There are many wonderful heroes and traitorous foes in the pages of the Bible. Both good and bad share in the human frailties that come from being made of dust. Noble heroes of faith surrounded by their unbelieving, accusing and deadly opponents are found in every book. However, tucked in the corner of a bigger story we find some who pose in the OT as worshipers of Jehovah or in the NT as Christ followers. They would fade into the background of the story if not for the amazing crossroads where their half-hearted faith meets their whole-hearted greed or hatred. Judas Iscariot was just such a man.
Speaking of Judas, Laura Swain wrote: “We don’t know as much about him, but he was the professional of the group. He was the treasurer, the money man. And undoubtedly he got to hear Jesus’ teaching and to witness him heal countless people. He was surely there when Jesus taught ‘no one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
One of the most remarkable stories about this disciple happened just a few days before Jesus’ last Passover celebration. Jesus was visiting Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. (John 12:1-8) As they were enjoying dinner together, Mary took a pound of expensive perfume ‘and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair’. But practical Judas questioned, ‘why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?’ Actually, it wasn’t that he was practical at all, but rather the Bible tells us it was because he was a thief. In fact, it says ‘having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.’ Jesus rebuked him and told him to leave her alone for He knew her heart.”
Perhaps the all-important treasurer was truly insulted by Jesus’ rebuke. Or as Jesus made it clearer that he would soon die, perhaps he saw the ship he had been sailing on was about to sink; thought it was time to count his losses and make the best out of a bad situation. Whatever the reason, shortly after this scene with the perfume Judas goes to the Pharisees and agrees to betray Jesus for just 30 pieces of silver. The more we value our importance and our riches the less we value others.
This is a great story to teach as we approach Maundy Thursday. This story is woven into the story of our Savior’s last lesson about loving one another. The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9 The younger we learn about the tendency in all our hearts to betray those we love the better prepared we are to deal with it. Our children need to know that little temptations will have great power against a heart that is subject to believing little “white” lies. The greater the lies we believe the greater the power of temptation.
Laura Swain says in her comparison of Peter with Judas, “These two men -Peter and Judas – weren’t greatly different; They both knew Jesus and yet they both betrayed him.” We can’t be sure that we won’t betray. We are human and bent toward selfishness and betrayal.
To what extent betrayal will scar our lives is dependent on our answer to this question, “What place have I given Jesus in my heart?”
Judas had initiative, passion, a plan, and had a place as a follower of the Messiah. He thought he had all the bases covered. But in the end his fate wasn’t determined by what he could do but rather where he placed his trust and affection.
Jesus wants us to bring the little ones to Him, to teach them to run to Him quickly when they are being tempted. Jesus alone was tempted in all ways like we are yet without sin. Let’s teach them to trust in Him to be their help in times of temptation or failure.