The history of Judas presents the sad ending of a life that might
have been honored of God. Had Judas died before his last journey to
Jerusalem he would have been regarded as a man worthy of a place among
the twelve, and one who would be greatly missed. The abhorrence which
has followed him through the centuries would not have existed but for
the attributes revealed at the close of his history. But it was for a
purpose that his character was laid open to the world. It was to be a
warning to all who, like him, should betray sacred trusts.
A little before the Passover, Judas had renewed his contract with the
priests to deliver Jesus into their hands. Then it was arranged that the
Saviour should be taken at one of His resorts for meditation and prayer.
Since the feast at the house of Simon, Judas had had opportunity to
reflect upon the deed which he had covenanted to perform, but his
purpose was unchanged. For thirty pieces of silver--the price of a
slave--he sold the Lord of glory to ignominy and death.
Judas had naturally a strong love for money; but he had not always
been corrupt enough to do such a deed as this. He had fostered the evil
spirit of avarice until it had become the ruling motive of his life. The
love of mammon overbalanced his love for Christ. Through becoming the
slave of one vice he gave himself to Satan, to be driven to any lengths
Judas had joined the disciples when multitudes were following Christ.
The Saviour's teaching moved their hearts as they hung entranced upon
His words, spoken in the synagogue, by the seaside, upon the mount.
Judas saw the sick, the lame, the blind, flock to Jesus from the
towns and cities. He saw the dying laid at His feet. He witnessed the
Saviour's mighty works in healing the sick, casting out devils, and
raising the dead. He felt in his own person the evidence of Christ's
power. He recognized the teaching of Christ as superior to all that he
had ever heard. He loved the Great Teacher, and desired to be with Him.
He felt a desire to be changed in character and life, and he hoped to
experience this through connecting himself with Jesus. The Saviour did
not repulse Judas. He gave him a place among the twelve. He trusted him
to do the work of an evangelist. He endowed him with power to heal the
sick and to cast out devils. But Judas did not come to the point of
surrendering himself fully to Christ. He did not give up his worldly
ambition or his love of money. While he accepted the position of a
minister of Christ, he did not bring himself under the divine molding.
He felt that he could retain his own judgment and opinions, and he
cultivated a disposition to criticize and accuse.
Judas was highly regarded by the disciples, and had great influence
over them. He himself had a high opinion of his own qualifications, and
looked upon his brethren as greatly inferior to him in judgment and
ability. They did not see their opportunities, he thought, and take
advantage of circumstances. The church would never prosper with such
shortsighted men as leaders. Peter was impetuous; he would move without
consideration. John, who was treasuring up the truths that fell from
Christ's lips, was looked upon by Judas as a poor financier. Matthew,
whose training had taught him accuracy in all things, was very
particular in regard to honesty, and he was ever contemplating the words
of Christ, and became so absorbed in them that, as Judas thought, he
could not be trusted to do sharp, far-seeing business. Thus Judas summed
up all the disciples, and flattered himself that the church would often
be brought into perplexity and embarrassment if it were not for his
ability as a manager. Judas regarded himself as the capable one, who
could not be overreached. In his own estimation he was an honor to the
cause, and as such he always represented himself.
Judas was blinded to his own weakness of character, and Christ placed
him where he would have an opportunity to see and correct this. As
treasurer for the disciples, he was called upon to provide for the needs
of the little company, and to relieve the necessities of the poor. When
in the Passover chamber Jesus said to him, "That thou doest, do
quickly" (John 13:27), the disciples thought He had bidden him buy
what was needed for the feast, or give something to the poor. In
ministering to others, Judas might have developed an unselfish spirit.
But while listening daily to the lessons of Christ and witnessing His
unselfish life, Judas indulged his covetous disposition. The small sums
that came into his hands were a continual temptation. Often when he did
a little service for Christ, or devoted time to religious purposes, he
paid himself out of this meager fund. In his own eyes these pretexts
served to excuse his action; but in God's sight he was a thief.
Christ's oft-repeated statement that His kingdom was not of this
world offended Judas. He had marked out a line upon which he expected
Christ to work. He had planned that John the Baptist should be delivered
from prison. But lo, John was left to be beheaded. And Jesus, instead of
asserting His royal right and avenging the death of John, retired with
His disciples into a country place. Judas wanted more aggressive
warfare. He thought that if Jesus would not prevent the disciples from
carrying out their schemes, the work would be more successful. He marked
the increasing enmity of the Jewish leaders, and saw their challenge
unheeded when they demanded from Christ a sign from heaven. His heart
was open to unbelief, and the enemy supplied thoughts of questioning and
rebellion. Why did Jesus dwell so much upon that which was discouraging?
Why did He predict trial and persecution for Himself and for His
disciples? The prospect of having a high place in the new kingdom had
led Judas to espouse the cause of Christ. Were his hopes to be
disappointed? Judas had not decided that Jesus was not the Son of God;
but he was questioning, and seeking to find some explanation of His
Notwithstanding the Saviour's own teaching, Judas was continually
advancing the idea that Christ would reign as king in Jerusalem. At the
feeding of the five thousand he tried to bring this about. On this
occasion Judas assisted in distributing the food to the hungry
multitude. He had an opportunity to see the benefit which it was in his
power to impart to others. He felt the satisfaction that always comes in
service to God. He helped to bring the sick and suffering from among the
multitude to Christ. He saw what relief, what joy and gladness, come to
human hearts through the healing power of the Restorer. He might have
comprehended the methods of Christ. But he was blinded by his own
selfish desires. Judas was first to take advantage of the enthusiasm
excited by the miracle of the loaves. It was he who set on foot the
project to take Christ by force and make Him king. His hopes were high.
His disappointment was bitter.
Christ's discourse in the synagogue concerning the bread of life was
the turning point in the history of Judas. He heard the words,
"Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye
have no life in you." John 6:53. He saw that Christ was offering
spiritual rather than worldly good. He regarded himself as farsighted,
and thought he could see that Jesus would have no honor, and that He
could bestow no high position upon His followers. He determined not to
unite himself so closely to Christ but that he could draw away. He would
watch. And he did watch.
From that time he expressed doubts that confused the disciples. He
introduced controversies and misleading sentiments, repeating the
arguments urged by the scribes and Pharisees against the claims of
Christ. All the little and large troubles and crosses, the difficulties
and the apparent hindrances to the advancement of the gospel, Judas
interpreted as evidences against its truthfulness. He would introduce
texts of Scripture that had no connection with the truths Christ was
presenting. These texts, separated from their connection, perplexed the
disciples, and increased the discouragement that was constantly pressing
upon them. Yet all this was done by Judas in such a way as to make it
appear that he was conscientious. And while the disciples were searching
for evidence to confirm the words of the Great Teacher, Judas would lead
them almost imperceptibly on another track. Thus in a very religious,
and apparently wise, way he was presenting matters in a different light
from that in which Jesus had given them, and attaching to His words a
meaning that He had not conveyed. His suggestions were constantly
exciting an ambitious desire for temporal preferment, and thus turning
the disciples from the important things they should have considered. The
dissension as to which of them should be greatest was generally excited
When Jesus presented to the rich young ruler the condition of
discipleship, Judas was displeased. He thought that a mistake had been
made. If such men as this ruler could be connected with the believers,
they would help sustain Christ's cause. If Judas were only received as a
counselor, he thought, he could suggest many plans for the advantage of
the little church. His principles and methods would differ somewhat from
Christ's, but in these things he thought himself wiser than Christ.
In all that Christ said to His disciples, there was something with
which, in heart, Judas disagreed. Under his influence the leaven of
disaffection was fast doing its work. The disciples did not see the real
agency in all this; but Jesus saw that Satan was communicating his
attributes to Judas, and thus opening up a channel through which to
influence the other disciples. This, a year before the betrayal, Christ
declared. "Have not I chosen you twelve," He said, "and
one of you is a devil?" John 6:70.
Yet Judas made no open opposition, nor seemed to question the
Saviour's lessons. He made no outward murmur until the time of the feast
in Simon's house. When Mary anointed the Saviour's feet, Judas
manifested his covetous disposition. At the reproof from Jesus his very
spirit seemed turned to gall. Wounded pride and desire for revenge broke
down the barriers, and the greed so long indulged held him in control.
This will be the experience of everyone who persists in tampering with
sin. The elements of depravity that are not resisted and overcome,
respond to Satan's temptation, and the soul is led captive at his will.
But Judas was not yet wholly hardened. Even after he had twice
pledged himself to betray the Saviour, there was opportunity for
repentance. At the Passover supper Jesus proved His divinity by
revealing the traitor's purpose. He tenderly included Judas in the
ministry to the disciples. But the last appeal of love was unheeded.
Then the case of Judas was decided, and the feet that Jesus had washed
went forth to the betrayer's work.
Judas reasoned that if Jesus was to be crucified, the event must come
to pass. His own act in betraying the Saviour would not change the
result. If Jesus was not to die, it would only force Him to deliver
Himself. At all events, Judas would gain something by his treachery. He
counted that he had made a sharp bargain in betraying his Lord.
Judas did not, however, believe that Christ would permit Himself to
be arrested. In betraying Him, it was his purpose to teach Him a lesson.
He intended to play a part that would make the Saviour careful
thenceforth to treat him with due respect. But Judas knew not that he
was giving Christ up to death. How often, as the Saviour taught in
parables, the scribes and Pharisees had been carried away with His
striking illustrations! How often they had pronounced judgment against
themselves! Often when the truth was brought home to their hearts, they
had been filled with rage, and had taken up stones to cast at Him; but
again and again He had made His escape. Since He had escaped so many
snares, thought Judas, He certainly would not now allow Himself to be
Judas decided to put the matter to the test. If Jesus really was the
Messiah, the people, for whom He had done so much, would rally about
Him, and would proclaim Him king. This would forever settle many minds
that were now in uncertainty. Judas would have the credit of having
placed the king on David's throne. And this act would secure to him the
first position, next to Christ, in the new kingdom.
The false disciple acted his part in betraying Jesus. In the garden,
when he said to the leaders of the mob, "Whomsoever I shall kiss,
that same is He: hold Him fast" (Matt. 26:48), he fully believed
that Christ would escape out of their hands. Then if they should blame
him, he could say, Did I not tell you to hold Him fast?
Judas beheld the captors of Christ, acting upon his words, bind Him
firmly. In amazement he saw that the Saviour suffered Himself to be led
away. Anxiously he followed Him from the garden to the trial before the
Jewish rulers. At every movement he looked for Him to surprise His
enemies, by appearing before them as the Son of God, and setting at
nought all their plots and power. But as hour after hour went by, and
Jesus submitted to all the abuse heaped upon Him, a terrible fear came
to the traitor that he had sold his Master to His death.
As the trial drew to a close, Judas could endure the torture of his
guilty conscience no longer. Suddenly a hoarse voice rang through the
hall, sending a thrill of terror to all hearts: He is innocent; spare
Him, O Caiaphas!
The tall form of Judas was now seen pressing through the startled
throng. His face was pale and haggard, and great drops of sweat stood on
his forehead. Rushing to the throne of judgment, he threw down before
the high priest the pieces of silver that had been the price of his
Lord's betrayal. Eagerly grasping the robe of Caiaphas, he implored him
to release Jesus, declaring that He had done nothing worthy of death.
Caiaphas angrily shook him off, but was confused, and knew not what to
say. The perfidy of the priests was revealed. It was evident that they
had bribed the disciple to betray his Master.
"I have sinned," again cried Judas, "in that I have
betrayed the innocent blood." But the high priest, regaining his
self-possession, answered with scorn, "What is that to us? see thou
to that." Matt. 27:4. The priests had been willing to make Judas
their tool; but they despised his baseness. When he turned to them with
confession, they spurned him.
Judas now cast himself at the feet of Jesus, acknowledging Him to be
the Son of God, and entreating Him to deliver Himself. The Saviour did
not reproach His betrayer. He knew that Judas did not repent; his
confession was forced from his guilty soul by an awful sense of
condemnation and a looking for of judgment, but he felt no deep,
heartbreaking grief that he had betrayed the spotless Son of God, and
denied the Holy One of Israel. Yet Jesus spoke no word of condemnation.
He looked pityingly upon Judas, and said, For this hour came I into the
A murmur of surprise ran through the assembly. With amazement they
beheld the forbearance of Christ toward His betrayer. Again there swept
over them the conviction that this Man was more than mortal. But if He
was the Son of God, they questioned, why did He not free Himself from
His bonds and triumph over His accusers?
Judas saw that his entreaties were in vain, and he rushed from the
hall exclaiming, It is too late! It is too late! He felt that he could
not live to see Jesus crucified, and in despair went out and hanged
Later that same day, on the road from Pilate's hall to Calvary, there
came an interruption to the shouts and jeers of the wicked throng who
were leading Jesus to the place of crucifixion. As they passed a retired
spot, they saw at the foot of a lifeless tree, the body of Judas. It was
a most revolting sight. His weight had broken the cord by which he had
hanged himself to the tree. In falling, his body had been horribly
mangled, and dogs were now devouring it. His remains were immediately
buried out of sight; but there was less mockery among the throng, and
many a pale face revealed the thoughts within. Retribution seemed
already visiting those who were guilty of the blood of Jesus.
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