Judas Was a Traitor. But, Have You Ever Thought About THIS?

We have been working our way through Passion Week and have made it to “Good Friday”. Our reflections have elongated the seven-day Passion Week into Ten Days that Changed the World. The story of Good Friday (and Judas) is given in Matthew 26:47-27:56; Mark 14:43-15:46; and John 18:2-19:30.

Bitter Fruit

There are so many things to cover on Good Friday: The treachery of Judas bore fruit: Jesus was illegally tried by the high priest, shuttled back and forth from Caiaphas to Pilate to Herod… Pilate kept trying to evade judging Jesus, saying “I find no fault in him.” Jesus was beaten by professionals, mocked and abused by jaded sadistic guards who tried to get a rise out of him… Yet he bore their accusations and insults stoically, refusing to indulge their curiosity or their cruelty.

He was unjustly condemned to death by crucifixion, certainly a most horrible way to die, and the agonies of the cross are well-documented. His statements on the cross reveal his character or point to prophetic predictions about who he was and how he would die. By quoting Psalm 22 (“My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”), he reminded us yet again that this wasn’t some random cry for help. Jesus was quoting SCRIPTURE!  On the cross, Jesus pointed us to prophecy, to words that confirmed his mission and reminded us who He was.

Jesus knew what was coming, and His reference to Scripture shows us that He PLANNED all of this, and that He wanted us to remember. When He said “It is finished”, He wasn’t speaking about his life but his mission, and He died only when He announced that He was commending his spirit to his Father.

So Many Players, so Many Failures

This day was pivotal in all of human history, and it contains so many themes and moments that it is hard to do it justice in a short devotional. Read all of the Gospel accounts and you’ll see what I mean… There is scheming, conniving, betrayal, political maneuvering, cruelty, a kangaroo court, a mob mentality, and vigilante justice. We can observe the hard-hearted Pharisees, cowardly disciples, corrupt priests, and the impatient Romans. There are a number of story lines, and every one of them provides some degree of blame or failure. Peter failed to stand up for his best friend. Pilate failed to administer justice. The Sanhedrin failed to adhere to the law.

What catches my eye, however, is the story about the failure of Judas. (You know, the guy no one names their kid after?) His failure may be the most obvious and the least-discussed out of all of those people.

Not Just Betrayal

He was Judas Iscariot, the zealot, the thief, the would-be revolutionary who perhaps tried to force Jesus into action. He was Judas the traitor, the one who sold Jesus out for thirty pieces of silver. His name is synonymous with betrayal. But don’t forget this: He was also Judas the remorseful. Here’s what Matthew said:

“When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” (Matthew 27:3-4, NIV)

Judas certainly obtained an infamous place in history, and he has been condemned for his actions ever since. He is forever linked to the death of Jesus as the greedy traitor who valued money more than his master’s life. Judas killed Jesus as surely as if he had personally nailed him to the cross. Despicable, right? Surely a man who willingly betrayed his teacher and friend had to be influenced by selfishness and sin.

He’s Certainly Deserving of Condemnation

Certainly all civilized people would be justified in condemning Judas for betraying his friend, Jesus. Anyone who turned their back on the Son of God deserves whatever justice requires, don’t they? Well, here’s the deal, and something important for you to think about: we are ALL Judas. We have all sold Jesus out at one time or another, and we’ve all turned our back on him, or ignored him and pursued some selfish sin. Every one of us can say along with Judas, “I have sinned, for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

This week, when you think about Judas, don’t feel too smug. (You might recall that Judas was so overcome by remorse that he committed suicide. He was so uncomfortable with his sin that he took his own life.) So, how comfortable are you with your sins? My own sins sent Jesus to the cross. YOUR sins nailed him to it. I heard a speaker say once, “If you had been the only person who would ever have believed the Gospel, Jesus would still have died on the cross for you.”

Flip the Script

That certainly personalizes what really happened on the cross: wow, Jesus loved me so much that he would have died for only ME! And it is true. However, when you think about it, it also means that it personalizes the penalty. If I was the only person to ever live, Jesus would still have had to endure the agony of the cross to save me. I put him there. YOU put him there. Along with Judas, we all did. That probably means we should live in such a way to justify the cost of the cross. And not just at Easter.

And the question remains: What Do YOU Believe About the Cross?

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