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Preparations for the Passion of Christ (Luke 21:37-22:6)

37 Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, 38 and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple. 1 Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2 and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5 They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 6 He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.

Introduction

At times, my family does not like me to be around when we are watching a television program. You see, I have a way of anticipating the conclusion of the movie, and I tell them how it will end. They would rather have the suspense. In fact, the more accurate I am, the more upset they get with me.

I have come to the conclusion that the fate of the “villain” of the movie is directly proportionate to his meanness in the movie. A villain that is mean and nasty and cruel is sure to come to a terrible end. He will not simply be arrested, nor will he just die peacefully. He will die some horrid death, giving the viewer a kind of satisfaction that justice has been meted out. It is almost always bound to work out this way, and so I predict it, so as to ruin the suspense of the plot.

If there is one thing that our literature and films do well it is to expose the villain early in the plot, setting him up for his just reward at the end of the drama. The worse the villain is portrayed, the greater the agony of his downfall (and likely his death) at the end. Early on in a movie, we are all given clues as to who the villain is, and also who the hero is. As the plot “thickens” the character of each is more clearly and precisely depicted, but we know who the “bad guy” is, and to the degree that he is mean, he will suffer at the end of the movie. A murder mystery is different, but here the writer of the movie entertains the viewer by toying with his or her desire to know who the bad guy is.

In the New Testament, Judas is represented as the betrayer of our Lord, but he is hardly painted as a “villain,” at least in the same sense that the movie-makers do so today. Luke is a very fine and skilled writer. He has highly developed literary skills. Nevertheless, Luke does not make a classic “villain” of Judas. He does not, as we might expect, often refer to Judas, always putting him in a bad light, so that we expect him to do some terrible thing. He does not use Judas for his own literary purposes, so that we almost eagerly await his downfall and destruction.

If you will notice, Judas receives very little attention in the gospel of Luke, and the same could be said for the other gospel accounts as well. A look in the concordance will show that in Luke’s gospel Judas is only referred to by name in chapters 6 (v. 16) and 22 (vss. 3, 47, 48). Luke does not, as we might expect, make a villain of Judas, so that we eagerly await is demise. In fact, Judas receives far less attention than we would expect. The “tension of the text,” as it were, is this: Why is the betrayer of our Lord given so little attention? Beyond this, why does Luke emphasize the role of Satan in the betrayal of Jesus? This we shall seek to learn from our study.

Our approach in this lesson will be to consider Judas in the light of all the gospel accounts, seeking to trace the sequence of events which led to his downfall. We will then turn our attention to Luke’s account, in order to try to discern his unique emphasis and its implications for us.

Judas Chosen as One of the Twelve

13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14 Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15 Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor (Luke 6:13-16).

In each of this and the other two gospel accounts of the choosing of the twelve, Judas is named, identified as the one who would betray Jesus, and is listed last. The fact that Judas was one of the twelve will become important as we consider our next category, the sending out of the twelve.

Judas Sent Out as One of the Twelve

1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick (Luke 9:1-2).

The sending out of the twelve is recorded in each of the synoptic gospels, and this text in Luke is the one I have chosen to refer to, since we are studying Luke. The point of this passage is that there is every indication Judas performed all the miracles that the other 11 did. I understand from this passage that Judas not only preached the “gospel of the kingdom,” but that he was used of God to cast out demons and to perform healings. Some might doubt this, but it would seem that Judas was only one of a number who performed miracles in the name of our Lord, yet without really being a child of God:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

I don’t know who Judas’ partner was, with whom he was teamed up and sent out, but I doubt that this disciple had anything different to report back than any of the others. Judas, without knowing Jesus as the rest, nevertheless experienced the power of God working through him, but to no avail, to no advantage for him. Perhaps some even came to faith through Judas’ preaching, but Judas himself did not really believe that which he proclaimed. That Judas was an unbeliever, I imply from these passages, in which our Lord spoke of His betrayer:

Judas’ Betrayal Foretold

70 Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” 71 (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him (John 6:70-71).

“While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that the Scripture would be fulfilled” (John 17:12).

In John 6:70 Judas was called “a devil,” and so he was, for we shall see that the devil later entered into him. In the Lord’s high priestly prayer (John 17), Judas was viewed as the one “doomed to destruction.” Every indication is that Judas was not one of our Lord’s flock, a true believer. From the text in Matthew chapter 7 we know that one did not have to be a true believer to be able to perform miraculous works in the name of the Lord Jesus.

The Last Straw—
The “Wasted” Perfume

6 While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, 7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. 8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9 “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” 10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” 14 Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over (Matthew 26:6-16).

It is important to take note of the fact that the incident which I refer to as the “last straw supper” is not necessarily reported in its “proper” chronological order. Both Matthew and Mark refer to the meal shortly before our Lord’s betrayal, using the story as an explanation for Judas’ actions. Luke does not record the story at all. Only John records the story before the triumphal entry, which I believe is the actual chronological sequence.

In this account, given to us by Matthew, we find that the woman is here unnamed, and that “the disciples” are those who protest at the waste of money in the anointing of our Lord (Mark’s account suggests that perhaps only “some” of them protested—cf. 14:4). While Matthew reports that the disciples protested, he also indicates that there is a direct relationship between the anointing of Jesus, the protest of the disciples, the rebuke of our Lord, and Judas’ decision to betray our Lord. It was this incident that proved, for Judas, to be the last straw. Matthew alone tells us that not only was payment promised Judas (as the other accounts indicate), but that he was actually paid, thirty silver coins.

John’s account (which I consider to be a report of the same incident, even though this presents certain problems) gives us a slightly different perspective and emphasis, which proves to be very helpful:

1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “ It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me” (John 12:1-8).

Here, it is Mary who is identified as anointing Jesus’ feet (not His head, as Matthew reports—though both were probably done). The dinner is one held in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, as we would have expected. But here, John tells us that Judas protested, and he does not mention any other disciples doing so. This leaves us with at least two explanations. First, Judas is selected here because he was one of those protesting, and he was to betray our Lord. In other words, Judas was simply following the lead of the others. The second (and more likely) option is that Judas is the one who first verbalized a protest, and the others followed his lead. Thus, John refers only to Judas’ objection because he was the ring-leader. Matthew informs us that the rest agreed with him and thus joined in the objection. Either option leaves us with the conclusion that Judas and his fellow-disciples were thinking along the same (wrong) lines.

John has much more to tell his reader. In the first place, John tells us that the dinner was held in Jesus’ honor. Jesus was the honored guest. The use of the perfume was an act of worship. For Judas (and then at least some of the others) to view the use of the perfume as a “waste” was to betray a lack of appreciation for the “worth” of the guest of honor, our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was not worthy of a gift worth one year’s wages. Judas may have been able to judge the worth of the perfume, but he had not rightly esteemed the worth of the Savior.

John’s account provides us with yet another explanation for Judas’ response. Judas was a thief, motivated by his love of money. Judas was the “keeper of the bag,” the treasurer of the group. The money seems to have been used for meeting the expenses of the disciples, as well as for giving to the poor (cf. John 13:29). Judas was taking money from the bag. Perhaps he viewed this as his “commission,” his percentage, his fee. No one else seems to have known he was helping himself to the funds until later.

I cannot help but wonder what Judas did with the money. Did he hide it somewhere? Did he have a “Swiss numbered account”? Was he saving the money up? Or was he sneaking into town for a “big mac,” or perhaps going to the local pub, returning late at night with the smell of liquor on his breath? No matter what he did with the money, it was not his to take. And whether he squandered it, like the prodigal, or saved it, like the rich fool, he loved money more than his Master. I think that one thing is absolutely clear, and that is that Judas betrayed his Master for money. Greed seems to be the principle motivation of this pathetic figure. “How much will you pay me … ?” was his question to the Jewish leaders.

Judas was deprived of his commission from the perfume, which could have been a tidy sum. He seems to have justified his selling of the Savior in his mind as getting what was rightfully his. How deceitful and twisted the human mind can become, especially with the deception and temptation of Satan as a catalyst.

It was, then, at this supper that Judas made one of the most disastrous decisions of his life, the decision to betray the Master for money. Everything would snowball from here on, but the decision was made, the payment was accepted. All that was needed now was for the opportunity to arise and for the act to be carried out.

Incidentally, it should not be overlooked that Judas’ decision to betray his Master, and his proposition to the Jewish leaders, caused them to change their plans and to set aside a decision which they had previously reached—the decision not to attempt Jesus’ arrest and assassination during the feast:

Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him. “But not during the Feast,” they said, “or the people may riot” (Mark 14:1-2).

Arresting Jesus during the feast was simply too risky, they reasoned. Thus, they had determined not to make their move until the feast was over. This was not within the plan of God, however, for Jesus must be sacrificed as the Passover Lamb, at the appointed time. It was Judas’ unexpected (but most welcomed) offer which caused the leaders to set their decision aside. This was too good a deal to pass up. In this way, the sinful choice of Judas was used by God to achieve His divinely determined purposes, and thus to fulfill prophecy.

The Last Supper

And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” 22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” 25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you.” 26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you” (Matthew 26:21-27).

17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.” 19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I?” 20 “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “One who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. but woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born” (Mark 14:17-21).

1 It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. 2 The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; … 21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.” 22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” 25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. “What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him, 28 but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night (John 13:1-3, 21-30).

In Matthew and Mark’s parallel accounts of the “last supper” Jesus is said to have indicated to His disciples that one of them would betray Him. The disciples are greatly saddened, and one by one they say, “Surely, not I, Lord?” Is this an expression of over-confidence, something like that of Peter? Jesus then gave a solemn word of warning, perhaps especially aimed at Judas. He said that He would surely be betrayed so that the prophecies would be fulfilled in this regard, but He warned that the one who betrayed Him would have been better off not to have been born. Surely this was so.

Luke’s account adds an interesting comment (cf. Luke 22:21-24). He passes over the sorrow of the disciples, and the “soul-searching,” to the degree that it happened. Luke informs us that the conversation seems to have quickly deteriorated into a finger-pointing session, where the disciples seemed to look more at one another to find the culprit than to look within themselves. Indeed, they actually ended up in an argument over which of them was the greatest. From a search for the great sinner, the disciples moved to a scrap over the greatest success among them. How typical, of them, and of us.

John’s account is distinct, as usual, giving us yet another perspective on this event. John begins by reminding the reader that the devil had already prompted Judas to betray the Lord Jesus. He further informs us that when Peter prompted John as to who the betrayer was,87 Jesus indicated that it was Judas, though no one seems to have understood this at the time.

By giving Judas the piece of bread, Jesus indicated to the disciples (in answer to John’s question) that Judas was the betrayer. But by taking the bread, Judas appears to have consciously accepted his role as the betrayer, and this after (so it seems) the warning of our Lord of the danger of doing so. I see this “passing of the bread” to Judas as a kind of counter-communion. Judas had asked Jesus if he was the one, and Jesus had indicated that he was (Matthew 26:25). Now, Jesus said that the one who took the bread was the betrayer. When Jesus handed Judas the bread, he took it. Anyone else of the disciples would have pushed it away. Who would have willingly accepted this role? Only Judas.

Notice from John’s very precise account that it was only after Judas had taken the bread Jesus offered him that Satan entered into Judas. Was Judas “possessed” by Satan? It surely seems so, but this was the result of his own choice. It was not something forced upon him, unwillingly. Satan first prompted Judas at the “last straw supper,” when the expensive perfume was used to anoint Jesus, and then he chose to conspire with the Jewish leaders to betray Jesus. But Satan possessed Judas only after Jesus had indicated to him that he would betray Him, and after His strong words of warning. Judas made a number of choices, all of which were wrong, and which finally resulted in his possession by Satan. This possession, it would seem, enabled him to carry out the dastardly deed of betrayal.

The Betrayal

47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” 49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. 50 Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him (Matthew 26:47-50).

43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.”88 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him (Mark 14:43-45).

1 When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. 4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” 5 “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6 When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8 “I told you that I am he,” Jesus answered. “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” 9 This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me” (John 18:1-9).

The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) all give us a similar picture. Jesus was in the garden, along with the eleven disciples, as His custom had been (cf. Luke 21:37). Judas led the leaders and their assistants, armed to the teeth, to Jesus, identifying Jesus by giving Him a kiss. John’s account gives us a further insight, by telling us that when Jesus identified Himself, His enemies fell back to the ground. What authority! All of the accounts tell of the cutting off of the ear of one of the arresting party. While Luke tells of the healing of this man’s ear, John tells us that it was put who wielded the sword. Now why does this fail to surprise me?

The wonder of the accounts of the betrayal of Jesus, and of the accounts leading up to it is the gentleness and kindness of our Lord in His dealings with Judas. Jesus foretold of His betrayal. He seems to have given Judas great privileges and position among the 12. He warns Judas of the danger of carrying out his intended act. He gives him permission to leave them and to carry it out. But even at the time that Judas kissed Him, Jesus still spoke warmly (“friend,” Matthew 26:50) to him. What amazing mercy and compassion! What love! This makes the act of Judas even more detestable.

Remorse and Suicide

1 Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death. 2 They bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor. 3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. 4 “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” 5 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself (Matthew 27:1-5).

Only Matthew includes an account of the remorse of Judas after the arrest of Jesus, and of his efforts to reverse what he had done. But there is no repentance here, only regret. Judas cast away the money and took his own life. What a tragedy. There is no sense of satisfaction here, as there often is at the conclusion of a contemporary movie, for Judas is not really a villain, but a tragic victim of his own sin and of Satan’s schemes. Note also the callousness of the religious leaders to Judas’ remorse. Their actions and attitudes seem, to me, almost more evil than those of Judas. How willing they are, like Satan, to exploit the sinful inclinations of others. How glad they were for him to do the dirty work.

Judas Replaced

16 and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus— 17 he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.” 18 (With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the book of Psalms, “‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, “‘May another take his place of leadership.’… 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs” (Acts 1:16-20, 25).

It is Luke, the author of both the gospel of Luke and of the historical account of Acts, who tells us not only of the death of Judas (as Matthew did), but also of his replacement. One additional element here is the emphasis on Judas as fulfilling the Scriptures, and also on the “scriptural necessity” (as the disciples saw it, at least) of replacing Judas.

Summary

Thus, although Luke’s account of Judas is sparse, we can see this sequence of events in the New Testament pertaining to Judas:

(1) Judas chosen as one of the twelve

(2) Judas sent out as one of the twelve

(3) Judas’ betrayal foretold by Jesus

(4) Judas’ exposure to the teaching of Jesus, not only as to His up-coming death, but also on the danger of loving

(5) The “last straw supper” when Judas was angered by the waste of money on the worship of Jesus, and at which time Satan tempted him to betray Jesus

(6) Judas’ seeking out of the Jewish leaders, who wished to be rid of Jesus, his striking a bargain with them, and receiving payment for his betrayal

(7) Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and His pattern of teaching in the temple and returning to the Mount of Olives at night

(8) The last supper, at which time Jesus again foretold of His betrayal, indicated that Judas was the one, and warned him of the danger

(9) Satan’s entry into Judas, after he took the bread from Jesus

(10) Judas’ betrayal of Jesus in the garden and Jesus’ arrest

(11) Judas’ remorse, suicide, and replacement

Luke’s Unique Emphasis

We can see that there is a great deal more to the man Judas than that which Luke has reported. In comparison with the composite account of Judas which we have just pieced together, Luke’s report is very brief, very concise, very much played down, so far as what could have been made of this man as a kind of literary “villain.” What is Luke’s emphasis? How does his brief account help to further his own argument, as laid out in this gospel?

In the first place, we need to be reminded that Luke is writing to a Gentile audience, and so the Jewish disciple, Judas, and his betrayal are not as much emphasized. In the second place, Luke has his eyes (figuratively speaking) on the cross. He is giving us these details as background for what is coming, not unlike Matthew and Mark, only more concise. Luke does not wish to have us focus on how Jesus came to the cross, but on the cross itself, and its consequences for all mankind. He does not seek to emphasize the human element in Judas’ sin so much as he does the satanic aspect. Judas became, due to his own sin and greed, a tool of Satan in his plot to murder the Messiah. From the divine point of view, Judas’ sinful proposition to the Jewish leaders was used of God so as to perfectly fulfill God’s purposes and the biblical prophecies, so that the “Lamb of God” would be sacrificed on the Passover, even though the Jewish leaders had decided against such action (Mark 14:1-2).

Conclusion

In spite of the brevity of Luke concerning Judas, there are a number of lessons that can be learned. As we conclude, allow me to focus on three areas which are relevant to us.

The first area concerns Judas, and that which we can learn from him. I should warn you that the things we learn about Judas are not necessarily comforting. We tend to think of Judas as an unbeliever and a traitor, and thus we place him in a category all by itself, rather than to see Judas as a man not all that different from ourselves, which is exactly where the discomfort comes from. Consider the following characteristics of Judas:

The Characteristics of Judas

(1) Judas was a man who seemed, for a good period of time, to be a genuine follower of Jesus.

(2) Judas was a man who had experienced and had been a channel of God’s power.

(3) Judas was very much like the other disciples, who did not stand out from them, nor was he ever suspected by them as a traitor.

(4) Judas seems even to have been somewhat of a leader among the disciples.

(5) Judas’ downfall came from a flaw evident earlier in his life, in a secret sin.

(6) Judas was a man who seems to have loved money too much and Jesus too little.

(7) Judas was a man who heard Jesus’ teaching, but failed to obey it.

(8) Judas’ failure was progressive, taking place over a period of time, and by means of a sequence of decisions.

(9) Judas was not forced to sin by Satan, but was surely tempted and assisted in his fall.

(10) Judas was made vulnerable to Satan’s involvement by his sin of greed. Satan was able to get a “death grip” on Judas by means of his fleshly desires and their dominion in his life.

(11) Judas did not choose to follow Satan, but to follow his own lusts.

(12) While it is clear to the reader that Judas became possessed by Satan, we do not know that Judas was ever consciously aware of this. To put it differently, Judas made choices which resulted in his possession by Satan, but we are never told that he actively sought to be possessed.

(13) From Judas’ twisted point of view his sin was not all that bad (he merely pointed out Jesus), and it was justifiable (after all, he did deserve the commission—in his mind).

(14) Judas was a man who was not born a traitor, but became one, by a progressive sequence of wrong choices.

If our text teaches us a great deal about Judas, we also learn some important characteristics of Satan. Consider these characteristics:

(1) Satan can work freely through religious leaders, as well as through the secular powers (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

(2) Satan can work through believers (e.g. Peter, cf. Matthew 17:23; Luke 22:31; Acts 5:3) as well as through unbelievers.

(3) Satan is perfectly willing and able to work through secondary causes (like greed), rather than openly and directly. In particular, Satan works through the world (external pressure) and the flesh (internal pressure).

(4) Satanic possession does not always take the form of foaming at the mouth and unusual behavior. It may seem to act in a normal, even in a spiritual way.

(5) While Satan’s control is more evident to us in the life of Judas, he is ultimately in control of every unbeliever (cf. Ephesians 2:1-3).

(6) Regardless of Satan’s success in working through the lives of men, his activity is subject to the control of God and it ultimately produces that which God has purposed and promised. Satan’s plan to kill the Messiah was the purpose of God. Satan thought that killing Christ would thwart God’s promises, but it ended up thwarting him, forever. The cross of Christ has brought about Satan’s downfall.

I fear that while there are times that Satan is credited with things that are not of his doing, there are also times when Satan’s involvement is simply not detected. All sin, in the final analysis, is to his liking, and is a part of his program and of his control over those who do not believe. Satan’s control in the lives of men and women seems to be strengthened over time, due either to his deception, or due to the decisions which men make which give him a strong grip in their lives. Luke reminds us here that Satan is very much “alive and well on planet earth.”

I hope that we have seen that the way in which Satan worked in the life of Judas is like the way that he works in the life of every unbeliever. Satan promotes and entices men to act in a way that seems to be to their own best interest, but which ultimately extends his control over their lives. Satan’s way of working in the lives of the saints is not all that different. He seeks to influence us through the pressures the world exerts upon us, and to stimulate the inner urges of the flesh, so that he can have control of us indirectly.

How is it that the Christian can avoid the pull of Satan? How is it that we can win over the world, the flesh, and the devil? If the warning of our text is that Satan can work on (Luke 22:31) and through (Matthew 16:22-23) a Peter, the encouragement is that while a Judas will fall hopelessly, never to be restored, a Peter will fall only temporarily. We should be warned by the similarities between a Peter and a Judas, but we should not leave our text without being reminded of the crucial differences between them. Consider these differences with me as we conclude:

(1) While Peter denied his Lord for a short time, Jesus was his Lord. Put in its briefest form, Peter was saved, and Judas was not. Judas did not lose his salvation, he never possessed it (compare Matthew 7:21-23).

(2) While Peter may not have prayed, as our Lord urged that he do (Luke 21:36; 22:45-46), Jesus never ceased to pray for him (Luke 22:32).

What crucial differences these are. The difference between a Judas and a Peter can be boiled down to one thing—faith. Peter was saved, and thus had the shed blood of Christ to pay for his sins, and the intercession of Christ to sustain him. Judas was lost, and thus was left to himself.

Which of the two are you, my friend? Are you a Peter—fallible, stumbling, self-confident, but saved? Or are you a Judas, looking good for a time, but really being a tool of Satan, who will suffer the eternal judgment of God. I urge you to trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. Do it today.


87 Note from John’s account that Peter seems to have been sitting some distance, while John and Judas appear to be nearby. I am inclined to think (as some commentators have suggested) that Judas may have been given the place of honor by our Lord.

88 It seems hard to believe that it would be necessary for Judas to identify Jesus to these leaders. The best explanation I can think of is that the top level leaders of Jerusalem did not “lower themselves” (in their minds) to see or hear Jesus, or to debate with Him. The Pharisees and a number of Sadducees were quite willing to “hound” Him. The top leaders, then, seem to have little or no direct contact with Christ. The “police force” who came along to arrest Jesus did not seem to have been familiar with Him either, although you will recall that some of those who were sent to arrest Jesus were so impressed with Him that they did not carry out their assignment (cf. John 7:44-49).

Related Topics: Crucifixion