“Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked,
‘What are you willing to give me if I hand Him over to you?’ So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand Him over” (Matt. 26:14-16).
We can learn from every apostle, even from Judas Iscariot. The gospels encourage us to emulate those who have set their shoulders to the plow (Luke 9:62). We learn also the fate of those who abandon Christ. Loyalty, commitment, devotion to the living Lord challenges us all in these times. Jimmy Hoffa expressed the cynicism that permeates our society when he said that every person has a price. True Christians are tempted to abandon hope when they realize how money corrupts athletics, politics, even universities and colleges. From the musical Cabaret comes the song: “Money makes the world go ‘round.” The temptation of Judas is all too understandable. We know why he betrayed Christ:
A. Greed. The greedy never have enough. Even millionaires and billionaires are obsessed with accumulating more money into their accounts and portfolios. Judas like them was obsessed with money. He became the treasurer of the Apostles, suggesting that special interest in assets, where it went and how it was spent. To steal was a temptation he evidently was unable to resist (John 12:6);
B. Jealousy. Was there a time when Judas had been filled with eager enthusiasm for the Person and message of Jesus? The Lord takes us as we are in order to turn us to the Holy Spirit. He recognized the potential of Judas despite his weakness for money and honor. James and John coveted honors. Matthew was a tax collector, suggesting greediness. They conquered their temptations. Was it impossible for Judas to do the same? It appears that somewhere during Christ’s ministry Judas realized that he would always be excluded from the inner circle of the Lord. Peter, James and John had more love, dedication and enthusiasm than he could ever muster. Disillusion soon turns to hatred;
C. Material goods become substitutes for ideals. People who settle for possessions do so when their ambitions no longer bear fruit. They project onto others their inner failings. Goods become a consolation for better things. It could be that Judas had expected Jesus to liberate Palestine from Roman occupation, then blamed Him for being who He is—Liberator of souls, not of nations. Always there are those eager to play the name game, blaming politicians for the problems of the nation, the media for exploiting the nation’s failures, yet never looking inward to search for ways to make a difference personally;
D. Provocation. Some scholars feel that Judas may have tried forcing the hand of Jesus. The good that He accomplished through the miracles of healing were only to win the affection of the crowds. His eloquence in teaching the ways of God, the messages of hope, was designed as a prelude to a revolt designed to unseat the military forces in the land. Clearly this is false. “My Kingdom is not of this world,” He told Pilate.
In all this, Judas proved to be out of touch with the gospel of Christ. He never had been a true apostle. He was unable to accept Jesus as He was. He wanted to fashion Christ into the image Judas wanted Him to be. This temptation is not unique to the betrayer. Many are like him. They consider Jesus to be a “Man for all seasons,” a figure Who throughout history has been adapted to the needs of the times. Judas Iscariot is both example and warning to all who feel it possible to make Christ into their own image, rather than to discover the truth transcending every culture throughout history: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). It’s for the true Christian to rise above the limits of the times he or she lives in. This is the only way to be united with Jesus Christ, Son of God, Who came into the world to find and save sinners.