It is most amazing to call someone a friend when you know he is betraying you to death. It was not in sarcasm that Jesus uttered the words below, but in sincerity. He was always Judas Iscariot’s friend, even though Judas was not His friend. And so Jesus is, for every human being, the friend of sinners, no matter how much they may oppose Him. Judas, gifted apostle of Jesus of Nazareth, untrustworthy treasurer of His band of followers, and traitor to the Lord, has much to teach us by way of warning that can lead us to more deeply appreciate the One he betrayed. Judas was among the Twelve to whom Jesus gave power to cast out unclean spirits and to heal all manner of sickness and disease (Mt. 10:1), but he was indeed “the son of perdition” (Jn. 17:12). This son of Simon was surnamed Iscariot, or Ish Kerioth, meaning “a man of Kerioth.” Kerioth, a place south of Judah (Josh. 15:25), means “cities.” Thus Judas was of the tribe of Judah, as was the Lord Jesus, but he held the opposite value system, for he loved the things of this world. Judas had an affinity for money and became the treasurer for the little band of disciples. Perhaps he had aspirations for political power which he thought could be met in following Jesus of Nazareth. But when he saw many disciples leave and walk no more with Him (Jn. 6:66), those aspirations apparently began to fade. At that point Jesus referred to him as a devil, or adversary, though He did not mention him by name (Jn. 6:70).
He became a thief afterwards, using the cloak of piety to gain his ends (Jn. 12:6). The love of money eventually led him to betray the Lord Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, a “goodly price” as Zechariah 11:13 declares. Satan entered into him to ensure the premeditated deed would be accomplished. And so he met the Lord with a kiss; Jesus tried to bring him to his senses by asking, “Friend, why art thou come?” (Mt. 26:50). His sorrow came too late and was only the token repentance of the world, which leads to death, not a godly sorrow such as Peter had, which led to a new life (2 Cor. 7:10; Mt. 26:75). Judas thus took his life, never again seeing the light of day. He went “to his own place” in hell (Acts 1:25), like all who persist in treating the Lord’s friendship with indifference or contempt.
The Lord chose Judas to fulfill God’s Word. The sovereign God chooses saved and unsaved alike to accomplish His will. Like Pharaoh in the time of Moses, Judas had a choice, but God knew what he would choose, and so placed him in the position to fulfill all that was written about him, yet continued to warn him. Peter, the one who experienced true godly sorrow for his sin of denial, wrote that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). But God will not make that choice for them.
Now let’s look at three Old Testament prophecies concerning Judas.
“Mine own familiar friend … hath lifted up his heel against me.” Psalm 41:9
“Mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.” Like many Old Testament prophesies, this one had both a near and a far fulfillment – the near in David’s counselor, Ahithophel, and the far in Judas Iscariot. The counsel in Psalm 41 is to consider the “poor Man” of the previous psalm who delighted to do the Father’s will, whom we know to be ultimately the Lord Jesus (Ps. 40:7-8; Heb. 10:7). He also said, “I do always those things which please Him” (Jn. 8:29). Who of us can say that?
To turn to the Lord is to heal the soul, as David wrote in Psalm 41: “I said, LORD, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee” (41:4). God counsels us to allow Him to heal us. If we fail to do so, He counts it as rejection. Jesus said, “He that is not with Me is against Me: and he that does not gather with Me scatters” (Lk. 11:23). Judas, who walked, ate, and was on familiar terms with the Lord was not healed, but rather “heeled” Him and trod under foot the Son of God, as do all who count His blood common or unholy (Heb. 10:29). Thus Judas drew “back unto perdition” (Heb. 10:39).
“We took sweet counsel together, and walked … in company.” Psalm 55:14
The next Old Testament reference to Judas comes in Psalm 55, though this will have another fulfillment in the experience of the saints under the other “son of perdition” (2 Th. 2:3), the beast and antichrist yet to come. We can see from this psalm how it was not an enemy who exposed Jesus to those who desired to kill Him, not one who outwardly hated Him, but a man who accompanied Him in His years of public ministry. Was it not during those years they were in fellowship, walking together in the temple, that Judas betrayed Jesus?
How much more treacherous was his betrayal in that Judas led the soldiers to Jesus by feigning a kiss of kindness! Yet Jesus knew from the beginning who should betray Him; thus He said to His disciples, “Ye are not all clean” (Jn. 13:11). If Judas did not have a choice, why would Jesus give so many warnings to His “disciple,” as if he might escape what was written of him? We all have the choice to choose Him and enter the place He has prepared, or reject Him and go to our own place (Acts 1:25).
“If ye think good, give me my price … 30 pieces of silver.” Zechariah 11:12-13
Jesus was betrayed for thirty pieces of silver, as prophesied by Zechariah 11:13. Undoubtedly Judas, with his love of money, wanted more, but the chief priests settled the bargain for the price of a slave (Ex. 21:32; Mt. 26:15). It seems that Judas expected Jesus to somehow escape condemnation, as He had so many times before when His hour had not yet come. When Judas saw that Jesus was really going to be put to death, he threw his ill-gotten money back into the temple, for those who had given it to him refused to take it back.
The chief priests wondered what to do with the “contaminated” money, and finally decided to purchase the worn-out potter’s field, for it was not worth much to anyone else. This, too, was prophesied by Zechariah (11:13). So they bought the field “to bury strangers in” (Mt. 27:7). These strangers were possibly Gentile proselytes to whom a certain regard was due. In an act of cheap charity and pious provision on the part of the Sanhedrin, which slew the Lord of glory, Phariseeism remained true to its hypocritical self.
The “price of blood” of the only-begotten Son of God was equal to the price of the “field of blood” for “strangers” (Mt. 27:6,8). And ironically, in that very place, in a final act of despair, Judas committed suicide (Acts 1:18-19). Yet even this is a picture which brings glory to God, as we note that the Lord Jesus paid for the field of this world with His own blood, to redeem us Gentiles, who were strangers to the covenants and promises of God (Eph. 2:12). “The poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the LORD” (Zech. 11:11).
While Judas desired to be rich, those who wait on the Lord, rather than becoming rich in this world, see the fulfillment of the word of the living God. In Judas, as in the Lord’s true followers, is the following verse exemplified: “There is he that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is he that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches” (Prov. 13:7).
By Tom Steere
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org