Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Judas Iscariot

This is the sixth post in a series that examines the life of Judas Iscariot. To start at the beginning, click here.

The Story of Judas Iscariot

Why This Study is Important

Yesterday's post completed the story of Judas and his betrayal of Jesus. Today I want to write about why such a subject is important. 

The most important reason is that we should not think of Judas as being such a unique character. You might say that he was ambitious, but that is common and not always fatal. He had his sin, but we all do. He had his good and bad points, but no one suspected him until he turned. It behooves us to understand him, so that we can avoid becoming like him.

Points to Ponder

Judas was for the program, but not the person. He was enamored by the kingdom of God. He liked being around great teaching. For a long time there was excitement in the air. Indeed Judas' sense of self was defined by the program and not the person. It really is important to grasp the significance of Peter's affirmation to Jesus in John 6, "We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God!" After all, Jesus immediately excluded Judas by declaring him to be a devil. Peter and the others increasingly defined their lives in terms of Jesus and His words. Judas liked the teaching, saw the power in the miracles, and imagined himself wielding political power. So when the promise of the kingdom faded and Jesus' teaching became a little strange, Judas met a severe personal crisis.

So the first question that we have to ask ourselves is: What motivates us to serve? (If you are not serving the body in any capacity, please read 1 Corinthians 12-14 and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your gift(s) and deploy them for the common good.) Is it the welfare of your local congregation and its people? Is it for contacts with good and important people? Is it for accolades for a job well done? Is it because you go to a church that has stimulating teaching and discussions? Is it because you sense His pleasure? How much of what motivates you is because you know Jesus in a significant way? How much is because you like church and what it means to society? How much is it because it benefits you and your family?

The second question that we have to ask ourselves is: What would happen if the cost of service became unexpectedly high? Would you carry on? Would you pick a fight in order to escape? The tricky thing about a question like this is that you really will not know until you have been tested. I think that we can discern our service motivations, but how we handle an unexpected setback is another matter. Judas met this test and failed. Peter, therefore, tells us the joy that comes from meeting such tests and being found true:

This brings you great joy, although you may have to suffer for a short time in various trials. Such trials show the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold—gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing away—and will bring praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7, The Net Bible)

There is a chemical compound called iron pyrite. In popular jargon, it is known as fool's gold. It looks just like gold, but if you put it in a fire, it burns. When our faith meets a test of fire and passes, it is shown to be pure gold and not something that just looks good.

The faith that will pass the test is faith in and intimate connection with Jesus the Messiah:

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God!” (John 6:68-69)

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Now if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean productive work for me, yet I don’t know which I prefer: I feel torn between the two, because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, (Philippians 1:21-23)

Whom do I have in heaven but you? I desire no one but you on earth. My flesh and my heart may grow weak, but God always protects my heart and gives me stability. Yes, look! Those far from you die; you destroy everyone who is unfaithful to you. But as for me, God’s presence is all I need. I have made the sovereign Lord my shelter, as I declare all the things you have done. (Psalm 73:25-28)

We need to have hearts that have made the presence of Jesus the Messiah our greatest treasure and our highest good.

As for Judas, we see a great tragedy. He was so close. What kept him from seeing Jesus as Messiah and the Son of God? Why was it that his legacy was being the one who betrayed a friend of infinite worth.

Thursday: A Christian Urban Legend

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


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