THE history of Judas presents the sad
ending of a life that might have been honored of God. Had Judas died before his last
journey to Jerusalem he would have been regarded as a man worthy of a place among the
twelve, and one who would be greatly missed. The abhorrence which has followed him through
the centuries would not have existed but for the attributes revealed at the close of his
history. But it was for a purpose that his character was laid open to the world. It was to
be a warning to all who, like him, should betray sacred trusts.
A little before the Passover,
Judas had renewed his contract with the priests to deliver Jesus into their hands. Then it
was arranged that the Saviour should be taken at one of His resorts for meditation and
prayer. Since the feast at the house of Simon, Judas had had opportunity to reflect upon
the deed which he had covenanted to perform, but his purpose was unchanged. For thirty
pieces of silver--the price of a slave--he sold the Lord of glory to ignominy and death.
Judas had naturally a strong
love for money; but he had not always been corrupt enough to do such a deed as this. He
had fostered the evil spirit of avarice until it had become the ruling motive of his life.
The love of mammon overbalanced his love for Christ. Through becoming the slave of one
vice he gave himself to Satan, to be driven to any lengths in sin.
Judas had joined the
disciples when multitudes were following Christ. The Saviour's teaching moved their hearts
as they hung entranced upon His words, spoken in the synagogue, by the seaside, upon the
mount. Judas saw the sick, the lame, the blind, flock to Jesus from the towns and cities.
He saw the dying laid at His feet. He witnessed the Saviour's mighty works in healing the
sick, casting out devils, and raising the dead. He felt in his own person the evidence of
Christ's power. He recognized the teaching of Christ as superior to all that he had ever
heard. He loved the Great Teacher, and desired to be with Him. He felt a desire to be
changed in character and life, and he hoped to experience this through connecting himself
with Jesus. The Saviour did not repulse Judas. He gave him a place among the twelve. He
trusted him to do the work of an evangelist. He endowed him with power to heal the sick
and to cast out devils. But Judas did not come to the point of surrendering himself fully
to Christ. He did not give up his worldly ambition or his love of money. While he accepted
the position of a minister of Christ, he did not bring himself under the divine molding.
He felt that he could retain his own judgment and opinions, and he cultivated a
disposition to criticize and accuse.
Judas was highly regarded by
the disciples, and had great influence over them. He himself had a high opinion of his own
qualifications, and looked upon his brethren as greatly inferior to him in judgment and
ability. They did not see their opportunities, he thought, and take advantage of
circumstances. The church would never prosper with such shortsighted men as leaders. Peter
was impetuous; he would move without consideration. John, who was treasuring up the truths
that fell from Christ's lips, was looked upon by Judas as a poor financier. Matthew, whose
training had taught him accuracy in all things, was very particular in regard to honesty,
and he was ever contemplating the words of Christ, and became so absorbed in them that, as
Judas thought, he could not be trusted to do sharp, far-seeing business. Thus Judas summed
up all the disciples, and flattered himself that the church would often be brought into
perplexity and embarrassment if it were not for his ability as a manager. Judas regarded
himself as the capable one, who could not be overreached. In his own estimation he was an
honor to the cause, and as such he always represented himself.
Judas was blinded to his own
weakness of character, and Christ placed him where he would have an opportunity to see and
correct this. As treasurer for the disciples, he was called upon to provide for the needs
of the little company, and to relieve the necessities of the poor. When in the Passover
chamber Jesus said to him, "That thou doest, do quickly" (John 13:27), the
disciples thought He had bidden him buy what was needed for the feast, or give something
to the poor. In ministering to others, Judas might have developed an unselfish spirit. But
while listening daily to the lessons of Christ and witnessing His unselfish life, Judas
indulged his covetous disposition. The small sums that came into his hands were a
continual temptation. Often when he did a little service for Christ, or devoted time to
religious purposes, he paid himself out of this meager fund. In his own eyes these
pretexts served to excuse his action; but in God's sight he was a thief.
statement that His kingdom was not of this world offended Judas. He had marked out a line
upon which he expected Christ to work. He had planned that John the Baptist should be
delivered from prison. But lo, John was left to be beheaded. And Jesus, instead of
asserting His royal right and avenging the death of John, retired with His disciples into
a country place. Judas wanted more aggressive warfare. He thought that if Jesus would not
prevent the disciples from carrying out their schemes, the work would be more successful.
He marked the increasing enmity of the Jewish leaders, and saw their challenge unheeded
when they demanded from Christ a sign from heaven. His heart was open to unbelief, and the
enemy supplied thoughts of questioning and rebellion. Why did Jesus dwell so much upon
that which was discouraging? Why did He predict trial and persecution for Himself and for
His disciples? The prospect of having a high place in the new kingdom had led Judas to
espouse the cause of Christ. Were his hopes to be disappointed? Judas had not decided that
Jesus was not the Son of God; but he was questioning, and seeking to find some explanation
of His mighty works.
Notwithstanding the Saviour's
own teaching, Judas was continually advancing the idea that Christ would reign as king in
Jerusalem. At the feeding of the five thousand he tried to bring this about. On this
occasion Judas assisted in distributing the food to the hungry multitude. He had an
opportunity to see the benefit which it was in his power to impart to others. He felt the
satisfaction that always comes in service to God. He helped to bring the sick and
suffering from among the multitude to Christ. He saw what relief, what joy and gladness,
come to human hearts through the healing power of the Restorer. He might have comprehended
the methods of Christ. But he was blinded by his own selfish desires. Judas was first to
take advantage of the enthusiasm excited by the miracle of the loaves. It was he who set
on foot the project to take Christ by force and make Him king. His hopes were high. His
disappointment was bitter.
Christ's discourse in the
synagogue concerning the bread of life was the turning point in the history of Judas. He
heard the words, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye
have no life in you." John 6:53. He saw that Christ was offering spiritual rather
than worldly good. He regarded himself as farsighted, and thought he could see that Jesus
would have no honor, and that He could bestow no high position upon His followers. He
determined not to unite himself so closely to Christ but that he could draw away. He would
watch. And he did watch.
From that time he expressed
doubts that confused the disciples. He introduced controversies and misleading sentiments,
repeating the arguments urged by the scribes and Pharisees against the claims of Christ.
All the little and large troubles and crosses, the difficulties and the apparent
hindrances to the advancement of the gospel, Judas interpreted as evidences against its
truthfulness. He would introduce texts of Scripture that had no connection with the truths
Christ was presenting. These texts, separated from their connection, perplexed the
disciples, and increased the discouragement that was constantly pressing upon them. Yet
all this was done by Judas in such a way as to make it appear that he was conscientious.
And while the disciples were searching for evidence to confirm the words of the Great
Teacher, Judas would lead them almost imperceptibly on another track. Thus in a very
religious, and apparently wise, way he was presenting matters in a different light from
that in which Jesus had given them, and attaching to His words a meaning that He had not
conveyed. His suggestions were constantly exciting an ambitious desire for temporal
preferment, and thus turning the disciples from the important things they should have
considered. The dissension as to which of them should be greatest was generally excited by
When Jesus presented to the
rich young ruler the condition of discipleship, Judas was displeased. He thought that a
mistake had been made. If such men as this ruler could be connected with the believers,
they would help sustain Christ's cause. If Judas were only received as a counselor, he
thought, he could suggest many plans for the advantage of the little church. His
principles and methods would differ somewhat from Christ's, but in these things he thought
himself wiser than Christ.
In all that Christ said to
His disciples, there was something with which, in heart, Judas disagreed. Under his
influence the leaven of disaffection was fast doing its work. The disciples did not see
the real agency in all this; but Jesus saw that Satan was communicating his attributes to
Judas, and thus opening up a channel through which to influence the other disciples. This,
a year before the betrayal, Christ declared. "Have not I chosen you twelve," He
said, "and one of you is a devil?" John 6:70.
Yet Judas made no open
opposition, nor seemed to question the Saviour's lessons. He made no outward murmur until
the time of the feast in Simon's house. When Mary anointed the Saviour's feet, Judas
manifested his covetous disposition. At the reproof from Jesus his very spirit seemed
turned to gall. Wounded pride and desire for revenge broke down the barriers, and the
greed so long indulged held him in control. This will be the experience of everyone who
persists in tampering with sin. The elements of depravity that are not resisted and
overcome, respond to Satan's temptation, and the soul is led captive at his will.
But Judas was not yet wholly
hardened. Even after he had twice pledged himself to betray the Saviour, there was
opportunity for repentance. At the Passover supper Jesus proved His divinity by revealing
the traitor's purpose. He tenderly included Judas in the ministry to the disciples. But
the last appeal of love was unheeded. Then the case of Judas was decided, and the feet
that Jesus had washed went forth to the betrayer's work.
Judas reasoned that if Jesus
was to be crucified, the event must come to pass. His own act in betraying the Saviour
would not change the result. If Jesus was not to die, it would only force Him to deliver
Himself. At all events, Judas would gain something by his treachery. He counted that he
had made a sharp bargain in betraying his Lord.
Judas did not, however,
believe that Christ would permit Himself to be arrested. In betraying Him, it was his
purpose to teach Him a lesson. He intended to play a part that would make the Saviour
careful thenceforth to treat him with due respect. But Judas knew not that he was giving
Christ up to death. How often, as the Saviour taught in parables, the scribes and
Pharisees had been carried away with His striking illustrations! How often they had
pronounced judgment against themselves! Often when the truth was brought home to their
hearts, they had been filled with rage, and had taken up stones to cast at Him; but again
and again He had made His escape. Since He had escaped so many snares, thought Judas, He
certainly would not now allow Himself to be taken.
Judas decided to put the
matter to the test. If Jesus really was the Messiah, the people, for whom He had done so
much, would rally about Him, and would proclaim Him king. This would forever settle many
minds that were now in uncertainty. Judas would have the credit of having placed the king
on David's throne. And this act would secure to him the first position, next to Christ, in
the new kingdom.
The false disciple acted his
part in betraying Jesus. In the garden, when he said to the leaders of the mob,
"Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He: hold Him fast" (Matt. 26:48), he
fully believed that Christ would escape out of their hands. Then if they should blame him,
he could say, Did I not tell you to hold Him fast?
Judas beheld the captors of
Christ, acting upon his words, bind Him firmly. In amazement he saw that the Saviour
suffered Himself to be led away. Anxiously he followed Him from the garden to the trial
before the Jewish rulers. At every movement he looked for Him to surprise His enemies, by
appearing before them as the Son of God, and setting at nought all their plots and power.
But as hour after hour went by, and Jesus submitted to all the abuse heaped upon Him, a
terrible fear came to the traitor that he had sold his Master to His death.
As the trial drew to a close,
Judas could endure the torture of his guilty conscience no longer. Suddenly a hoarse voice
rang through the hall, sending a thrill of terror to all hearts: He is innocent; spare
Him, O Caiaphas!
The tall form of Judas was
now seen pressing through the startled throng. His face was pale and haggard, and great
drops of sweat stood on his forehead. Rushing to the throne of judgment, he threw down
before the high priest the pieces of silver that had been the price of his Lord's
betrayal. Eagerly grasping the robe of Caiaphas, he implored him to release Jesus,
declaring that He had done nothing worthy of death. Caiaphas angrily shook him off, but
was confused, and knew not what to say. The perfidy of the priests was revealed. It was
evident that they had bribed the disciple to betray his Master.
"I have sinned,"
again cried Judas, "in that I have betrayed the innocent blood." But the high
priest, regaining his self-possession, answered with scorn, "What is that to us? see
thou to that." Matt. 27:4. The priests had been willing to make Judas their tool; but
they despised his baseness. When he turned to them with confession, they spurned him.
Judas now cast himself at the
feet of Jesus, acknowledging Him to be the Son of God, and entreating Him to deliver
Himself. The Saviour did not reproach His betrayer. He knew that Judas did not repent; his
confession was forced from his guilty soul by an awful sense of condemnation and a looking
for of judgment, but he felt no deep, heartbreaking grief that he had betrayed the
spotless Son of God, and denied the Holy One of Israel. Yet Jesus spoke no word of
condemnation. He looked pityingly upon Judas, and said, For this hour came I into the
A murmur of surprise ran
through the assembly. With amazement they beheld the forbearance of Christ toward His
betrayer. Again there swept over them the conviction that this Man was more than mortal.
But if He was the Son of God, they questioned, why did He not free Himself from His bonds
and triumph over His accusers?
Judas saw that his entreaties
were in vain, and he rushed from the hall exclaiming, It is too late! It is too late! He
felt that he could not live to see Jesus crucified, and in despair went out and hanged
Later that same day, on the
road from Pilate's hall to Calvary, there came an interruption to the shouts and jeers of
the wicked throng who were leading Jesus to the place of crucifixion. As they passed a
retired spot, they saw at the foot of a lifeless tree, the body of Judas. It was a most
revolting sight. His weight had broken the cord by which he had hanged himself to the
tree. In falling, his body had been horribly mangled, and dogs were now devouring it. His
remains were immediately buried out of sight; but there was less mockery among the throng,
and many a pale face revealed the thoughts within. Retribution seemed already visiting
those who were guilty of the blood of Jesus.