multitudes with only a handful of supplies. Matthew 14: 13-18 He controlled the weather. Luke 8:22-25 Need money? He could find some in the mouth of a fish. Matthew 17:27 Jesus possessed all the qualities the Jewish people wanted in a savior; He just didn’t act very Messiah – like. At one point, Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, began to doubt. John sent his disciples to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Matthew 11:3 Everyday people, His disciples and even John placed high expectations for the establishment of an earthly kingdom on Jesus’ shoulders and were disappointed. To quote from a previous blog post, “The kingdom did come, it was just different.” If Judas’ intent was to launch a rebellion that would crown Jesus king and establish His rule, it fizzled on takeoff. Jesus calmly and quietly surrendered.

It was all about the money. This is the most prevalent explanation for Judas’ actions. Thirty pieces of silver was the equivalent of four months wages. In Exodus 21:32 this amount was the compensation required for a slave killed by a bull. Did Judas consider the relatively small bounty offered “chump change” compared to the wealth he would receive as the king’s treasurer? If his actions came to light after Jesus ascended the throne, the idea that he perpetrated such a crime…laughable; from the standpoint of triggering a coup… ingenious. A win/win situation was orchestrated no matter how things worked out.

Before he ever met with the high priests to hammer out an agreement, his plan was doomed to backfire in his face. Prior to engaging the officials and negotiating a deal, “Satan entered (emphasis mine) Judas, called Iscariot, one of the twelve. Luke 22:3
Demon possessed, Judas now was at a colossal disadvantage. Satan, the one calling the shots in this meeting looked out only his best interests. Thirty pieces of silver reflects the contempt the devil has for Jesus. Judas assigned a worth to himself no greater than that of a dead slave. Satan whole heartedly agreed.

Of the two who failed Him, I believe Judas’ betrayal cut the deepest. Jesus warned Peter of an upcoming attack and even prayed the disciple would prevail. Jesus never prayed for Judas. During their last dinner together, Jesus told the disciples one of them would betray Him. Jesus said, “But woe to the man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” Matthew 26: 24-25  In the past, as I read those words, I imagined Jesus thundered out this warning in a menacing tone. I think differently now. I hear His voice, sad and filled with resignation. Because He referred to “the man” and not Judas by name, was Jesus giving His betrayer one last chance to change his mind? Jesus knew where Judas’ actions would send him. To have never been born is superior to spending eternity in Hell. In the garden, before His arrest, Jesus made this statement. “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” John 18:9 Sounds contradictory; wasn’t Judas lost? Jesus did not lose Judas, Judas walked away by choice. Peter’s denial was a mistake that was soon corrected. Judas betrayal was a defection to the enemy’s camp. For this reason, I believe for Jesus, it was the more painful of the two incidents.

I wonder what Judas’ worse day was in Hell. Perhaps the moment he arrived to learn the real nature of his employers “retirement” accommodations? Maybe it was the moment that Jesus showed up in Hell. Satan, not missing the opportunity to “rub salt in an open wound” probably arranged a front row seat for Judas. He gloated as he watched the look of anguish on the former disciple’s face when the Lord was escorted in by demons. Judas was deceived by the devil. He died convinced that Jesus was an innocent man; now the Lord in Hell with him. Had Jesus conned him also? Was Jesus a fraud and not the Son of God He claimed to be? Or was it the day that Jesus single-handedly defeated the devil and his demons; made of spectacle of them; took the keys of Hell and death; and led the captives to Heaven, leaving Judas behind forever?

Much has been written and preached about Peter’s denial and subsequent restoration. It is a beautiful reminder that God loves, forgives, and restores repentant people. Judas we would just as soon sweep under the rug and forget about; there is no happy ending here. Judas did not start out bad. He was one of the disciples sent out to preach and work miracles. The Bible never said that Judas did not experience the same success the other disciples enjoyed. Still, something happened that caused him to not just walk away, but to defect and join the enemy. This is something we must never forget. I do not mean to instill fear into anyone, just a healthy reality check. We all need to stand guard over our hearts. It is the “little foxes that ruin the vineyard.” Song of Songs 2:15

“Don’t sweat the small stuff” is a popular quote, however, it is the little things that can add up and cause our undoing. Judas was no better or no worse than any of us. He experienced intimacy with Jesus on a close and personal level that most Christians dream of. Let us focus attention on developing this type of relationship with God. As we do, we can look forward to our eternal life, now and in Heaven, being the greatest adventure we ever experience.

1 comment:

  1. Jolting. I can't even imagine what it must have been like for Judas when Jesus triumphantly rose leaving him behind for eternity. That revelation of the consequence of his choices is chilling to my soul.

    It makes me want to pray-----"OH, Lord, give us revelation of Jesus and Your ways not ours. You are light in the darkness, and because of You in us we can be light in this world before it is too late. Shine, Jesus, shine out so others will be saved from a day of realization with the same horror that Judas faced."