The Commitment He Made
Judas had made a commitment to Jesus. There was no reason to think he was anything but sincere in his faith. Like the rest of the disciples, he had left everything to follow him. Judas had been actively involved in ministry. He had been given remarkable spiritual gifts.
Luke tells us, “[Jesus] called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” (Luke 9:1-2).
Judas was a gospel preacher! He had been given a special gift of healing. He had exercised authority over demons. Active involvement in ministry is a good and a wonderful thing, but it is not, in itself, a sign of spiritual life or spiritual health.
The Opportunity He Was Given
Judas walked with Jesus for three years. He saw the greatest life that has ever been lived, up close and personal. You can’t have a better model of faith than Jesus or a better environment for forming faith than Judas had in walking with Jesus.
He was a direct witness to the miracles. When Jesus fed the 5,000, Judas was there. He took the bread and distributed it along with the other disciples. When Jesus calmed the storm, Judas was there. And he was there when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. You can’t have better evidence for faith than Judas had.
Judas heard all of the teaching of Jesus. He heard the Sermon on the Mount, so he knew that there is a narrow road that leads to life and a broad road that leads to destruction. He heard the warnings that Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, so he knew that there is a hell to shun and a heaven to gain. He heard the parable of the prodigal son, and he knew that Christ was ready to welcome and forgive those who had wasted themselves in many sins.
With his own ears, this man heard the finest teaching. With his own eyes, he saw the clearest evidence. In his own life, he had the best example. And yet this man betrayed Jesus.
How deep the problem of the human heart is! It “is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick;” (Jeremiah 17:9). Do you understand your own heart?
Can you understand how a young person who is raised by godly parents in the context of a healthy church, taught the truths of Scripture from an early age, and grounded in apologetics can end up abandoning the faith that he or she once professed?
There is an important truth here for parents, leaders, and friends who grieve over someone you love who has abandoned the faith they once professed. You say, “Where did we go wrong? What more could we have done? Did we fail in our teaching? Did we fail in our example? Should we have immersed our son or daughter or friend in a different environment? Perhaps that would have made a difference.”
This story is telling us that even the finest teaching, the best example, and the most compelling evidence—the ultimate environment for incubating faith—cannot, in and of themselves, change the human heart.
The Choice He Made
Satan made a relentless assault on the soul of Judas, as he makes a relentless assault on everyone who chooses to follow Christ. There is nothing unique about the experience of Judas here.
- “Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot…He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them” (Luke 22:3, 4).
- “The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son to betray him” (John 13:2).
- “Satan entered into him” (John 13:27).
The Bible’s clear statements about Satan’s activity have led many people to say, “Well, poor Judas, he didn’t have a chance. Satan entered into him. What could he do about that?” But that evaluation overlooks the fact that Judas opened the door of his life to Satan.
Judas had been stealing from the bag. And when he kept this sin secret, Satan entered into him. He made a deal with the chief priests and then sat down at our Lord’s Table with a known sin that he would not confess, and Satan entered even further into his life. Unconfessed sin always opens the door to Satan’s power.
Satan does not gain a foothold in the lives of people who are walking in the light with Jesus. He only has access when we open the door. Klaus Schilder says, “It is the peculiar majesty of Jesus that He can conquer man without man’s first approaching Him. But Satan’s frailty is proved by this, that he cannot approach a soul unless that soul has first turned to him” (Christ in His Sufferings, 185).
Sometimes in the church, we get this the other way around. We are afraid that Satan will somehow have secret access to us, but Jesus, he can do nothing unless we ask him to. No, the Bible teaches us precisely the opposite.
The Outcome He Embraced
Judas went out into the darkness he had chosen, “and it was night” (John 13:30). When you get close to Jesus, one of two things will happen: Either you will become wholly his, or you will end up more alienated from him and more antagonistic toward him than if you had never known him at all.
Among those who hate Christ the most are not a few who once professed to trust him. Christ’s claims are so exclusive, and his demands so pervasive that, in the end, you must either give yourself to him completely or give him up altogether. There is no middle ground.
Only those who have never known him can remain indifferent to him. For those who get close, the only outcomes are full devotion or eventual antagonism and every day, each of us is heading in one direction or the other.
Worth Any Cost
In a day when many people are abandoning the faith that they once professed, the story of Judas warns us to guard our hearts, lest we drift away. The story of Judas also equips us to reach out to others who may be close to walking away from faith. Christ calls us to “be merciful to those who doubt. Save others by snatching them out of the fire” (Jude 22-23). Finally, the story of Judas reminds us that nothing good can come from giving up on Jesus Christ. He is of supreme value, and following him is worth any cost.
[This article originally appeared at The Gospel Coalition.]
[Photo Credit: Unsplash]
- The Ambition of Judas Iscariot
- Satan Wants to Keep You in a Funk
- Screwtape’s Advice on How to Attack a Man’s Faith
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