It had to be hard to be Judas. He didn’t want to be the bad guy. There aren’t any saint medals for him. Yet if it weren’t for Judas, the prophecy wouldn’t have been fulfilled. Throughout history, Judas is known as the traitor, the betrayer of Jesus. We forget that Jesus didn’t condemn him. Jesus accepted what had to be done. If Jesus can forgive Judas, shouldn’t we?
In Matthew 10:1-4 we read
10 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
But then read this – It wasn’t Judas’ idea to betray Jesus.
Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2 and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve.4 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5 They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 6 He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.
Did you catch that? In verse 3 – “Then Satan entered Judas…”
Imagine Judas. There he is, possessed by this crazy feeling. He wasn’t himself. He wasn’t thinking straight. Here he was looking for ways to betray his friend, his Savior. This wasn’t like him. He had to feel really strange.
Jesus knew what was going to happen. It was foreordained. Jesus didn’t blame Judas at all. Jesus accepted what was going to happen. He felt sorry for Judas.
20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?” 23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” 25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.”
Jesus knew, and forgave Judas. Jesus calls him “Friend” – not enemy. Judas did what he was called to do.
47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.”49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. 50 Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.
Jesus called Judas “friend”. Not enemy. Friend. That is really important.
Jesus knew it had to happen this way. He didn’t fight against it. He knew that the Scripture had to be fulfilled. So Judas isn’t the bad guy. He’s just an actor playing a part. God is the director.
When the soldiers come to arrest him, one drew a sword and cut off the high priest’s ear.
In Mark 14-48-50
48 “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” 50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.
Here’s another take on the same story proving that Jesus knew things had to be this way. This is at the same point in the story, where the high priest’s ear was cut off. Peter leaps to defend Jesus by pulling out his sword.
11 Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”
Just after Jesus is taken away, Judas realizes the error. He didn’t think Jesus was going to be killed. He thought he’d just make a quick buck and make the authorities happy. He kills himself. This fulfilled a prophecy is fulfilled, and is yet more proof that Judas was simply acting under the will of God. He wasn’t acting under his own power.
Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. 2 So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor. 3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4 “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” 5 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. 6 The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7 So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. 8 That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, 10 and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”
It was prophesied. It had to happen.
Jesus didn’t have a problem with Judas. He didn’t blame him. Jesus prayed for all his disciples, including Judas, on the night he was betrayed.
6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. 13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
Before this, at the Passover, (The Last Supper), Jesus says this to Simon (Peter) in Luke 22:31-32
31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Jesus wasn’t against any of them. Jesus loved and prayed for them all. He gave all of them powers. He didn’t want to divide them.
How many of us would be willing to be used like Judas was? We think we are in control, when we forget that it is always God who is in control. We are the clay in the potter’s hand.
Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
We aren’t in charge. We never were.
Judas wasn’t the bad guy. Judas was fulfilling the role that God gave him. Jesus calls him “Friend”. Jesus didn’t hate Judas, and neither should we. If it weren’t for Judas, Jesus would not have died the way he had to die – and remember he had to die in order to be raised from the dead.
Jesus was the sacrificial lamb. Judas just led him to the slaughter. He was fulfilling the role that was assigned to him by God. When he realized what he had done, he killed himself. He didn’t mean to – he was being used.
Let us forgive Judas, and be more kind to people (and ourselves). We never know who is doing the will of God, unbeknownst to them or us. Let us be the kind of disciples that are willing to follow God, even if it means our own destruction.