Thursday, October 8, 2009

Called to Follow - Judas Iscariot

Traitor! Betrayer! How could he? How could he betray the living God, the coming Messiah, our Savior Jesus Christ?

When you hear his name does it cause a strong reaction in you? Do you have a physical response to it? Are your thoughts and questions like the ones above?
How could he have betrayed Jesus?

Let's put aside our anger and what ever physical reaction we might be experiencing from hearing his name and give a little grace. At least long enough to begin to understand this man and gain some insight from his life. I believe we will find that we can learn quite a lot from him.

Believe it or not, Judas Iscariot was called to follow by Jesus just like the other disciples. He was part of the inner circle and one of the twelve. But did he ever really accept the call? Did he ever really love Jesus and commit his life to his service?

We don't know for sure but I would wager to say the answer is no. He was not fully committed to Christ. Maybe his background will shed some light on why.

Judas last name Iscariot was an Aramaic name. Iscariot meant "Man of Kerioth." Kerioth was a town near Hebron in Judea. This would make Judas Iscariot the only Judean out of all the disciples. A little history lesson on the people of Judea tells us that they despised the people of Galilee. They thought of them as crude frontier settlers. With this type of attitude, Judas may have been alienated from the others and left out in the cold.

As we all know, not being accepted hurts. Seeking inclusion by a group that wants nothing to do with you can bring great pain. It hurts when you’re left out and looked at as the odd ball. It can stir up all kinds of emotions, the main ones being anger and bitterness. Bitterness breeds and grows if left to continue and fester. Maybe our dear Judas had a bit of bitterness brewing inside him.

Bitterness can spoil a person. It eats away at you and causes you to do things that you never thought yourself capable of. Have you ever sat in your own vile bitterness until you did something you just weren't proud of?

Job 21:25 says - Another man dies in the bitterness of his soul, never having eaten with pleasure.

It is very easy to fall into bitterness when we have been wronged. We have every right to be angry at times. But if we stay in our anger to long and don't forgive, we fall into a bitterness that consumes our soul. That kind of bitterness can take us over and rob us of experiencing pleasure in life. Some people act out of it and do unspeakable things because of it. Others take their hatred and bitterness to the grave with them. What a tortured life they leave this world with. Lets not be that person. Let's instead give our anger over to God and forgive.

On top of what might have been bitterness in Judas, we also see that he had a selfish and greedy attitude. Acting as treasurer for the twelve, Judas was in charge of all the funds accumulated and used. When Mary broke her jar of precious ointment to pour on Jesus' feet, Judas was fit to be tied. Let look at it the story and see.

Mary, who loved Jesus even before his miracles, was overcome with love after. She had seen her brother Lazarus raised from the dead by Jesus. Her love for the Savior was worth anything to her. So she takes her jar of very expensive oil and uses it to anoint Jesus' feet. Then she lets down her hair and wipes his feet with it.

Unheard of in those days. Women did not let down their hair in the company of men. They certainly did not use what might have been their dowry to make someone’s feet smell better. Nor would they expose themselves to shame and ridicule with such behavior in public.

But Mary did. Because of her great love, she would have done anything for Jesus. Judas responded immediately to Mary's action with criticism.

John 12:4-5 -But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, who would betray Him, said, "Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?"

We are told in verse 6 the reason for his comment. It wasn't because he cared greatly for the poor. No, it was because he was a thief. He had control of the disciple’s money box and was used to dipping his hand into it for himself. His motivation was shear greed.

Judas Iscariot’s heart had been established, it was unaffected by his time with the Savior. His heart was hardened, unpliable. His hard heart would be the one turned over to be used by Satan.

Sitting in the upper room, we see Jesus lounging with the twelve after their last meal together. Satan has already put into Judas' heart to betray Him. Knowing this, what does Jesus do? In his kindness and mercy he still gives Judas one last chance. Laying aside his own garments, in humility Jesus takes a towel and kneels at Judas' feet to wash them.

How can a heart remain hard while Jesus is kneeling at your feet? With the Son of God gently cleansing the filth and removing the grim you've accumulated? You’re sitting there, dirty and unworthy while the Savior washes the sin from you. I don't know how it’s possible to have your heart remain hard but Judas' heart did. Jesus was troubled by it also. Troubled enough to testify to it.

John 13:21,26 - When Jesus said these things, He was troubled in Spirit, and testified and said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me." "It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it." and having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.

The moment Jesus handed the bread to Judas; Satan entered him to fulfill his work. To fulfill the work of betraying Jesus and sending Him to the cross. A work that would end up backfiring on Satan. Jesus would die on the cross alright, but the grave wouldn’t hold him. He would rise from the grave on the third day and defeat death for eternity.

In the end, Judas was remorseful for what he had allowed himself to be used for. He tried to return the money he had taken for his betrayal. Yes, he was remorseful enough. We see him throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple and leaving. He was devastated. He even took his own life by hanging.
But I ask this..... Was he repentant? We can be remorseful for the consequences of our actions but not be repentant. Without repentance, nothing changes. It takes repentance to truly turn from our wickedness and sin. If all we feel is remorse, it’s not enough. Our heart must face God with humble repentance if we want God to pour out His gracious mercy on us.

How’s your heart today? Are you harboring bitterness? Do you need a little repentance? If you do, don't let it wait. God is waiting.


In His Glorious Name Ministries Online said...

What a great post.

Bitterness is like a cancer that devours slowly over time.

It starts out as a thought, an emotion, like as a seed and if watered with more of the same, it roots, grows and produces fruit.

Fruit that is full of bitterness, and very distasteful.

Forgiveness is powerful!

Lori Laws said...

"Was he repentant? We can be remorseful for the consequences of our actions but not be repentant."
So true. So true. Great post!

Hi Sherri, how are you?

Anonymous said...

Eric said...

Excellent Post on the heart and it's bitterness. Looking forward to reading more.

Sherri Watt said...

Thank you all. I hope you are blessed and the spirit of God moves within you to do what ever God has called you to do. Mostly I pray that you will follow after Jesus with every ounce of your heart, mind, soul and strength.