Why? Why did he do it? What was he thinking? What was he trying to accomplish? As we read of Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus, agreeing to arrange a time for the chief priests to arrest Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, these are the questions that easily come to mind. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. There are, of course, some speculations, one of the most common being that Judas was simply trying to force Jesus’ hand thinking that if He was arrested He would have to take His place as the king. As plausible as that is, though, it is still a guess.
Why? Why are we so curious as to why Judas did it? Is it, perhaps, because if we can determine Judas’ reason(s) we might be able to somehow justify our sinful actions which in their own way are acts of betrayal of our faith and of our Lord? Perhaps. But, that too is just speculation – as plausible as it might be.
Instead of trying to learn of ourselves by trying to understand Judas’ motivations, perhaps we could learn of ourselves by understanding who Judas was. He was, obviously, one of the twelve. He was the one who handled the money purse for the Apostles. He betrayed Jesus, a point that the Gospel writers make clear every time his name is mentioned – “and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor” (Luke 6:18). Have you ever noticed, though, that in referencing him the name Iscariot is added? Oh, that is just to differentiate him from Judas, the son of James, you might say. But, is that all?
The name Iscariot reveals more than just a distinction from the other Judas. It also revealed that Judas was from Kerioth-hezron, a town just east of Beersheba in southern Judea. This means that Judas Iscariot was the only Judean of the Twelve. It means that he was part of the people to whom Jesus, the promised Messiah, came and that he was part of the people who rejected Jesus. Judas’ betrayal was more than just a dastardly act, an act of cowardice as most betrayals are. The betrayal shows just how deep and complete the rejection of Jesus by His own people truly was.
When we think of the rejection of Jesus by the chief priests and other religious leaders we are able to insulate ourselves by thinking we would never do something like that. However, studying Judas (not his motivation but his person) makes us realize that the sinful rejection of Jesus was at every level. It makes us realize that even our sin, different as it might be from those who outwardly rejected Jesus, is a rejection nonetheless.
We are not, however, destined to the same fate as Judas who, upon realizing this his betrayal was a rejection at the most intimate of levels, hung himself in despair separated eternally from the Lord Jesus. Remember there were others who by their own sins of denial and abandonment rejected Jesus and they were restored through repentance and faith. We sin. Daily. In thought, word and deed. And, in that sin we reject. We reject the guidance of the Spirit who works to lead us away from our temptations. We even reject our faith and, at times, our Lord when we deliberately engage in sinful activities. But, Jesus comes just as He came to Peter who sat by a campfire despairing of his denials. Having died on the cross to win forgiveness of sin and having rose from the dead in victory over the grave, He came to Peter to restore Him. He come to the others as well who, by their abandonment, had rejected Jesus. He comes to you as well. We remember this week His death and His resurrection by which He forgives us and promises us life. And we think of how comes to us now – in a Word, in simple water, in bread and wine – to claim us as His own and to restore us. He comes to lift us out of our despair and fill us with an inexpressible hope and joy.
Heavenly Father, we confess that our sin is a betrayal of Your Son and all that He has done for us. Yet, we know that You are faithful to Your promise, forgiving the transgressions of all who call upon You. Hear my confession and, for the sake of Your Son, cleanse me of all unrighteousness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Along Life's Way
Learning to live life as it’s meant to be. That’s what we strive to do here at Grace, to live under the cross in the new life that we have in Christ through His death and resurrection. The posts on this blog, grounded in God’s Word, will be offered as a source of encouragement, comfort and strength “along life’s way” to the end that we live lives of service in our homes, in our communities and in our congregations.
The author of this blog is the pastor of Grace, Andrew Green. He is a 2000 graduate of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis and has served Grace since January 2002. He is married to Erica and has two children, Clara and John-August.