But Jesus said, "Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?" -- Luke 22: 48 (NLT)
Why? Why would Judas Iscariot betray Jesus Christ? He walked with Him for three years during His ministry. He saw the miracles. He witnessed the dead raised. He saw healing after healing and broke bread with the Son of God. So why? This was the question I came across today and I felt prompted to explore the man most stay away from. The man whose very name has become synonymous with betrayal. Judas. What applications can we glean from the life of Judas Iscariot? The first thing I felt in my Spirit when asking these questions is why does anyone betray Christ? Why does anyone who walks with Him then turn around and deny Him? Why does anyone who has seen His miraculous works in their own life then turn around and disobey Him? The most appropriate dictionary definition of betrayal is:
to disappoint the hopes or expectations of; be disloyal to: to betray one's friends.
I think sometimes we simply view Judas Iscariot through the lens that says we are much better than we really are. That at least we are not HIM. Yet how often do we disappoint the hopes and expectations of God in our own lives? Sure Judas was a first hand witness to all of the miracles including the raising of the dead but what have we witnessed God do in our own lives? I witnessed Him raise my life from the proverbial grave. I witnessed healing miracles that can only be attributed to God. Yet how often do I betray all that I have bore witness to through my sin and disobedience? How often do I disappoint the hopes and expectations of the God I see move in my life every single day? If we were honest with ourselves we would come to no other conclusion that there is a little Judas inside of us all. The better we can recognize the patterns of betrayal the better we can combat them. The better we can learn from the life of the ultimate betrayer, the easier we can catch these tendencies within our own lives. The closer then we can draw unto God.
The most widely accepted theory surrounding why Judas betrayed Jesus lies in the realm of unmet expectations. The Bible says that the disciples believed that Jesus was going to restore the Kingdom of Israel and deliver them from the Roman oppression. In their minds, this was what they needed to be saved from. This was their view of what the Messiah would accomplish. They had their own version of God. It was a God they had created within their own minds, using their own expectations. Then they finally see their Messiah come to earth. They leave everything behind to follow Him. They watch as He heals, forgives sins, takes on the false religious leaders of their day, and performs miracle after miracle. Then He reveals the true plan of the Father:
From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead. But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. "Heaven forbid, Lord," he said. "This will never happen to you!" Jesus turned to Peter and said, "Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God's." -- Matthew 16: 21-23 (NLT)
Whoa! This wasn't what we signed up for! Jesus tells them that the very people they expected Him to deliver them from will be the people who will put Him to death! You can tell this was not what the disciples expected to hear or wanted to hear. They had their own version of how this story was supposed to end. Their version did not involve their Messiah being crucified. Peter actually rebukes Jesus here! Jesus delivers the key line in this exchange -- you are seeing things from a human point of view and not from God's.
Don't we do the exact same thing beloved? Do we not have our own expectations of who God is supposed to be in our lives? Do we not set up these expectations often against His very will? Are these expectations created from a human point of view? I recently have written against the latest Christian fad -- the Circle Maker, because it propagates this petulant form of Christianity we see everywhere today. Where the answer "no" from God is treated with disdain instead of thanksgiving. Just draw a circle in the sand and refuse to move until God gives into your will. It simply does not work that way. The sovereignty of God is crucial because He knows better than us beloved. He is working all things out for our good. So the theory here for Judas is that since he could not get God on his terms he would betray Him. We need to be very careful how we build our expectations of Christ. That may seem obvious but look how many people simply follow the wrong leaders and teachings. If you are following a prosperity doctrine then you have set up a false expectation of what God is going to do in your life. When your life does not pan out like the millionaire false prophet you follow -- it will become so much easier to betray Christ. If you follow a self-help/motivational preacher you will set up false expectations in your heart as to who God is and when they are not met -- the same thing -- betrayal becomes easier. Sin becomes easier. Excuses become easier. Whose point of view are we using when we set up our expectations of God? Too many view God as a Spiritual ATM or bus boy -- there to clean up our messes or pour out blessings upon demand. When we set our expectations based upon the view of God however, we will not find disappointment.
God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through? -- Numbers 23: 19 (NLT)
God does not lie. He does not change His mind. What He says He will do -- He does. What He promises -- He follows through on. He is the same yesterday; when this verse was written, today; when it is still being carried out, and tomorrow; where it will remain unchanging. If you ever find yourself disappointed in God -- look at what your expectations were and you will find they were created using a human point of view and not God's. All of the disciples were disappointed in how the crucifixion played out. It did not line up with the God they had envisioned in their Messiah. Judas may have been so disappointed that he didn't think twice about betraying him. Remember though -- Peter denied knowing Jesus three times and the rest of the Disciples scattered and abandoned Him. None of them were seeing things through the eyes of God.
Besides theory, we do have several Bible texts to rely upon when identifying who Judas was and what likely contributed to his betrayal. Judas had a bad spirit of religiosity in him. It was a showy, pretentious, and false spirit which he wrapped up in pseudo-piety. Six days before the final Passover Feast in the earthly life of Jesus, we find Him at the house of Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. Mary, the sister of Martha, anointed the feet of Jesus with expensive perfume and wiped his feet with her hair. Judas climbed up on his religious soap box:
But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, "That perfume was worth a year's wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor." -- John 12: 4-5 (NLT)
It was plainly obvious that the actions of Mary were acceptable to Jesus. But Judas felt he knew better. The issue was certainly not money as Scripture teaches us that Judas was in fact a thief. His indignation here was not about money. It was an attempt to look more religious than he really was. To sound loftier than he really was. This spirit can be alive today as well. Too often we can talk a good game. We have all the spiritual lingo down. We know when to raise our hands and when to lapse into tongues. We know how to speak down upon the great sins of the world and in the process puff ourselves up higher than we need be. But here is the deeper point I want us to see today. The spirit of religiosity is always upset when anything is applied directly to Jesus. Bear with me. The notion of selling the perfume and giving the money to the poor is representative of the works the church might try to do in society. It is representative of the many programs and plays we put on -- "in the name of Jesus." On the other side here though we have Mary anointing God Himself! This is the actual work of the church beloved. To honor God by presenting His Gospel uncompromised to a lost and dying world.
Now hear me out. I am not suggesting that there should not be a social side of Christianity. We are to be the arms and feet of Christ. The Bible makes it clear that we are to help those who are in need. The point though is that the social side of Christianity is Martha's side. It is the work of religion. The anointing of the feet of Jesus however is the Mary side. It is not the work of religion -- it is the reason for religion. The object is not to "reach as many for Jesus" if there is no anointing upon Him in your religion. Jesus has said already that Mary has chosen the better thing. The statement from Judas above embodies the spirit of religiosity. It is the spirit that thinks it simply knows better. It knows how to grow the church better than what the Bible has already instructed. It knows just how much leaven to allow in to the church even though the Bible says to allow no compromise. No, it is the uncompromised Gospel that saves people for eternity. Realize that you can have the most dynamic social outreach programs in the world but if Jesus came back tomorrow all you did was rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. The true damage of the spirit of religiosity is that it starts to blind us to Jesus standing right in front of us. Can you picture this? Judas is watching Mary wipe the feet of the Son of God with her hair and instead of thinking of God -- he gets self-righteous. The bottom line is the self-righteous/churchianity spirit will not even realize when it betrays God. It convinces itself that its stance is righteous!
But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is! -- Matthew 6: 23 (NLT)
Read that very carefully. If the light you think you have is actually darkness -- how deep that darkness is! Judas betrayed Jesus without even realizing he was doing so. Once he saw the results of his treachery, he tried to take it back but it was too late. Beware serving the cause of Christ without the Gospel of Christ at the center. Do not seek to do things in the name of Jesus without the Spirit of Christ.
Thirdly, we know that Judas liked his money. I think we can become too spiritual sometimes and overlook the obvious. There was a clear financial motive that played its part in this betrayal. The Pharisees offered him 30 pieces of silver and he took it. Scripture teaches us this was a common character flaw in Judas:
Not that he cared for the poor--he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples' money, he often stole some for himself. -- John 12: 6 (NLT)
The Bible is clear beloved. We cannot serve two masters. We will end up hating one for the other. The application for us is that we need to be cautious about putting anything ahead of God in our lives. How do we end up betraying God? When we can no longer see Him because of what we have placed in front of Him. God must be the top priority in our lives. Bigger than our job and career. Bigger than fame and fortune. Bigger than even our spouse and children. Realize of course that these things worked in concert against Judas. He was probably disappointed at the discussion from Jesus about dying at the hands of the Romans. He had this puffed up -- super-spiritual sense about him that he felt like he just knew better. And deep down inside -- he was greedy. What a playground for the enemy to work in:
It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. -- John 13: 2 (NLT)
So we come to the final piece of the betrayal -- Satan. The language used here is very interesting. It says that the devil had "prompted" Judas to betray Jesus. The dictionary defines prompted as to "incite or inspire." We often see poor theologies when it comes to the enemy. We see a lot of modern churches refuse to even teach on him -- much to the danger of their congregants. We see a wave of "grace preachers" who mistakenly lure people into a false sense of security while the devil runs amok in their lives. Then we have the other side of the coin where some preachers will blame everything on the devil and thus absolve us from our due diligence in our own lives. Judas here exemplifies what is going on in the spiritual war we face. Yes the devil inspired Judas to betray Jesus but look at what Judas had already contributed to the inspiration! He already was disappointed in the talk about the impending crucifixion. He already possessed a spirit of religiosity where he believed he knew better. The devil simply pushed his greed button and betrayal was on the way. This is the end result of an unprotected life. When you walk with Christ for years as Judas did but do not do so humbly. When you listened to the teachings of Christ for years but maintained the human point of view on things. Then the enemy comes along and whispers the lies into your ear that you need to hear to confirm how right you are and the next thing you know -- you are betraying God with a kiss"as the key verse states.
Realize today beloved that is how we all betray God. We do not sneak up on God -- we come to Him openly with a kiss. The spirit of religiosity will insist that it is all for the cause of Jesus. We water down the Gospel and compromise the truth -- all for the cause of Jesus. The idols we place before Him obscure our view. Like the rich young ruler -- Jesus tells us to cast them aside if we truly want to follow Him but we walk away sad because we like our idols. We like what we have placed ahead of God. The truth is that we have remade God in our own image too often. We have created a false set of expectations in our hearts and when they are not met we can be as disappointed as Judas and the disciples were. If we are not carefully grounded in the Word and resistant of the enemy -- then we can fall for his lies. What 30 pieces of silver are we harboring in our own hearts today? What are we coveting instead of the God who saved our souls? He has the plan. He is the author and finisher of our faith. Give Him back the pen. The church has always been enamored with the term "revival." Do you know what is better than revival beloved? Not allowing yourself to be knocked unconscious to begin with. Judas had his flaws. We need to learn from them, be aware of them, and avoid them at all cost. Why did Judas betray Christ? Unmet expectations, a spirit of religiosity, greed, the enemy. All the same reasons we too can turn our backs on Christ. The same reasons we too can be blatantly disobedient or sinful while excusing it in our minds. There are always reasons but none that will be good enough. We need to guard our lives more fiercely than we do because our soul is worth more than 30 pieces of whatever the devil is trying to sell us.
Reverend Anthony Wade -- January 28, 2013