This week I have been studying Matthew 26:1-16. This passage intentionally contrasts Mary’s sacrificial devotion to Jesus with Judas’ treachery. Judas took the first step toward his ultimate betrayal of Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane. As much as I want to be like Mary, I am often more like Judas.
Throughout the centuries people have vilified Judas. He has been held up as the ultimate example of violated trust. We all want to distance ourselves from Judas and claim that we are nothing like him. By making him into a caricature, we can dismiss him as someone to be loathed. But we do this as a defense mechanism. Deep in our hearts, we know the truth that we are more like Judas than we would like to admit.
Satan is more than ready to turn the heat up on us and put us to the test. We need to be realistic about our weaknesses and carefully guard our hearts. Even then, we will fail from time to time. For all of his bravado, Peter failed Jesus at the last moment. Thankfully, Jesus restored Peter, and he will restore us as well. Jesus’ warning to Peter is one that we all should take to heart.
"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." Luke 22:31-32 (NIV)
Rather than deny our vulnerability, we need to recognize the things that trigger the Judas within us.
We play the part of Judas when we get disillusioned with Christ and take matters into our own hands. It seems from Scripture that Judas was a man of action. He may have been a zealot, looking for a political leader who would free Israel from the bondage of Rome. When he witnessed the power and authority of Jesus, he became convinced that this was the leader he was looking for. But when Jesus refused to use his power in a political way, Judas balked.
Like Judas, we have plans for Jesus. All of us have our personal agendas. We expect Jesus to use his power to accomplish what we desire. When it doesn’t work out that way we take matters into our own hands. God warns us that our plans often lead us away from Jesus. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
We play the part of Judas when we become enamored with the material things of this world. John makes it clear that Judas was taking advantage of his position as the keeper of the money. He was enticed by the things the world had to offer. In the end, he was willing to sell Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver; the price for a common slave.
We sell Jesus out when we put our focus on material things rather than spiritual things. This can happen to us so subtlety. A little indulgence here and there and before we know it we are trapped. Paul warns us to keep things in their proper perspective.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Timothy 6:6-10 (NIV)
There is a Judas in each one of us. The first step to dealing with him is recognizing that he exists. Then we can we can find the strength in Christ to keep him at bay. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9 (NIV)