THE RISE AND DEMISE OF JUDAS ISCARIOT
Many people have risen to greatness. Some like John D. Rockefeller, Genghis Khan, Bill Gates, Anne Cox Chambers, and others have amassed great wealth. Fame has catapulted many, like John Wayne, Clark Gable, Elizabeth Taylor, to an exalted status. People like Jesse Owens, Michael Phelps, Babe Ruth, and others, have reached a high plateau in sports. Politics have made some, like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and others, world known. Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, and such like, are known for their genius. Mozart, Beethoven, Michael Jackson, Elvis, and others are remembered for their musical talents. Even villains, such as Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger, Al Capone, and Osama Ben Laden are well-known. The list could be multiplied.
The Bible describes a number of characters who are easily and quickly recognized due to their accomplishments. Abraham, Job, and Joseph of Arimathaea were faithful and rich. The Pharaohs, Herods, and Agrippas were political leaders. There are even villains, such as Haman, Goliath, and Judas Iscariot. The study herein centers on Judas Iscariot. Judas is his name. He is called Iscariot because he was from Kerioth, Judaea. Iscariot became the epithet of Judas.
Let your mind go back to a time when a little baby was born to proud Judaean parents. His father’s name was Simon. (John 6:71). His mother’s name is not given. Perhaps as this little baby grew into a boy, he, like Timothy was taught “the holy scriptures which are able to make thee wise unto salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15); and, like Jesus, “he increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” (Luke 2:52). As a young man, borrowing Paul’s challenge to Timothy, one might picture the young Keriothite not despising his youth, but being an “example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity,” giving “attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine”, meditating on these things, giving himself wholly unto them, taking heed to himself and the word of God, so that he might save himself and others. (1 Timothy 4:12-16). Perhaps he, like Paul, had an open life worthy of imitation. Cf. Acts 26:4, 5.
All of the foregoing would have brought Judas Iscariot to the point that Jesus would choose and call him to be numbered with the twelve apostles. (John 6:70, 71; Acts 1:17). Jesus sent the twelve disciples or apostles, including Judas Iscariot, out with “power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.” (Matthew 10:1-5). The twelve apostles were sent out on a limited commission for a limited time to prepare them for the coming kingdom. Please note that the apostles at this time were told, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into the city of any of the Samaritans enter ye not. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Later, these same apostles, except for the deceased Judas Iscariot, would be told, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matthew 28:18); “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), “both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).
Judas Iscariot was a faithful preacher at this time, declaring, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 10:7). He was a devoted disciple, a pupil and learner of Jesus. (Matthew 10:1). He held an office, bishoprick. (Acts 1:20). It seems that Jesus appointed Judas Iscariot as treasurer. John 12:6 and 13:29 speak of him having “the bag, and bare what was put therein.” The Passover, the days of unleavened bread, was at hand. (Matthew 26:17). Jesus would use this as an occasion to introduce them to and institute the coming communion, breaking of bread, the Lord ’s Supper in the coming kingdom. (Matthew 26:17, 26-29; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:17-34). Judas Iscariot was at that feast. During the feast Jesus told them of His betrayal, that one of them would be the traitor, and that He, Jesus, would be put to death. (Matthew 26:14ff; Mark 14:17ff; Luke 22:21ff). Judas Iscariot was there. One could but dream of enjoying the closeness Judas had with “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29). Jesus is with US (Matthew 28:20), and will be. (Hebrews 13:5, 6). We sometimes sing, “I walk with the King” and “My God and I.” This walk is figurative, but one day, as another song says, the saved will see Him Face to Face. Our walk is spiritual, but it is as close as were those who walked with Him some two thousand years ago, and as heart-burning as those who walked with him on the road to Emmaus after His resurrection. (Luke 24:32, 13).
BUT!!! All has been great up to this point. One could wish that the story could have ended here as far as Judas Iscariot was concerned. Such is not the case. Judas, a disciple and apostle, had faults. One reared its ugly head when Mary washed the feet of Jesus and wiped them with her hair. (John 12:1-3). Judas asked, “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?” (Verses 4, 5). It was “not that he cared for the poor; because he was a thief….” (Verse 6).
After some three years of service, being a disciple, pupil, learner of Jesus, though not always doing the right thing, the scriptures say, “Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve. And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests, and captains, how he might betray him unto them. And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money. And he promised, and sought opportunity to betray him….” (Luke 22:3-6). Satan “entered” shows that he had not always been in Judas; he had not been born a traitor. Though not perfect, the apostle had served with Jesus until now. Satan looks for people at their weakest moments, when they have doubts and fears. Peter wrote, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith….” (1 Peter 5:8, 9). Read Matthew 4, and see how Jesus fought the devil off with scripture. Cf. Luke 4:8, where Jesus said, “Get thee behind me, Satan.”
The “traitor”, foreseen prior to the time of his betrayal (Luke 6:16), has just sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. (Matthew 26:14-16). Jesus then sat down with the twelve (Matthew 26:20), including His betrayer, “And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.” (Verse 21). “Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.” (Verse 25). Judas knew what he had done, and he had to know that Jesus knew it.
After the supper and singing of a hymn, Jesus and eleven apostles went over the brook Cedron (Kedron) to the mount of Olives to the place or garden called Gethsemane to pray. (Matthew 26:30-36; John 18:1). Judas remained behind, and knowing where Jesus would be (John 18:2), gave the frenzied mob a sign that he would kiss Jesus. (Mark 14:44). He then went to where Jesus was at night with lanterns, torches, and weapons, “with a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and scribes and elders.” (Verse 43; Acts 1:16). “And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him. And they laid their hands on him, and took him.” (Verses 45, 46). How little and sinful Judas must have felt when Jesus said, “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” (Matthew 26:50), then, “Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48).
Judas now sees his demise. From the office of an apostle, one privileged to walk with Jesus for three years, he has fallen, and, seeing “that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood.” (Matthew 27:3, 4). The money was refused, and Judas, prior to the death of Jesus, went and hanged himself. (Verses 4, 5, 11ff). Luke does not place Judas Iscariot in heaven, but says, “Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” (Acts 1:25). Matthias then took the office vacated by Judas Iscariot. (Verse 26).
Judas Iscariot rose to serve the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, creator of heaven and earth, and he could have died as faithful as any other apostle or saint of God. He could have stood with the apostles on the day of Pentecost to open the doors of the kingdom he had faithfully preached. He could have, like Paul, gone on missionary journeys. He could have done so much in and for the Lord’s church. However, he allowed Satan to enter and tempt him for a few dollars. Having sinned in betraying Jesus, he could have sorrowed after a godly sort, genuinely repented (2 Corinthians 7:6-11) and been in Abraham’s bosom, in Paradise, awaiting the great resurrection of the dead to hear Jesus say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” (Matthew 25:21, 23). However, he will be told, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41). The song, “Almost Persuaded”, echoes the words of Jesus, “Almost is but to fail; Sad, sad, that bitter wail—‘Almost—but lost!” In the words of Paul, be “almost and altogether such as I am,….” (Acts 26:29). The story of Judas Iscariot warns “brethren, be stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Beloved, are you a Christian? If not, read and study the word of God, asking for help from the one who gave you this tract or writing to the name and address hereon if you need it. (Romans 10:17; 2 Timothy 2:15; Acts 8:30, 31; Romans 10:13, 14). Believe in God and Jesus. (John 3:16; Hebrews 11:6). Repent of sin. (Acts 17:30, 31). Confess Jesus as God’s Son. (Romans 10:9, 10; Acts 8:37). Be buried in water baptism for the remission of sins to enter the body/church. (Romans 6:1-5; Acts 8:36-39; 2:38; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:22, 23). If a Christian, are you faithful? If not, return to your first love, repenting of sin, confessing fault(s), and praying. (Revelation 2:4, 5; Acts 8:22-24; James 5:16; 1 John 1:7-10). Rise up like Judas Iscariot, but do not fall as he did. Rather, be found, “Looking diligently lest any of you fail of the grace of God.” (Hebrews 12:15). Serve God well, for it is said of those who do, “Great is your reward in heaven.” (Matthew 5:12; Revelation 14:13; 21:1-4).