Week 25 Chapter 23, “The Marks of a Traitor”Scripture: Matt 26: 20-23; Mark 14:17-21; Luke 22:21-23; John 13:21-30 As we experience the Last Supper through the eyes of the Twelve, we are aware, as indicated by Jesus, that there is a traitor among them. The hush that falls on the room is palpable. Let us not think, however, that this horrifying act is beyond the pale for any of those who call themselves Christians. Let us instead examine our hearts, as did the twelve, to discover the very things that lurked in the shadows of Judas’ heart. If we are honest, we will see that it is not far-fetched that given enough time or pressure we are all capable of Judas’ treachery. Let us look at some of the pressures that led to his ultimate betrayal of our Lord. Judas did not set out to be a traitor. Although not a Galilean, he was as outwardly pious and zealous as the others. He was equally as eager to be part of Jesus’ entourage to learn about this extraordinary teacher.
His meticulous concern for detail, especially with money, made him an ideal candidate for comptroller. He had the appearance of a person who approved of the good, noble, and higher things of life. He was intelligent and sensitive to his surroundings. Outwardly, he seemed a good intentioned and sensible man. However, only Jesus could see Judas’ greedy and self-serving heart.
It was in those dark places of his heart, where no one could peer, that his character contravened his outward piety. While his words may have approved of the general good, his sole motivation in his thoughts and actions was self-interest. As Dr. Bruce puts it, “ he was the slave of base, selfish passions; one who, in the last resource, would always put self uppermost, yet could zealously devote himself to well-doing when personal interests were not compromised” (Bruce, p.371). Before we make judgments here, however, let us pause to remember those times where on more than one occasion, we have chosen ourselves over others. We do this more often than we are willing to admit. We justify our choice with a nod to personal need, when in actuality; it is probably a desire rather than a real need. This type of thinking is what the Apostle James calls, “a double-minded man” (Jas. 1:8). One who says one thing and does another. Selfishness is a trait seen as a virtue in our culture, but in reality, it is a deadly sin. Judas’ heart was selfish, and it was through this lens that he saw everything. Selfishness when unchecked is the downfall of every person since Eden. It is the basis for all sin, and the logical conclusion to what our culture calls “self-esteem.” The quintessential role model for “self-esteem” is Satan. He thought he was the greatest thing since God. Boy was he wrong! In that case, Judas was not alone. If you remember, on the way to Jerusalem, Peter, James, and John were all squabbling about who would sit on the thrones next to Jesus. That argument may have piqued Judas as well, for he did not fit into the same social group as the other three. Maybe Judas was a little paranoid. In fact, a resentment that festers, gathers weight just like a snowball rolling downhill. It seems to take on a life of its’ own. When not stopped, this thought progression becomes a deadly cancer. Judas’ resentment of Jesus and the twelve may have been a motivating factor for revenge.
Judas’ taking the low road of self-focus, led also to the self-justification for resentment, pilfering, vengeance, betrayal, and ultimately suicide, because his self-sought justice produced an unanticipated result.
What we can learn from Judas’ worldly wisdom is that it does not work! No matter how it looks now, ultimately it is the lie perpetrated by Satan in Eden. It is not true that we can be better off without God; we cannot do it better by ourselves. We need to look to Jesus, the architect of humanity, in order to follow the best path. The mark of a traitor is self-concern, infected by sin, and carried to its logical conclusion; death by suicide. In order to preserve or lives, we need to put aside all thought of our self-esteem and stay connected to our life-giving Lord (John 15:5). See Ya Next Time