Point of Reference
by Fred Price
Judas , like Benedict Arnold, has become synonymous with treachery and betrayal. While the other Apostles’ shortcomings offer encouragement in their depiction of common people attempting to follow an uncommon God and being used in remarkable ways as a result; Judas Iscariot stands as a warning concerning the evils of spiritual carelessness, squandered opportunity, sinful lust and hardness of heart. He exposes the possibility of an association with Christ that is unsatisfactory for all involved; as coming to Christ in a superficial relationship with inappropriate expectations and misaligned priorities leads only to disappointment, a hardening of attitudes toward sin – excusing it rather than repenting of it – and unresponsiveness to Christ’s call.
The Bible doesn’t relate how Judas came to follow Christ, but willingly follow he did. He must have seemed trustworthy and been somewhat involved in ministry ( Luke 9:1,2), being put in charge of the “treasury”; from which he stole. ( John 12:1-6) Like most Jews of his day, he eagerly awaited a Messiah, and like most of them he failed to understand how the Messiah would manifest himself. He was however, able to hide his misgivings and hypocrisy well enough to escape suspicion from his fellow Apostles ( Matthew 26:20 – 25); none of them accusing him of anything.
Possibly harboring strong political aspirations, he may have been attracted to Jesus’ harsh criticisms of the religious and political rulers of Israel. As such, he left whatever else he had been occupied with before and followed Jesus full-time, remaining loyal to this band of itinerant preachers even as others began to question and fall away. ( John 6:66-71) He had staked his reputation and hopes for the future on Jesus, possibly attempting to find fulfillment and satisfaction through personal gain and worldly influence ( Matthew 6:21); but he apparently never fully gave his heart over to the Lord. He couldn’t help but be drawn to Jesus’ power and wanted some of it for himself; not an uncommon desire. (See Mark 10:35-45; Luke 9:46-48 & Acts 8:9-24)
At this point Judas becomes a representative of any number of people who reject Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Was he merely disappointed by Jesus’ refusal to fulfill his expectations, turning on him in exasperation? Did he become increasingly discouraged by Jesus’ seeming ineffective street preaching in comparison to rabble rousing for social change? Was he trying to take control of a situation he thought begged for decisive leadership; trying to force Jesus’ hand? By doing so, would Jesus finally – however reluctantly – rise up and defend himself, his faithful followers and the nation; becoming their rightful King? ( John 6:14)
Jesus had said in a number of ways on numerous occasions that, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36 He repeatedly explained that the call to “follow me” is always grounded in submission to his will, salvation being a consequence of repentance from sin; never an opportunity for achieving earthly benefit. And yet that seems to have been Judas’ primary reason for interest in Christ’s Kingdom, being inordinately influenced by dreams of power and visions of wealth. His spitefulness was a result of unfulfilled dreams, his vengefulness a result of Jesus’ unwillingness to grasp the bigger picture and his total lack of political aspirations. Or had he been merely curious from the start, now disinterested and ready for a change – the next big thing –getting out while he could and cutting his losses; maybe even making a little profit in the process?
His theft from the common purse and his “selling” of Christ are indicative of Judas’ heart; it was all about him. ( Matthew 26:14-16) From that mind-set came his betrayal and the subsequent trial of Christ. ( John 11:45-50) It is important to note that while the exact reasons for Judas’ actions aren’t revealed, they were not a spur-of-the-moment act of disillusionment or an emotional reaction to desperation. Judas sought out Jesus’ enemies, arranged an opportunity for his capture and bargained for a fee for his services. ( Matthew 26:15 & Mark 14:11) Biding his time, he sprung the trap at the most opportune moment, being personally involved in the arrest. ( Luke 22:6 &47)
Judas’ tragic failure stemmed from his never being convinced of the error of his own expectations of the Messiah and his subsequent unwillingness to re-center himself in the knowledge of and obedience to the Lord’s will. This was something the other Apostles finally – although belatedly – did do. The consequence was utter and complete separation from God and a desperate sadness that drove him to death by his own hands. On a certain level, he had realized his error, being sorry for what was now transpiring; but it was still a self-centered sorrow. He couldn’t comprehend the overcoming power of God’s love and forgiveness, rather wallowing in the disappointment of self; which often leads to self-condemnation and self-destruction. For there is indeed a Godly sorrow that leads to repentance and salvation, leaving no regret; worldly sorrow bringing only death. ( 2 Corinthians 7:10)
Primary resource material taken from John MacArthur’s, Twelve Ordinary Men – Subtitled: How the Master Shaped His Disciples For Greatness, and What He Wants To Do With You and Follow Me, Christ’s Call, Our Response
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Fred Price - married (50 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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