Something has always bothered me about Judas Iscariot and I don’t just mean because he betrayed my Lord. I am perplexed about Jesus’ decision to appoint Judas as one of the twelve apostles. Now, Jesus is perfect and doesn’t make mistakes so it was no mistake that he picked Judas to be one of the twelve apostles. In fact, Jesus was up all night praying the night before he made the decision to appoint the twelve apostles. (Luke 6:12). When the twelve apostles are named this is how Judas is described: “Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed [Jesus])” (Luke 6:16, emphasis mine). Was Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Judas incidental to Jesus’ death or essential? I believe it was essential, and this is why Jesus appointed Judas Iscariot as one of the twelve apostles, for the following reasons
So that the Scriptures could be Fulfilled
Judas’ betrayal of Jesus is alluded to when Jesus is praying to the Father right before Judas arrives to betray him (John 17).
“My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. All who are mine belong to you and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory….I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.”
(John 17:9-10, 12)
I believe Jesus is specifically referring to Judas in this prayer. My New Living Translation Study Bible concurs and posits that the Scripture being referred to is Psalm 41:9 (Life Application Study Bible p. 1790), which is a psalm of David. The quoted verse is “Even my best friend, the one I trusted completely, the one who shared my food, has turned against me.” (Psalm 41:9). I am not sure that this is necessarily the referenced scripture because I don’t think Jesus ever saw Judas as his best friend, knowing he would be betrayed by him, but there are references in a variety of Davidic psalms to people close to David turning against him. Jesus, as the son of David and his heir, could claim these psalms as his own and so one could make the case that these are the Scriptures Jesus is referring to. Whatever the actual scriptures are, I’m pretty sure that Judas’ betrayal of Jesus occurred at least in part specifically so that the Scriptures would be fulfilled and to serve as a further proof that Jesus was the Messiah.
Judas’ Betrayal Reinforces the Overarching Theme of Man’s Disloyalty to God
Mankind has a checkered history in terms of loyalty to God. We love our idols and have a difficult time remaining loyal to God. We see proof of this when the Israelites grew impatient with how long Moses was taking to return from Mount Sinai and so decided to make a golden calf to worship (Exodus 32). Rampant idolatry also occurs throughout the second book of Kings when various Israeli kings allow idolatry to proliferate under their watch. Fast forwarding to Jesus’ incarnation we see that the Pharisees and Sadducees witness the Lord in the flesh but care more about their position and privilege than acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord. Finally, Judas Iscariot’s betrayal demonstrates that even having a close, intimate relationship with God is not enough to prevent man from being disloyal.
For some, God’s saving power, his love and even his very physical presence are not enough to prevent them from betraying him. There is a hardness in some people that cannot be overcome by anything God can do (outside of violating free will) and so they are destined to be traitors to their creator. This brings me to another point.
Judas’ Betrayal was a Warning to the Church
Judas’ betrayal serves as instruction to the body of Christ as a whole. If one of Jesus’ own chosen twelve apostles could betray him to death then we should be on guard for false brothers and false shepherds in our churches in any position or with any title; as we see with Judas Iscariot one’s position and seeming closeness to Christ is no guarantee of true loyalty. John actually echoes Jesus’ words in his first epistle: “They went out from us but they did not belong to us” (1 John 2:19). There has been, are and will be false shepherds and false brothers in the church until the day of our Lord’s return. We need to be watchful. Even Peter, the Rock upon which Christ built his church, denied the Lord three times (Luke 22:54-62). Therefore, we should take the example of Judas’ betrayal and be on guard against false brothers and shepherds in our churches. This does not mean we should be paranoid, but understand as a fact that there will be false Christians. That being said, we should take this one step further and look at ourselves.
Judas’ Betrayal was a Warning to Each Christian Individually
What parts of us are still disloyal to Jesus Christ? Are there parts of our lives in which we have sold out Jesus Christ? As Paul admonishes we must examine ourselves to make sure we are in the faith lest we should fall as Judas did (2 Corinthians 13:5). If we should ever ultimately betray Christ and turn away from the faith we cannot necessarily expect to come back as repentance was not granted to Judas (Matthew 27:3-5).
Now that I have had a chance to think about the problem of Judas I have come to the realization that his betrayal of our Lord is instrumental to our understanding of man’s relationship with God as a whole. Judas’ betrayal speaks a truth about mankind that is uncomfortable to admit. If I have looked at Judas and questioned how he could possibly do such a thing then I have not looked at myself closely enough to find the answer.
Republished with permission The Narrow Path