Whenever Judas Iscariot is mentioned in the gospels, the writers point out that he betrayed Jesus. This one terrible act forever defined him in their minds, such that they cannot remember him without remembering his treachery.
We might be tempted to think that Judas was a fluke disciple, planted among the twelve apostles just to ensure Scripture would be fulfilled. However, the Bible does not shy away from the fact that Judas enjoyed the same status as the rest of the twelve (Luke 22:3), and in Acts 1:17, Peter testifies that “he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” He had a ministry and apostleship from which he turned away (Acts 1:25). Judas, along with the other apostles, was given power and authority by Jesus “over all demons,” to heal diseases, and to proclaim the kingdom (Luke 9:1). He preached and he healed like the rest of his companions (Luke 9:6), and for three years followed Jesus in the toil and difficulties of the Lord’s ministry. In all that time, he never excited suspicion among his peers that he might turn aside, let alone sell his Master for money, such that when Jesus predicted that his betrayer would arise from this close group of friends, not one finger was pointed at Judas (Luke 22:21-23). Even when Judas walked out the door from the last supper, the others assumed it was for legitimate reasons (John 13:21-29).
Let Judas’s story, then, serve as a strong warning against several dangers:
(1) Turning Aside
Contrary to what many teach today, it is possible for a saved person to turn and be lost (2 Peter 2:20-22). Considering this fact, we ought to regularly take a sober accounting of our ways, lest we repeat the sad story of Judas (Hebrews 3:12).
(2) Surprise When Seeing Others Turning Aside
Sooner or later we will witness a Christian that we love greatly or respect highly fall away. We must not be so utterly discouraged by their treachery that we set to questioning our faith or purpose (2 Timothy 2:16-18).
Luke 22:3 tells us that a few days before Jesus’ arrest, “Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve.” Let us not mistakenly think that Satan took control over Judas in some irresistible possession. Similar language is used in 1 Chronicles 21:1 for a sin that King David committed, yet he subsequently accepted full responsibility for his action (1 Chronicles 21:8). Judas was accountable at all times for his deeds; Satan may have entered, but Judas had to open the door to him by his unrestrained greed. He could also have changed his mind in the days following his agreement to deliver Jesus to the Jews, or repented after his betrayal. Instead, he gave himself over to Satan’s will and persisted in it.
Satan’s strategy required no brilliance: he offered Judas a few coins. The amount was not even great (Zechariah 11:13)! Clearly, the love of money can make us do insane things. We risk everything we hold most dear if we ignore Jesus’ urgent exhortation to rid our lives of every form of greed (Luke 12:15).
Surely Satan took notice of how Judas fed his greed with smaller steps, questioning gifts to Jesus and pilfering from the money bag (John 12:4-6). Judas had already crossed sacred lines, and Satan just took him a bit farther. Indeed, Satan will always take us farther than we ever imagined we would go in our sin, until we find ourselves in deep, dark places. In this case, Judas found himself living out the sad warning of Proverbs 1:10-19. “Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.”