Judas Iscariot is a tragic figure in the Gospels. He was responsible for betraying our Lord Jesus. John wrote this of Judas many years after the events unfolded in the garden of Gethsemane: “he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.”
Because Judas betrayed Jesus and John says he was a thief, I think we tend to write Judas off, but Judas spent years in the company of Jesus. Judas knew Him intimately and was part of the very inner circle of followers of Jesus.
Jesus certainly knew Judas as well. He knew well that Judas would be the one who would betray Him. Jesus “called it” at the Last Supper.
Why did Jesus allow Judas so close to him all that time, knowing what Judas would do? John’s comment about Judas many years later, describing Judas as a “thief” who helped himself to the funds that Judas oversaw for the group of disciples, suggests that John knew the character of Judas as well. What are the implications of that?
The betrayal of Jesus, of course, was part of God’s plan. It had it happen. Jesus came to offer himself as a sacrifice for the sins of men, but Jesus added, “But woe to that man who betrays him!”
Judas stands as a dire warning for us. What sort of man betrays Jesus?
The little we know of Judas suggests that he was focused on the money. He kept the funds for the group, and he helped himself to it. He betrayed Jesus for a bag of coins. John even called him a thief.
But, we can’t discount the fact that Judas was a follower of Jesus. How evil could he have been? Judas left whatever life he led before Jesus came along, and he walked with Jesus throughout the time that Jesus was engaged in public ministry. This leads me to believe that Judas probably was “not a bad guy” as we might suppose.
Judas was focused on the wrong priorities. Judas was remorseful, but it came too late. He threw the money back at the temple and took his own life when he realized the significance of what he had done.
These things suggest to me also that we dare not view Judas as being all that different from us. No doubt there are many people like Judas in our churches. We might even be like Judas, part of the fellowship of believers, sitting in pews on Sunday mornings, appearing for all purposes like good Christians.
We are called to die to ourselves. We are called to give ourselves to God and His purposes and to the community of believers. This is where Judas failed. Though he walked with Jesus, he wasn’t “all in”. He was looking out for himself, though, for all practical purposes, it appeared that he was a true follower of Jesus.
Judas reminds me of the parable of the wheat and the tares.
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
There are enemies of God in our churches. It may be hard to pick them out. They may look and act for all practical purposes just like everyone else. They might even convince themselves that they belong. Lest we miss the point here: You might be such a person. I might be such a person.
The temptation is great for us to hold back and to focus on our own priorities, even as we fool others, and maybe even ourselves, that we are members of the family of God. Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” These stories are a solemn warning to us.
It’s no wonder David cried out, as I do now in writing this piece:
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
 John 12:12:6
 Luke 22:21, 47-48 (“But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table…. [A] crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?)”
 John 6:64 (“Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him.”); John 13:11 (“He knew the one who was betraying Him”)
 Luke 22:21-22 (“But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed.”)
 Luke 22:23
 Matthew 26 (“Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver.”)
 Matthew 27:3-5 (“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. ‘I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.’…. So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.”)
 Matthew 13:24-20
 Jeremiah 17:9
 Jeremiah 17:10
 Mark 10:25
 Psalm 119:23-24. Maybe this is way Paul urges us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:11)