The Master’s Men – Judas Iscariot Matt. 10: 2-4
Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: the first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew, his brother; James, the son of Zebedee, and John, his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew, the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose family name was Thaddaeus (and was originally named “Judas”); Simon, the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.
In this series on the Master's Men, we've been looking at the individuals whom Jesus chose to be His disciples and then later His apostles. We've been looking at their personalities and characteristics, and we’ve tried to see how those things fit into the Lord’s plan. We’ve found that, contrary to how many people might imagine/picture them, the people Jesus chose were very ordinary people – people we can identify with. They were very different from the other-worldly saintliness that they have been pictured or falsely portrayed as having. They had strengths and they had weaknesses…like us. They had faults and character flaws, and they had admirable qualities too…like us. There were times when they got it right and there were times when they got it wrong…like us. And Christ took them and worked with them and changed them into the people He wanted them to be The other disciples have all been great encouragements to us, because we’ve seen through them how Jesus can take ordinary people with typical faults and flaws and failings, and work in them and use them in wonderful, remarkable ways.
But the last disciple stands out in stark contrast to the others. He is isolated and alone. His name is Judas Iscariot. He is the epitome of all that is warped and wrong and bad and evil. He stands out as a warning against the evil potential of things like spiritual carelessness, wasted opportunity, sinful lusts, and hardness of heart. He is listed last, you'll notice, in verse 4. And he is always listed last, and usually with a comment about his betrayal. His name became a byword for betrayal. The name itself means “God leads.” His parents must have had great hopes for him to give a name like that. But the history is – No individual was ever more clearly led by Satan than Judas was. He committed the most terrible act ever – He betrayed the innocent, perfect, sinless, caring, loving Son of God for a handful of money. He was as close to the Savior as it is humanly possible to be. But, he was never transformed by Christ like the others were. He remained hardened in unbelief and went into a hopeless eternity.
I believe Judas can teach us some very profound lessons, and the first lesson I would share with you is this: It is possible to be associated with Christ, but not be converted to or committed to Christ. It is possible to be associated with Christ but not be surrendered to Christ. It is possible to associate – closely associate – with Christ, but still become hardened in sin and rebellion. That’s kind of a scary lesson; but it’s true – Judas is proof of that. And it’s a lesson that church people need to reflect on. Many of us here grew up in the church and we’re pretty familiar with things – We can speak the language of “churchese” and talk about Jesus and and such. But, I would ask you to examine yourself this morning about this: It is one thing to be associated with Christ; it is something else to be committed to Him and surrendered to Him. And the question is – In which category do you belong this morning? The text says his name was Judas Iscariot. “Iscariot” means “man from the town of Kerioth.” Interestingly – Judas is the only disciple identified geographically – the other eleven are not. I’m not sure what the reason is for that, except that he is the only non-Galilean. He is the only Jew from the southern section – the only Judean Jew. And from what I’ve read, the southern Jews felt themselves greatly superior to the rural Jews of the north and would have looked down on them. And so, there may have been a certain amount of snobbery and pride in Judas which deepened as time went on.
We don’t know how Judas met Jesus – The call of Judas is not recorded in the Bible. We know he wanted to be involved, but we don't know the circumstances that made him attach himself to Jesus. Apparently he was attracted to Jesus – I think that's obvious. But I don't think he was attracted by the spiritual, I think he was attracted on the selfish level. In other words – I don't think it was really Jesus that attracted Him; I think it was what Jesus could do for him that attracted him. See the difference? He saw the power/miracles of Jesus. And he believed that Jesus would bring the Kingdom. And he wasn’t interested in the Kingdom for salvation’s sake or for Christ’s sake – He was interested in the Kingdom for what he might gain from it if he was in the inner circle. So he's there, with Jesus, but it’s for totally selfish/self-centered reasons.
I need to go down a side-road at this point, and speak about what’s called an “antinomy” – namely, the antinomy of God’s sovereignty and human choice and responsibility. Some of you may remember – An “antinomy” consists of two truths that are both true and that do not cancel out or nullify each other – they are both true and are both to be believed and held in tension with each other. You don’t go with one truth over the other, you affirm BOTH truths. The antinomy here is this: God IS sovereign...and people DO make REAL choices and take actions that they are personally responsible for. The Bible teaches BOTH these things. When it comes to Judas, in one sense, from his side, he chose to follow Jesus. But on the other side, from Christ's perspective, he was chosen to follow. That’s the antinomy. And you have the same kind of antinomy between human choice and divine sovereignty in what the Bible shows concerning salvation. We come to Christ, we choose to believe in Christ and commit ourselves to Him…And yet – The Bible says we were also chosen before the foundation of the world by Him. Again, that's an antinomy. That is a theological problem ultimately solved/reconciled only in the mind of God. Christ chose Judas, Judas chose Christ. And when Jesus chose Judas, Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him. We see this in John 6, verses 64 and 70. John 6:64 says that “Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray Him.” In verse 70, Jesus said, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?"
So, from the beginning, Jesus knew. And yet, at the same time, Judas was not forced in any way to do what He did. He chose – He made his own decision, and was responsible for it. There is a paper on the literature rack and on the back table dealing with this issue in more detail, if you want to do more reading. Again – The sovereignty of God and human choice -- We believe and affirm BOTH things. That’s an antinomy. Both things are true, and need to be affirmed and held in tension. You don’t understand how it works, and neither do I, and neither does anyone else. You can’t resolve/reconcile it, and neither can I and neither can anyone else. There are some things we just have to leave with God to resolve.
Okay, back to Judas: I believe that Judas was a master at putting forth a false front. What I mean by that is – Outwardly, Judas didn't appear to have defective character. In fact, he must have had qualities and capacities which commended him. Here’s why I believe that: In John 13, when Jesus was with the disciples in the upper room, he said, "One of you will betray Me." And do you remember how the disciples responded? I mean – Did they say, “Lord, is it Judas?” No. Everyone of them said – “Lord, is it I?” Why did they do that? Answer – Because they had no more reason to suspect Judas than they had reason to suspect themselves. They knew better about themselves and they assumed better about Judas. He was a fantastic hypocrite and deceiver. He was so good at it they elected him treasurer of the group. They gave him the money – That's how much they trusted him. He must have put on an act to end all acts. Do you know – There’s only one record of Judas speaking? That’s found in John 12, where he complains about the cost of the perfume Mary (Martha’s sister) used to anoint Jesus. Judas said, in verse 5, “That perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor!” John writes in verse 6, “Now, he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and he used to take for himself what was put into the money bag.” John told us plainly what Judas’ motive was – sheer greed.
You know – He had the same potential as any of the others. He could have been a John or a Peter or whatever. I mean, Christ could have transformed him if his heart had been willing. But the same sun that melts the wax, hardens the clay, and while the other men were being melted and molded, he was becoming more and more hardened against Jesus. One more thought about the call of Judas: Although Jesus knew who would betray Him, He still offered Judas every opportunity to turn from his sin. I mean, think about all that Judas heard but did not take to heart – He heard every lesson that Jesus taught during His ministry: Judas heard Jesus give the lesson of the unjust steward. Judas heard the lessons against the love of money and against greed. Judas heard the lessons against pride. Judas heard Jesus say, “One of you is a devil.” Judas heard Jesus talk openly about being betrayed, and the woe that would come to the person who betrayed Him. Judas heard ALL those things…but remained unmoved. Worse than that – He was becoming more hard-hearted all the time. We’ll look at Judas more next week and see some more important lessons from his life. For today, though, I would ask you to think again about this: Judas proves that it is possible to be associated with Christ, but not be converted to or committed to Christ. It is possible to associate – closely associate – with Christ, but still become hardened in sin and rebellion. And this is a lesson that church people need to reflect on. And I would ask you to examine yourself this morning about this: It is one thing to be associated with Christ; it is something else to be committed to Him and surrendered to Him. And the question is – In which category do you belong this morning? You think about that. Amen.