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Judas the Traitor


Text: Matthew 26 and 27

In this study we are looking a little at a very solemn and serious subject –  we are looking at the man who betrayed the Lord, – Judas Iscariot. It is an important subject, – important for the unrepentant sinner who needs to prepare to meet God, important for the Christian who has grown cold in heart, or fallen by the wayside, and in so doing has heaped more pain upon the Saviour’s head – a serious warning to persevere. Hebrews 6:4. Let’s see:-

1. The Character of Judas.

So, what kind of a person was Judas Iscariot:-

  • He was an apparent follower of Jesus.  Externally at least, he owned and confessed Christ to the world. Everyone looking at Judas must have wondered at what a fine Christian he was. But going to church, and taking part in religious activities, – doing what a Christian does doesn’t make one a Christian, anymore than sleeping in a garage makes one a car!
  • An Apostle. But Judas was more than just a professing Christian, Judas was a church leader. He held one of the highest offices in the church, he was an elder and he was the church treasurer. John 12:4-6  But again we have a warning here. Holding a high office in the church doesn’t guarantee that one is a true believer. Holding a high religious office doesn’t mean that one is a Christian. Why is the name “Justin Welby” coming to mind just now? I’m sure that Judas had all the proper requirements, and qualifications for office – except the most important one of all…

Both of these characteristics would make you think that Judas was supremely a hypocrite. I know that there are people who will make this an excuse for rejecting the gospel and rejecting the claims of Christ.  The church is where sinners, hypocrites, come to hear the gospel, and be convicted of their sin and hypocrisy and repent.  

  • He was politically motivated. This is important when we come to think about why he did what he did. He was a member of the Ischaroi, a political group, opposed to Roman occupation. He would have believed that the Messiah would come to free Israel from political enslavement, to relieve them of the burden of the Roman Empire. He would not be looking for a Messiah who  would die for sinners, and Jesus, throughout his three year ministry, training these disciples, was gradually revealing to them the true reason that he had come. A disillusioned Judas wanted off this bandwagon that he’d climbed onto.

So we have just a little bit of insight into the personality and temperament of Judas. Now let’s see:-

2. The Crime of Judas.

Judas often showed his true feelings. Judas’s greatest crime was when he betrayed Jesus, a crime that began after that very incident. Matthew 26:14  Thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave. In Exodus there was a law, – written as part of the civil law of ancient Israel, where if a bull gored a slave to death, the bull’s owner would pay thirty pieces of silver to the slave’s owner, by way of compensation. Exodus 21:32  That’s all a slave was worth. That’s all Jesus was worth to Judas. It was a crime:-

  • Of the greatest treachery. Judas did not become an open enemy, – his hatred for Christ simmered away within his heart and mind, but he kept his office in the church, he retained his profession of belief, he carried on as normal, plotting his crime… 16 And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him. It was also a crime:-
  • Of aggravated wickedness. Because Judas betrayed the greatest friend ever.  He did it in deliberate cold blood, and he executed it with the sign of love, the sign of a kiss. Matthew 26:47-50 

You might wonder why the Jewish leaders, who hated Jesus so much, needed a traitor to point out the master to them.  He was a public figure in Jerusalem that Passover. But arresting a man in the crowd might cause a riot, and the Romans hated public disorder.   The priests needed to know when they could arrest Jesus when he was alone, – when no-one else was about, – a remote location, a private place of prayer, a garden perhaps, and preferably under cover of darkness – that would be ideal, and they needed someone to tip them off as to where and when those conditions would be in place, and Judas was the very man…

3. The Conscience of Judas.

But the ways of a traitor lead to a terrible end. Look at:-

  • Judas’s false repentance. There are many instances of repentance. Peter repented, and believed and was pardoned. Judas though repented, despaired and was eternally ruined. Why? Read Matthew 27:3  Judas repented himself. But how sincere was that repentance?
    • Note the time of the repentance. It was “when he saw that he was condemned.”  I wonder what Judas thought would happen when he betrayed Jesus? Did he think that his arrest would prompt him to rise up in anger and fight back and lead the nation to victory? Remember Judas’s political aspirations. But now he sees the true outcome of his actions. Jesus was arrested and is in custody and Judas was filled with grief, anguish, and indignation, at himself, when reflecting upon what he had done, and his conscience rises up against him and he curses the thing he has done. 
    • Note his sorrow before the priests. Matthew 27:4  Even the blackest of characters cannot find any sin in Jesus. He is the only One in whom such innocence is found. 1 Peter 2:22  
    • Note how he relinquished his wicked reward. Matthew 27:5  He tried to make restitution for the crime he had committed. But his restitution was thrown in his face. Note the reaction of the Jews, in v4. 

Now, despite all that, I say that Judas’s repentance was false. But why, when it seems so contrite and so sincere? Because I believe that it was misdirected. Judas expressed his conscience-stricken sorrow and regret to the priests, and they simply thrust him away. He never prayed. He never cast himself upon the mercy if God. His repentance was worthless because he never asked Jesus to forgive him, There is a lesson for us here. Am I sorry for my sin? Go directly to Christ. Don’t trust any priest or pastor, – go to the Saviour, go to Christ, and cast yourself upon his mercy and grace. 

  • Judas’s terrible end.  Matthew 27:5-7, Acts 1:18  What a hopeless end. Judas left this world and went to ‘his own place.’ (Acts 1:25). It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.   

I think Judas is a warning for us all. A warning to Christians persevere to the very end; to beware of coldness of heart, to watch for hypocrisy, to be conscious of the progressive hardening of sin and sinful behaviour, and mostly to beware of going to strand before God with unforgiven sin. Behold, now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.

© Bob McEvoy 2023

One Comment
  1. Harvey Cross permalink

    “When this man’s best desire and highest aim
    Had ended in the deed of traitorous shame,
    When to his bloodshot eyes grew wild and dim
    The stony faces of the Sanhedrin –
    When in his rage he could no longer bear
    Men’s voices nor the sunlight nor the air,
    Nor sleep, nor waking, nor his own quick breath,
    Nor God in Heaven, nor anything but death-
    I bowed my head, and through my fingers ran
    Tears for the end of that Iscariot man,
    Lost in the hopeless struggle of the soul
    To make the done undone, the broken whole.
    FWH Myers

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