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Lessons from Judas

What can we learn from the man most famous for his betrayal?

In the Bible, there are some truths that are more about trusting than understanding. The Bible serves as our guide, a truthful, accurate, and inspired record of God's revelations over 1,500 years. While the Bible contains challenging truths, often beyond our full comprehension, it doesn't mean they aren't true; they just surpass our limited understanding.


Such is the tension between God’s sovereignty and Judas. We know that Judas Iscariot is a name synonymous with evil. While various myths surround him, we focus on what is known. "Iscariot" suggests he came from Karioth. Chosen as one of the twelve disciples (Mark 3), Judas held a unique position close to Jesus.


And the reasons for his acceptance of Jesus' invitation are unclear. Some suggest he betrayed Jesus for patriotic reasons, seeing him as a threat to the people. Others propose he hoped betrayal would force Jesus to reveal his miraculous powers and establish the Messianic kingdom on earth.


It's likely that Judas joined expecting Jesus to liberate Israel from oppression. Jesus' refusal to politicize his mission and the prediction of his death fueled Judas' disillusionment. Unable to secure a significant role in the upcoming kingdom, he betrayed Jesus for personal gain, driven by greed, frustration, and, notably, influenced by Satan, as mentioned in John 13:2.


Note several observations about Judas:


1.   Satan's Influence on Judas.


John 13:2 explicitly states that Satan influenced Judas to betray Jesus. This echoes the broader biblical teachings that emphasize spiritual battles go beyond the physical realm (Ephesians 6:10-18). Judas' vulnerability to Satan's influence highlights the ongoing spiritual conflict between good and evil.


2.   Judas Wasn’t Saved!


Judas' lack of salvation is shown in John 13:10-11. Jesus, in washing the disciples' feet, symbolizes the need for ongoing cleansing. This ritual signifies not only physical cleanliness but also spiritual purification, emphasizing the transformative power of Christ's sacrifice (1 John 1:7). We are told Judas is unclean, meaning, he never knew Christ.


3.   Jesus' Foreknowledge of Judas' Betrayal.


Jesus' omniscient / all-knowing awareness of Judas' coming betrayal predates the actual event. In John 13:18-19, Jesus quotes from Psalm 41:9, reinforcing the prophetic nature of Judas' betrayal. This connection with the Psalms not only points to the accuracy of Old Testament prophecies but also underscores Jesus' divine role in fulfilling them (Luke 24:44).


4.   Jesus is God!


Jesus' prophetic declaration in John 13:18-19 echoes the divine proclamation of "I am he," affirming his deity. This aligns with Old Testament references to God as the great "I am" (Exodus 3:14; Isaiah 43:10-13). By asserting his identity, Jesus emphasizes that the events unfolding, including Judas' betrayal, are part of God's sovereign plan.


5.   Jesus' Troubled Spirit


Despite foreknowing Judas' actions, Jesus is troubled in spirit (John 13:21). This emotional response shows Jesus’ humanity, reminding us of his dual nature—fully God and fully man (Philippians 2:6-7). Jesus' inner turmoil shows the tension between divine knowledge and the genuine humanity of facing imminent betrayal.


6.   Judas is A Warning Against Deception.


Judas' presence among the disciples warns us that even the most wicked can masquerade or be mistaken as true believers. Jesus' call to abide in his word (John 8:31-32) finds truth in Matthew 7:21-23, where Jesus warns about those who may appear saved but lack a genuine relationship with him. This underscores the importance of discernment and authentic faith. Do we really know Jesus?


7.   Good Even through Betrayal.


Judas’ betrayal, prophesized in Psalm 41:9, becomes an important reminder that God can use even the most wicked sins to fulfill his ultimate purpose (Gen. 50:20). The reference to the Son of Man being glorified in John 13:31-32 anticipates Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection (Isaiah 53:10)


Even in the face of betrayal, the sovereign God orchestrates events for his glory and the ultimate good of those who love him.


What can we learn from the life of Judas?


Here are four quick takeaways from a study this week over the life of Judas.

# 1 - A fake Christianity will end you up in a very real hell.

Believing in your own made up version of God is actually just believing in Satan. Judas was a lover of money (Matthew 26:15), a liar (Luke 22:48), a thief (John 12:6), and a traitor (Mark 14:10). And he believed in a version of Jesus that cost him eternally. 


Biblical Christianity says there's a real God, there's real sin, there's a real heaven and a real hell, and, thus, so there's a real need for real grace in each one of us. This is a great reminder to us that, although there is a worldly sorrow without faith that leads to death (Judas), there is also a godly sorrow with faith that leads to life (2 Cor. 7:10)

#2 - The false convert and the hypocrite is clean in his own eyes and knows nothing of the battle which the true believer fights against sin.

The only sinner who can fight sin successfully is a justified sinner. We fight against sin because it dishonors God, opposes Christ, grieves the Spirit, and separates us from intimacy with our Lord. 


Christian, the best way to fight sin is to love Christ. You can fight sin, not because you've gotten smarter or stronger, but because, by grace, a powerful Warrior Spirit lives inside of you.

#3 - Emotional manifestations of contrition are proven counterfeit by a fruitless life. This is a warning to us all.

We are told that Judas repented (Matt. 27:3). Judas' disemboweling "became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Acts 1:19). The terrible testimony of betrayal's end.


The assurance of our salvation is not tied to our emotional enjoyment of it. It's tied to Christ, outside of us. You are saved by faith, not fruit. But you will never be saved by fruitless faith. The Christian life is a torrentially emotional one with deepest pains over sin and highest unspeakable joys in God's abundance of grace.

#4 - Because of the gospel, you don't have to inflate your importance, downplay your need or fake your spirituality today.

Pleasing God doesn't involve trying to put a smile on his face by your efforts. But, rather, resting in the pleasure God has in Jesus' work for youYou can't put a bigger smile on God's face. He already loves you as much as he loves Jesus. So serve him freely today.