The God Who Kneels – Day 31


Treachery

“As soon as Judas took the bread. Satan entered into him.”

                                                                 John 13:27

Judas’ feigned innocence, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” thinly concealed a heart that had grown hard and resistant to Jesus. Judas hated Jesus and Jesus knew it. The verdict against Judas had already been delivered by Jesus: “Woe to the man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:23-25). After the betrayal, we are told by Matthew that Judas was “seized with remorse.” He tried to return the thirty pieces of silver. “I have sinned,” he announced, “for I have betrayed innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4). “What is that to us?” the chief priests and elders replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

In the end Judas came to the realization that he had wronged an innocent man. According to the apostle Peter, Judas’ remorse stopped short of repentance. His despair does not appear to have led to deliverance. The finality of suicide sealed Judas’ tragic and willful determination. In the book of Acts, it is Peter who brings closure to the Judas saga. He quotes from the Psalms to describe Judas’ fate: “May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it” (Psalm 69:25; see Acts 1:20). The disciples found it fitting that Judas should be memorialized by a cemetery known as the Field of Blood.

The apostle John’s take on Judas may be expressed in his letter, when he wrote:

“Dear children, this is the last hour and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” 1 John 2:18-19

John’s definition of the antichrist is this: “whoever denies that Jesus is the Messiah. Such a person is the antichrist — denying the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22). This spirit of the antichrist can be found wherever the incarnation of Jesus is denied. John warns the believers that this spirit of denial and deception is “already in the world” (1 John 4:3; 2 John 7). The same power that was at work in Judas is still at work in the world and remains a threat to the church. Without this clear-sighted spiritual diagnosis believers are in danger of becoming confused and disillusioned, not unlike Judas.

Not long ago I was invited along with other pastors to the home of a church leader who wanted us to meet his gay partner. I went with the expectation of having a good conversation. I wanted to understand how this gay couple related their sexuality to their faith in Christ. Sitting across from the church leader’s gay partner, and after an interesting conversation on his expertise in software, I asked, “How do the two of you discuss theology?” He looked at me, like he didn’t understand the question. So, I repeated it, saying, “You know, how do you talk about the Christian faith?” He answered, “Oh, we never talk about the faith. I’m not a Christian. I’m not a believer.”  The clear, if not casual, confession of unbelief fit with the irreconcilable nature of the Christian faith and homosexual practice. To deny that Jesus is the Christ was really no big deal for the gay partner of a church leader, nor did intimate sexual relations with an unbeliever seem to bother the church leader.

Listening to the narrative exchange between Jesus and Judas causes us to examine our own reactions to Jesus. Far from bringing out the best, Jesus’ upper room humility brought out the worst in Judas. Jesus’ words and actions were the last straw for Judas. He wanted a messiah who met his expectations and Jesus disappointed him deeply. It is dangerous to accept Jesus on our terms because a fantasy faith will fail every time. With malice in his heart Judas turned away from Jesus in disgust. Satan was pleased.

Judas is gone. He might have slammed the door on the way out. Most likely he was angry enough, but I doubt that he did anything to give himself away. The other disciples thought he was sent on a mission to buy whatever was needed for the Passover or to give something to the poor (John 13:29). There was still time for Judas to reconsider and repent, but he was determined. He went out into the night. He was set to betray the Master, himself, and everything he stood for. Judas’ dark night of the soul was utterly un-redemptive.

 

Upper Room Reflection

What makes Judas’ unbelief especially dangerous?

Did John’s definition of the antichrist include Judas?

Is it possible for professing believers to be practicing unbelievers?

What is the danger of confusing remorse with repentance?