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  • Writer's picturePastor Brett

Betrayer

Matthew 26:21-25; Mark 14:17-21; Luke 22:21-23; John 13:18-30

            We have only a little information about Judas Iscariot.  He is mentioned just 20 times in the Gospels, twice in the book of Acts. He speaks on two occasions. What we can say with certainty is the following:

            “Judas” is the Greek version of the Hebrew name “Judah”.  Judah was a son of Jacob, the father of the last ethnically pure tribe of Israel.  The name Judah was shortened to “Jew” and designates those who are ethnically and/or religiously in line with the Old Testament.

            Judah may mean “Jehovah Leads” or “He Whom Jehovah Praises”.  Despite the devout connotations of his name, Judas is proof that you can hang around Jesus and His people all you want and not be saved. You must be born again to be saved.

            Judas’ surname was “Iscariot”.  This tells us where he came from.  In Hebrew. “Ish” means “man”.  “Cariot” is the town of “Karioth”.  Judas was a “man of Karioth”. Karioth was a farming town 23 miles south of Jerusalem.  He was the only one of the Twelve who was not from Galilee.

            His father’s name was “Simon”. Simon was a common name at that time -we have two of them among the disciples!  When you take all that we know into account, Judas was a common man from a common family in a common town in Judea.  He could be anyone.  He could be you or me.  That’s the scary part of his story.

            Judas was given a position of trust among the disciples.  He was chosen him to be the treasurer for Jesus and His disciples. Judas abused that position to steal from them (John 12:6).  Judas was a thief.  This shows a tendency to deceive and explains, in part, how the other eleven disciples did not identify Judas as the betrayer.

Jesus identified His betrayer with a customary offering to a friend.

1. Jesus announced His betrayal.

            John’s account of the Last Supper is much more detailed.  It starts with the account of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet and a lot of teaching.  Even in the face of all the good things that had happened that night, Jesus was TROUBLED.  But Jesus did all those things with a heavy heart, aware of Judas’ plans to betray Him. Eventually He revealed what TROUBLED Him: a betrayer sat among them.

2. The disciples wondered who might betray Him.

            The disciples discussed who the betrayer might be.  At first, the discussion involved guessing which of them might be capable of such a monstrous deed.  In John’s gospel, Jesus had already hinted five times that he would be betrayed into the hands of the religious leaders.  Why should this more pointed declaration surprise them?  I imagine these initial conversations were among men eating next to one another, in hushed tones.  That line of inquiry proved fruitless, so they turned to Jesus for an answer.

            The discussion made the disciples SORROWFUL and they queried Jesus to try to settle their hearts.  Two questions were asked:  Firstly, Simon Peter had already put his foot in his mouth when Jesus tried to wash his feet.  This may’ve motivated him to be more discreet and secretly/quietly got John, who was nearest to Jesus, to ask Him.  (At this time, meals were consumed by lying next to a low U-shaped table.  People lay around the outside of the “U” and the food was placed in the middle.)

            The text makes clear that John was next to Jesus physically and emotionally. LEANING ON JESUS’ BOSOM in the original language implies a closeness of relationship that other disciples did not possess.  LEANING BACK ON JESUS’ BREAST sounds repetitive, but her describes physical closeness, necessary for John to whisper in Jesus’ ear.

            Apparently, John’s question received no answer, so each of them asked Jesus, “Is it I?”  These questions may be taken as a measure of their desperation for an answer.  After all, eleven of them knew they had no plans to betray Jesus.  Perhaps they thought Jesus was uttering a prophecy that, someday, hopefully far away, one of them would betray Jesus in a moment of weakness.  In the original language, the question is worded in such a way that a negative answer is expected.  A better translation might be, “Surely it isn’t I, Lord?”  I wonder how Judas had the eleven so thoroughly fooled that no one voiced an accusation or guessed he was the betrayer.

3. Jesus pronounced woe on His betrayer.

            In answering their queries, Jesus centered the disciples’ attention on a piece of bread.  At this time, bread was used to serve oneself food, not eating utensils.  Dipping a piece of bread into a bowl to draw out food was familiar.  Everyone ate out of common bowls, a different bowl for each food.  for the host (who else but Jesus?) to then offer the food and bread to another was a gesture of friendship.

            Events were about to unfold as they must, but woe to the one who facilitated it.  AS IT IS WRITTEN in Scripture.  As promised by God.  As planned since before creation.  God’s plan will come to pass, but that does not relieve the betrayer of his guilt.  It makes him no less responsible.  As we saw last week, Judas was a volunteer, not a recruit.  He made the decision to betray Jesus before the events in this passage.

            WOE TO THAT MAN = the guilt was so great, the consequences so dire, the Son of Man’s betrayer would’ve been better off if he’d never existed!  Hebrews 10:27-29, 31 gives us some perspective on this kind of damnation: “There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies.  For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which mads us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us.  It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

4. Jesus revealed His betrayer.

            Jesus handed the bread to Judas.  Jesus used this custom of offering a choice morsel of food to honor a guest with ironic effect when He announced He would hand it to His betrayer and then gave it to Judas.  Maybe we should look at it in a different light; perhaps it was one last chance Jesus offered Judas, one final offer of mercy and pardon.  If Judas had confessed his conspiring with the religious leaders, he would have been forgiven and God would have employed other means to put Jesus into the hands of the conspirators.

            But he took it.  Knowing full well Jesus had just identified him as the betrayer before the 11, Judas took the bread Jesus offered him.  It was an acknowledgement of his decision to go ahead and betray Jesus.  What happened next sealed Judas’ fate.

            Satan entered into Judas.  Judas was personally possessed by the prince of demons.  This was a perverse reversal of Jesus’ relationship with God the Father, the relationship that enlightened and empowered Him.  Judas had started down that road by himself.  By hundreds of little decisions, smaller acts of betrayal such as stealing from the group purse (John 12:6), Judas opened his soul to our Adversary, the devil.

            When he accepted that piece of bread, he committed himself to the path of betrayal.  Darrell L. Bock wrote, “Divine design and human accountability come together here.” (p. 530)  People wonder how Judas could have traveled and lived with Jesus, heard his teaching, saw his miracles, and did miracles of his own, and betray Jesus.  Here’s the answer.  Satan himself empowered Judas to do this most wicked thing ever.  His heart was hardened to do the deed.

            The disciples still did not understand what happened.  It is human nature to account for inexplicable things by substituting familiar things.  Here are two examples.  They assumed Jesus meant for Judas to BUY THINGS FOR THE FEAST.  As Judas held the role of treasurer, it was not uncommon for Jesus to send him on errands.  The disciples would rather believe Jesus had just sent Judas to the store than accept the fact that he could betray Jesus.

            Or some assumed Judas had been sent to GIVE SOMETHING TO THE POOR. The Passover was traditionally a time of charity.  In fact, on the night of the Passover, the temple gates were left open until midnight so beggars could gather there, awaiting almsgivers.  The disciples would rather believe Jesus had just sent Judas to make alms to the poor than accept the fact that he could betray Jesus. 

            We know that Jesus did not send Judas to the store or the poor, but to the religious leaders and their Roman allies to get the process started for Judas’ betrayal.  In John’s gospel, Judas’ dismissal occurs before any of His teaching.  He did not want the betrayer to hear any of the important last instructions He would give His disciples nor benefit from His prayers for them at the end of the evening.

Jesus identified His betrayer with a customary offering to a friend.

            The passage ends, “And it was night.”  That is more than an eyewitness statement.  It is also a statement of the profound spiritual darkness that fell on Jesus.  Evil was having its say.  The forces of darkness turned their evil eyes on Jesus.  They were given leave to hurt and terrorize the Son of God, and ultimately, take His life.

            To properly gauge the depth of Judas’ betrayal we need to feel the full force of that statement, “It was night.”  A darkness such as the world had never seen had fallen.  It took Judas with it.

            I believe if you want to know someone’s theology with a simple question, ask them, “What do you believe about Judas?”  It’s not that Judas is important to the biblical record, but the answer you get will give you a porthole into the person’s beliefs.

            In general, the person who wants to make Judas a revolutionary, someone who let his passions control him, or offers any excuse for his betrayal, that person is likely to be a liberal.  The person who sticks strictly with the biblical record which mentions only greed as a motivation, is likely to be a conservative.

            In the centuries since Judas betrayed Jesus, there have been several who have used an active imagination to try to exonerate Judas.  We’d do far better to take him at face value and be very concerned about not imitating him.  We do better to take Judas as a cautionary tale against hypocrisy and greed, loving Jesus with all our heart, soul, and spirit.

RESOURCES:

            Information about Judas Iscariot used in the introduction taken from  https://www.sermonnotebook.org/mark/Mark%2069%20-%20Mark%2014_10-11.htm, retrieved on 23 February 2024.

            John MacArthur, One Perfect Life: The Complete Story of the Lord Jesus, 2012, pp. 405-406.

            David L. Turner, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol. 11, The Gospel of Matthew, 2005, pp. 337-340.

            Darrell L. Bock, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol. 11, The Gospel of Mark, 2005, pp. 528-531.

            Allison A. Trites, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol. 12, The Gospel of Luke, 2006, pp. 286-290.

            Grant R. Osborne, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol. 13, The Gospel of John, 2007, pp. 199-202.

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