One of the most puzzling and hated men of the Bible is Judas Iscariot. Much like the oft-repeated stories of Jonah and the Whale and Samson and Delilah, his life and actions are familiar to Christians and non-Christians alike. He is, perhaps, one of the most reviled men in the Bible even though our Lord handpicked him. In addition to his name, he is given four additional titles in the Gospels: “traitor” (Luke 6:16), “son of perdition” (John 17:12), “a devil” (John 6:70), and “thief” (John 12:6). His legacy of betrayal goes without saying, but as we take a look at his life as a whole we can learn some very important lessons.
- We can never tell who is saved or lost. At the end of Matthew 26, Jesus is having the last supper with the disciples before His betrayal, trial, and crucifixion. In verse 21 He tells the twelve disciples, “one of you shall betray me.” At this point we would have thought all the disciples would have turned and looked at Judas, but they didn’t. They each asked the Lord if it was them. Why didn’t they all assume it was Judas? Because he fit in. He dressed like them, went the same places, did the same things, and even experienced the same victories; yet, he was unconverted. We can never tell by the outside (clothing, actions, morals) if an individual is saved or lost.
- You can never tell how far sin will take you. Judas had a weakness—love for money. Now, before we condemn him, we all have a love for money to a certain degree. This common sin and weakness in his character led him to do the unthinkable and betray our Lord. It wasn’t a doctrinal issue or a personality conflict that led Judas to covenant with the Pharisees; it was simply the lure of more money! Sin always holds the hand of another sin when it enters into a life. When sin is allowed to gain a foothold in the door of a life, it opens the door to a bigger, more destructive one to follow. For example, King David’s sin of laziness in II Samuel 11 quickly led to adultery and eventually murder, but it only started out as laziness. In Judas’ case, the love of money brought with it betrayal which led to the crucifixion of our Lord. This is the reason there is no such thing as a “little sin.”
- Being around the right crowd does not guarantee a successful Christian life. Judas lived with the Lord Jesus Christ for three years. He was afforded every privilege and opportunity that every other disciple had been given. He saw the miracles, witnessed the changed lives, lived day in and day out with Christ, and saw and experienced it all; yet, it still wasn’t enough. Being in a good environment doesn’t guarantee someone turning out for God. Adam and Eve had the best environment with daily visits from God, yet they sinned. We all must choose the Christian life for ourselves. The responsibility lies with the person, not the surroundings.
- Judas didn’t deal with his failure. “And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.” Judas chose a very selfish way of dealing with his failure in life. He no doubt had family, friends, people that were influenced by him, and others that he left behind. Judas did change his mind about what he had done (Matthew 27:3), but Satan’s influence in his life was too powerful at that point.
- Many a great Christian has failed, but they learn how to deal with it in a correct manner. Peter failed, but he learned how to start over. King David failed many times, but learned how to deal with it correctly. Proverbs 24:16 tells us, “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again.” Don’t dwell on your failures. Confess them and accept the forgiveness and cleansing of God promised in I John 1:9 and continue to rise above your previous failure.
God did not hide Judas’ life in the Scriptures, but rather put it on display for everyone to see. I pray these practical thoughts would serve as a helpful reminder and warning to us as we seek to serve our Lord.