Judas Iscariot: Lessons from the Iconic Reprobate
If Jesus Christ has the name above every other name (Phil 2:9), then Judas Iscariot has the name below every other name. Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon Iscariot (Jn 13:26), is distinguished from everyone in the Bible who was named, “Judas.” After two thousand years, it is still the most despised name in the world. Some people just ruin names.
I suppose we would have more people named, “Adolf” and “Benedict,” if they had not been name tags for such notorious characters. Judas is more than a name; he was a mind set, a litany of behaviors, and a reputation. When the Passion Week remembrance comes around each spring, Judas Iscariot is remembered as the betrayer. People can learn from negative role models, and who could be better, or worse, than Judas. Let’s learn a few lessons in the reprobate lifestyle from Judas, son of Simon.
First, he was chosen to be a follower of Jesus Messiah (Mt 10:4). Disciples of Jesus Christ know the pleasure of being chosen to follow Jesus (Jn 15:16). There is an extraordinary sense of privilege in knowing you are called, gifted, and empowered for the work of serving the Lord (1 Cor 1:30). Every born again Christian shares in this joy. We must be found to be faithful stewards of such grace (Rev 2:10).
Newborn lambs, in the spring, dance and prance around the pasture as the older sheep roll their eyes and look away. Lambs have no idea what their new existence will bring them, but older ewes know the terror of wolves, the pestilence of insects, the burden of wet matted coats, the temptation of greener pastures, the scrutiny of the shepherd, and the frustration of the fold.
By the time of Jesus’ inquiry, “Do you love Me?” Peter had grown up. The early discipleship exuberance had given way to earnestness and wonder. This was a dangerous calling, but Peter would prove his mettle in the years to come. We must grow up in Christ to become mature Christians, who are not tossed about by every disturbance in the church or the world, let alone any wind of newfangled doctrinal change, which is usually just an old heresy (Eph 4:14).
Following Jesus was a paradox. His miracles and teaching brought waves of delight, but His political disrespect of the religious establishment had His disciples concerned. Jesus seemed to regularly commit political and religious suicide in their presence. His words were offensive, and His actions were defiant. The paradox remains for us. Many Christians remain babies in the faith because they see the spiritual warfare other Christians must fight. Christianity and the world system were never meant to be compatible. One or the other must prevail in our lives and in the world. It will be a fight to the end.
No doubt, Judas Iscariot, like the other disciples, loved the early popularity. The people seemed to love Jesus, even if the religious leaders did not have any affection for Him. Jesus ruined His own popularity on occasion (Jn 6), and He refused to conform to the whims of the erratic populous, who would have Him to be their King one day, and the next day, yell, “crucify Him!” It is better to trust in the Lord than to trust in men (Ps 118:8). Jesus knew what was in the heart of men (Jn 2:25), and he knew it was desperately wicked (Jer 17:9).
Jesus often warned His disciples about the difficulties to be incurred by following Him. It would not be easy. Jesus was no politician, promising to give the people the desires of their lust. Judas Iscariot is the iconic man of the world. He was savvy. Matthew had been a tax collector, but Judas carried the money box for the group (Jn 13:29). Maybe he had career ambitions for being the secretary of the treasury for the invading Messianic kingdom. We, too, must learn to drop our strategic plans for Christ and His church. Christian leaders are too often exposed for prescribing their own ambitious agendas for the vision of the church. Judas was not ready to wait on the Lord, so he took matters into his own hands.
Second, Judas Iscariot was greedy. Greed is the lust for more. Rich people can be greedy, and poor people can be greedy. One might be greedy for land, another for money, and still another for fame. When his greed for power and popularity was stunted by Jesus’ consistently low political aspirations, Judas opted for thirty pieces of silver (Mt 26:15). This blood money fulfilled the prophet Zechariah’s Messianic prophecy of how pathetic Israel would value the coming of the Lord (Zech 11:12–13).
Adam settled for forbidden fruit; Esau settled for pottage, Jacob settled for deceit; Moses settled for murder; David settled for adultery; Solomon settled for idolatry; and so many kings of Israel and Judah simply succumbed to corruption. Every one of these scenes from the pages of Scripture warn against the get-rich-quick; or get-ahead-fast; or take-the-bull-by-the-horns mentality. We must learn to wait on the Lord, and wait for Him to direct our steps in the way we should go (Ps 27:14; Prv 3:5–6).
Third, Judas Iscariot was an undiscerning critic and thief (Jn 12:6). Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, presented a gift of costly perfume to Jesus and anointed Him with it (Jn 12:1–8). When Judas observed the sacrificial act of love on the part of Mary, he objected to one year’s wages being wasted on Jesus. John, the apostle and Gospel writer, made a character notation in his account of the scene at Bethany. Judas, having the group’s money box, stole from the mutual fund (Jn 12:6).
The moral law forbids theft (Ex 20; Dt 5). We must be earnest in being honest. What is in our hearts will surface on our lips, and we will expose our true identity (Mt 12:34). No doubt, Judas was a fire starter with his tongue (Jas 3) on more than this occasion. Rachel was a thief. David was a thief. Achan was a thief. Judas was a thief. Everyone who commits idolatry with demons in the world is stealing glory from God. Mary did not steal; instead, she gave sacrificially toward the One who would give His all for her.
Jesus rebuked Judas, and his critical spirit. Jesus explained the purpose of the anointing, which was to prepare Him for his impending death on the Cross. Our Lord also ensured that Judas’ injury to Mary would not hinder her from being remembered for such a beautiful act of devotion. God is not unjust to forget your work and the love you have shown toward His name (Heb 6:10).
Fourth, Judas Iscariot was demon possessed (Lk 22:3). Demonic influence, and even possession, can manifest differently in different people. For some, they become crazed madmen (ie. Gerasene demoniac; King Saul; etc.), for others, they become clever deviants generating subtle chaos. Haman was a demon-inspired destroyer of the Jewish people, but his plot to deceive the king was exposed by Esther. Satan is a deceiver, and Judas was a deceiver. He had every other disciple fooled, but Jesus, being the omniscient God/man, knew everything about Judas.
If Paul could assist us with an explanation of Judas, he might call him a “vessel of wrath prepared for destruction (Rom 9:22).” Judas had been turned over to a reprobate mind to do improper things (Rom 1:28). We must learn: God makes the wicked for the day of evil (Prv 16:4), which means He is never unaware or disturbed by evil plots. Was not Saul’s evil spirit from the Lord? Did Yahweh not harden Pharaoh’s heart?
Fifth, Judas Iscariot was a premeditated betrayer (Lk 6:16; Jn 12:4). Satan put it into Judas’ heart to betray Jesus, but Satan was a mere tempter. Judas, like all sinners, must bear the full responsibility for their sins. We must all give an account on the day of the Lord’s judgment (Rom 14:12).
Judas conspired with an evil plot to kill the Messiah of God (Mt 26:4). Apart from Annas, Caiaphas, and Pontius Pilate, we have no other names linked to the death of Jesus Christ. These named men were just doing their jobs with extreme self-interest, but Judas was a friend of Jesus. We must recognize how rare faithful friends are in this life.
Betrayal is ugly. It is sinister. At the highest levels of mandatory allegiance, it is called, “treason.” What level is above King of kings and Lord of lords? Judas did not believe in Jesus. He did not see Jesus as Christ, when the crowds dissipated and the leaders grew weary of Him. He could not fathom a kingdom not of this world. We must have faith in Jesus to work all things together for our good in the midst of God’s providence (Rom 8:28). This is faith in our Leader. His plans are not our plans, and His ways are not our ways. Still, we must trust.
Ahithophel was King David’s confidant, but when Absalom’s coup d’etat was instigated, Ahithophel was exposed for being a traitor (2 Sam 15:31). One must count the cost of forsaking allegiance. When Mephibosheth’s allegiance was questioned because, “he did not go out with David,” even his crippling disability was not enough to excuse him from the air of betrayal (2 Sam 19:25).
Allegiance must be tested, and the history of the Christian martyrs is testament to the cost of discipleship. Judas was selfish. Like Demas, he loved the world more than he loved the Lord Jesus (2 Tim 4:10). His sins led him to his place in the potter’s field (Mt 27:7). We must not seek the approval of men over the approval of our Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is worthy of our allegiance.
Sixth, Judas Iscariot was a self-murderer (Mt 27:5). Judas hanged himself on a tree, and cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree (Gal 3:13). Some people do commit suicide, and this is a sin. There is a self-murder of another kind. It is the slow death of living in denial of Jesus Christ. How many have tasted the good things of God (Heb 6:5), and then turned away from Him? Is this not betrayal? Has He not shared His bread with you?
This is a spiritual suicide. When a person sins, it leads to death; and all have sinned, hence, all die (Rom 3:23; 6:23). Death is not the end of the body, for all shall be resurrected from the dead (Jn 5:29). To deny the witness of the Holy Spirit, regarding Jesus Christ, is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mt 12:31). By rejecting Jesus, one rebukes the Spirit and calls Him a liar. If the Christian witness, inspired by the indwelling Holy Spirit is, “Jesus Christ is Lord,” then to deny this testimony is to reject God, which is spiritual suicide. It is an unforgivable sin.
Clearly, there are many who have followed in the footsteps of Judas Iscariot, never imagining they, too, must propitiate their own curse. They will join him in perdition. If today were the day of judgment, would you be found faithful to Jesus Christ or to Judas Iscariot? Which man does your life resemble more?
Seventh, Judas Iscariot is the son of perdition (Jn 17:12). Perdition is not a common word in use, today. It is old English, and it means, “destruction.” The allusion is to ruination in hell and the lake of fire. Judas Iscariot was a child of the devil on the earth (1 Jn 3:10), and he is a child of hell, today, having gone to his eternal home.
No sidewalk prophet should ever extend the notion of mercy, grace, and forgiveness to the name or reputation of Judas Iscariot, the son of perdition. God hates those who do iniquity (Ps 5:5; 11:5), and despite his remorse for his vile actions, there was no repentance for his thoughts, words, or deeds, including the unholy kiss of betrayal.
When one reads Romans 1:18–32, one reads an explication of reprobation. When one considers Judas Iscariot, one considers an illustrated life of reprobation. A person living close to a church building may never enter the church building. Judas lived close to Jesus but was never found in Christ. The one thing Judas would not do was the one necessary thing to be done — repent of his sins, and trust in Jesus Christ. May we all learn these lessons from the iconic reprobate and not follow his example.
Spokane Valley, Washington
January 16, 2021