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On your Mark

The betrayer

… And Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. (Mark 3:19, NIV)

Judas is always named last in the listings of the Twelve (Mark 3, Matthew 10, Luke 6). He is variously identified as the one “who betrayed him” (Mark, Matthew, John), or “became a traitor” (Luke). John tells us the name of his father, Simon Iscariot (John 6:71, 13:2). The term “Iscariot” most likely identifies Judas’ town of origin, probably a few miles south of Hebron — making Judas the only non-Galilean among the disciples.

Jesus identified him as a “devil” one year before the betrayal (John 6:70,71). One week before the Passion, Judas protested Mary’s expensive anointing of Jesus. John said Judas’ motive was not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief and “as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put in it” (John 12:6).

All kinds of questions arise concerning Judas. Was he fated or predestined to do this? Did he have freedom of choice? Why didn’t Jesus terminate his discipleship when it became evident Judas was stealing funds? Perhaps these questions will never be answered satisfactorily.

Judas’ example does teach us that you can be close to Jesus, but far from Him.

Judas enjoyed proximity of relationship. Morning, noon and night he was with Jesus walking on the road, at meal times, in private conversations and at public meetings. He heard the Lord’s teachings, witnessed His miracles and even engaged in preaching and healing missions (Mark 6).

But Judas never imbibed the spirit of Jesus. How else can you explain his stealing from the fund? How do you explain his protest over Mary’s anointing of Jesus with expensive perfume? Judas flat-out lied when he said the money should have been spent on the poor. He wanted to line his own pockets with the proceeds (John 12:5,6). Nakedly put, Judas said on that occasion: “Pour out your money on me, not on Jesus.”

Did his self-absorption result from disappointment with Jesus? That Jesus was not bringing in a political kingdom? Certainly, Judas had a lot to lose if there were no huge messianic treasury from which he could profit.

We will never know, until eternity, Judas’ true motivations. It is sufficient to say that when any disciple begins to pull away from Jesus in one area of his or her life, the decline into graver acts of rupture and betrayal begins.

You are either moving toward Jesus or away from Him.

Peter and the other disciples who failed and fled from Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion were restored by Jesus after the Resurrection. What if Judas, instead of committing suicide, had waited three days, returned to Jesus, and asked for pardon? I’m sure that the same grace given to Peter and the others would have been freely extended to Judas as well.

Judas gave up on Jesus several days too soon. He missed the Resurrection.

You have a choice to be Peter or Judas. Like them, there will be occasions when you fail the Lord. Will you let sin and disobedience open the door for further flight from Him, or will you return, repent and gain His grace?

Perhaps, like Judas, you are disappointed that Jesus did not do something you thought He should. Jesus would be much more acceptable to you if He had done things your way. Will you set aside your disappointments that life has taken some turns you did not want or seek? Will you stick with Jesus all the way?

A prayer of response
Oh Lord, help me lest I become like Judas — turning away from You before I’ve seen the full story of what You will do. Help me to purge dishonesty and impurity from my life. Keep me faithful. Keep me near. Keep me as Your own.

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

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