Judas Iscariot—The Tale of a Traitor
(The setting for this story is the first part of John 20:19: “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week … the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews.”)
The sun was setting and long shadows were falling over the city of Jerusalem when two figures, their faces hidden by cloaks, walked through the darkened narrow streets. Coming to a large house, they looked up and down the street to be sure that they hadn’t been followed, then knocked at the gate.
The door opened a crack and a voice whispered, “Who is it?”
“It’s me, Joanna, and Salome.” Quickly the gate was opened for the two women and they were hurried into the house. Checking that the women had not been followed, Matthew closed and bolted the door.
“Did you find out where Thomas is?” he asked. “Ever since we were scattered from the Garden, no one has seen him.”
“He’s fine,” Salome assured the Apostles. “But it’s just not safe for him to try to move through the city and come here yet.”
“Oh, I’ve just got to tell you,” Joanna interrupted, throwing off her cloak. “I met Joseph of Arimathea just a short while ago, and you won’t believe what he told me!”
“Well, we’ve heard a lot of unbelievable stories today,” Bartholomew said. “This morning you and Mary said you saw Jesus alive—resurrected from the dead!”
Mary Magdalene leapt to her feet, “I tell you, I did! Jesus is alive. I saw Him!”
“Mary, Mary, listen,” the older lady admonished. “Remember how Judas betrayed Jesus and led the soldiers of the High Priest to Him?”
“What about him?! Is he leading them to us now?” James the Lesser asked nervously.
“No,” Joanna said. “Judas is dead!”
“Dead? Judas is dead? How?”
The old lady looked around at the astonished group, then whispered, “He hung himself! He committed suicide.” There was a shocked gasp and then silence. “Everybody sit down and I’ll tell you what I heard.”
When everyone was seated, Joanna took a deep breath and said, “It’s all so incredible! I never would have dreamt that Judas would have done such a thing.—To betray Jesus! I mean, I trusted him. He looked after the money for us, and when I used to hand over my gifts to him, he always seemed so appreciative and sweet.” (Luke 8:3)
Matthew sighed and said, “I always suspected that there was quite a lot of money missing every month.”
“No! You don’t mean he …?!”
“Yes! I used to be a tax-collecter and an accountant, and if there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s how to count and keep track of finances (Matthew 9:9). I’m sure that many times there was more money missing than expenses could account for.”
“But he gave it to the poor, no?”
“He only gave to the poor when Jesus commanded him to. The rest he took for himself. He was a thief. Sure, he always put on a big show about being concerned about the poor, like that time last week when we ate at the house of Simon the Leper, remember?”
“Yes,” John replied. “Mary and Martha and Lazarus were there too. Mary came out with an alabaster jar containing a pound of some very costly perfume … what was it?”
“It was pure liquid nard,” Matthew replied. “And it was worth over 3OO denarii, a labouring man’s wages for a year.”
John said, “Yes,and when she poured it over Jesus’ head and on His feet, do you remember who it was that criticized her?—And criticised Jesus for allowing her to?”
“Why, of course, it was Judas!” James exclaimed. “I remember now. He said: ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold for 300 denarii, and the money given to the poor?'”
“Not that he cared for the poor,” Matthew retorted. “It was only because he stole from the bag and wanted the money himself.”
Andrew added, “Then after he said that, some of the rest of us got into it too and asked, ‘Why was all this waste made?'”
“Yes,” John replied. “But then Jesus told us, ‘Let her alone. She has done a good thing. The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you will you can do good to them, but you will not always have Me. In anointing Me with perfume, she has done what she could to prepare Me for My burial.'”
“Did you notice the look on Judas’ face when Jesus said that?” John asked. “I could swear I saw the devil himself in his eyes when he stormed out of the house! And he didn’t come back until a day later …”
“That’s it, that’s the exact time!” Joanna exclaimed. “It was that exact day, Joseph said—he only found this out yesterday—that Judas went to the chief priests and asked, ‘What are you willing to give me if I betray Jesus and hand Him over to you?’ The chief priests and elders were just delighted when Judas came to them, and pledged to give him some money if he would do it.”
“How much money?” Matthew asked.
“Practically nothing. They gave him only 30 silver coins for betraying the Lord!”
“I think there was another consideration,” Simon Zelotes said. “We all knew that the chief priests and elders had been plotting for quite some time to kill Jesus (Matthew 26:2-5; John 11:7-8). Judas was clever enough to realise that the noose was tightening around all of us, and that if he didn’t get out now, he might be imprisoned or killed with Jesus.”
“Yes,” John agreed, “he was willing to be a disciple as long as the going was easy and Jesus was popular, but when things got really hot and he needed to take a stand, that’s when he showed his true colours and backslid. We were all well-known, and the Pharisees would never have believed he was really abandoning Jesus unless he proved it by turning against Him and betraying Him.”
Bartholomew demanded, “You mean, for all that entire last week, Judas was just watching for an opportunity to betray us?” “I would never have suspected,” Susanna said. “He seemed … well … so nice.”
“That’s just it,” Matthew said. “He could act so sweet and be so pleasant, but if you got to really know him, like I did, you could see the other side of him: The darkness, the cynical doubts and the criticism. Surely you remember how he was so often criticising and skeptical, casting doubt on things Jesus said or did.”
Philip added, “God knows what a bad influence he’s had on all of us.”
Simon Peter confessed, “He sure had me fooled. Do you remember at that last supper that we ate with the Lord…” Tears welled in the big fisherman’s eyes and his voice broke. “When Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you sitting here eating with Me will betray Me.’ When He said that, I thought…I thought He meant me!”
Peter burst into tears, and John threw an arm around him and said, “We were all distressed and sorrowfu.! We all wondered who it might be and were asking one after another, ‘Lord, is it I? Is it I?'”
James said, “And finally, right at the very end, Judas asked too, ‘Is it I, Master?’ And Jesus said, ‘You said it.’ In other words, ‘Yes, it is you.'”
Simon Zelotes exclaimed, “And then Jesus said, ‘The one who has just dipped into the bowl with Me will betray Me.’ And did you notice who had just dipped into the dish with his bread? It was Judas!”
Bursting into tears again, Peter lamented, “But I denied Him too! I’m just as bad as Judas. There’s no difference.”
“There’s a lot of difference, Peter,” Matthew said, comforting him. “You only temporarily denied you knew Him, for fear. Judas betrayed Him to His enemies! You were just weak. We all were. We all failed Jesus that night. But Peter, you loved Jesus. You really believed in Him.—But Judas had his doubts. He never really closely loved Jesus. That’s the difference.”
“That’s right,” John said, “from the very beginning Judas had serious doubts.—And Jesus knew it. Remember many, many months ago when all those followers forsook Jesus? He then asked us, ‘Will you also go away?’ You, Peter, answered, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the Words of eternal life.—And we believe and trust that You are the Messiah, the Son of God.’
“But then Jesus said, ‘But some of you still do not believe. Did I not choose you twelve? And yet one of you is the devil.’ And He looked right at Judas. Judas just didn’t have faith to keep believing in Jesus when things got rough or he didn’t understand something. He didn’t fully trust Jesus, so he couldn’t take things by faith.”
Matthew asked, “Do you remember at the last supper when Jesus said to Judas, ‘What you are going to do, do it quickly?”
“Yes!” Philip said. “But I didn’t get the connection at the time! I thought Jesus meant, ‘Go give something to the poor.'”
“I thought He was telling Judas to go buy the things we needed for the next day, the Feast day, and meant, ‘Go quickly before all the shops are closed,'” Andrew said.
“No, he was going out to betray Jesus,” John exclaimed. “I remember seeing the fear in Judas’ eyes. That was right when Satan entered in and took temporary possession of him.”
“I must be real dumb,” James the Lesser said. “I never saw that! Judas was just so sweet and charming most of the time.”
“But it was a cloak to hide his doubts,” John exclaimed. “Don’t you remember in the Garden when he led the band of soldiers to Jesus, he came running up and embraced Jesus, and gave Him a kiss and said, ‘Greetings, Master.’ And Jesus said, ‘Judas, do you betray Me with a kiss?'”
Joanna exclaimed, “Yes, that was it! Joseph told me that that was Judas’ signal to the Temple guards. He had told them, ‘The One whom I kiss is the man; seize Him and hold Him tight so that He doesn’t escape!'”
“What a traitor!” Philip muttered.
“Well, he paid for it.” Joanna said. Joseph said that Judas came back to the chief priests later, after he saw how Jesus’ trial had gone, and he said Judas looked like an absolute wreck, absolutely torn apart with grief, remorse and confusion, like he was going out of his mind. He came back into the Temple and told the elders, ‘I have sinned, for I’ve betrayed innocent blood!'”
“He said that?! Really?”
“Yes, but they told him, ‘What is that to us? That’s you concern.’ So Judas threw the money down and left, and that’s when he went out and hanged himself.”
“What a way to die!” John said. “He lost everything and gained nothing.—Not even the 3O pieces of silver.”
Food For Thought
(1) Judas probably never dreamt that his lack of faith and doubts would ultimately lead to him BETRAYING the Lord. But all it takes is just a few little DOUBTS to lead to serious UNBELIEF, which leads to DISOBEDIENCE, and finally BETRAYAL! Betrayal ISN’T usually a SUDDEN last-minute decision; it is something that has been building up inside a doubter for a long time! (Hebrews 3:12,13)
(2) We all have questions about things we don’t understand, and even Jesus’ disciples questioned Him at times.–But it was only JUDAS who seemed to listen to the Devil’s lies and spread them to others, even openly criticising Jesus! If you have reservations and nagging questions that trouble you, watch out! Remember, it’s one thing to ask a SINCERE question about something you don’t understand, but DON’T harbour serious doubts or voice them to others!
(3) If you cannot, in FAITH, commit some question to the Lord and leave it with Him (Proverbs 3:5), then the Devil will play on that until it grows all out of proportion and plagues and obsesses your mind! So don’t even LISTEN to the Devil when he tries to whisper his lies to you! “Neither give place to the Devil! Resist him and he will FLEE from you!” (Ephesians 4:27; James 4:7)
(4) Judas was obviously a “weaker brother”, yet once you have heard the TRUTH and REJECT it, then you are GUILTY, not just weak! You are no longer just an innocent weaker brother, but a GUILTY one! The WORD will cure any doubts you have IF you are willing to RECEIVE its truth!
(5) The best cure for doubts is God’s WORD! Fill your life with love and your mind and heart with His Truth and there will be no room for the Devil’s lies! Just keep busy for God and keep your mind and heart full of positive, encouraging, faith-building promises from His Word, memorising and quoting to yourself and even to the Enemy when he attacks you with bad thoughts and doubts!
(6) Nobody loves a traitor! Jesus’ enemies paid Judas to do their dirty work and exalted him for awhile. But when it was done, they didn’t want anything more to do with him! WHO is going to TRUST a TRAITOR?
(7) If you’re ever tempted with doubts or critical thoughts, before you VOICE them or even give them a place in your OWN heart, remember the story of JUDAS!–A stern warning to ALL! Which will YOU be?–A doubter, disobeyer and denier?–Or a believer, obeyer and witness for the Truth, even if it KILLS you?–What will YOU do?
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