Pastor Chuck DeVane
Special to The Sentinel-Record
After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, "Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus' side, so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, "Lord, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it." So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly." Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, "Buy what we need for the feast," or that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
-- John 13:21-30, ESV
All four Gospels tell of the treachery of the top traitor of all time, Judas Iscariot. But is Judas responsible for the betrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ, or did the devil make him do it?
Such a cataclysmic crime is not carried out in one cut. This scene was a long time in the making. Judas' betrayal betrayed Judas' character, a character formed by a vast array of free and willing choices Judas made during his lifetime.
His real name was Judah of Kerioth. He was a Zealot, which means he chose to mix militant politics into his religion, a cantankerous cocktail that fails to purify politics and poisons religion. Those who drink this Kool-Aid tend to denigrate and destroy anyone who disagrees with them. When getting your way is more important than doing things God's way, you will betray the Lord, too.
When trusted by Jesus and the other disciples with the treasury, Judas chose to be a thief (ref. John 12:6). His greed for money did not begin with the chief priests' offer of 30 pieces of silver. Selfish gain at the expense of others' generosity was part of his character all along. You really cannot serve both God and money. And when you put money or material things ahead of Christ and the kingdom of God, you betray the Lord.
Count the people in the upper room that night. At first glance, there are 13, the Lord plus 12. But then a 14th person is identified, "Satan," a name found sparingly in the Old Testament that flows freely in the New Testament. He is also referred to as "the devil." Who is Satan, what is he doing in the room, and what did he do to Judas?
Satan is not merely an idea or a symbol. He is an angelic being created by God, who set himself up as the anti-God. He can only do what God gives him permission to do, and he seems to acts as God's garbage man, there to take a man away when God gives up on him. Yes, God gives up (ref. Romans 1:24-28).
When Judas' sin was ripe, Satan harvested him, taking him farther than he wanted to go, keeping him longer than he wanted to stay, and costing him more that he ever thought he would pay. Judas paid with his life and, more importantly, his soul for the betrayal of Jesus Christ.
But, the devil did not make Judas Iscariot do it, because Satan is not sovereign. Judas made free and willing choices that belied his unbelief, hypocrisy, greed and pride. And when Judas' sin got so sickening that God gave up on him, God allowed Satan to take him away, into "the night," into a Godless eternity.
The devil cannot make you do anything you do not choose to do yourself. God, on the other hand, can make you do things you would never choose to do yourself, like repent and believe, and He does it through the means of grace of the preaching of the word of God.
Will you prove to be a follower of Jesus Christ, or will you betray Him? "What you are going to do, do quickly."
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]