Betrayer! Thoughts on Judas Iscariot and his role in assuring God’s will was done.


One of Frank Sinatra’s biggest hits was “My Way”.

The lyrics were written specifically for him by his friend Paul Anka.

Anka wrote the lyrics after Sinatra told him he was getting out of show business because he had no control over his career.

Sinatra wanted control.

Sinatra recorded the song in one take and it became his signature piece.

You know what the song is about.

And now the end is here
And so I face that final curtain
My friend I’ll make it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more
than this, I did it my way!

At the end of life’s journey, the narrator says with great pride that he did everything “his way”.

That’s what the “Chairman of the Board” wanted.

This is the anthem of a control freak.

Someone who thinks he or she knows best about how things ought to be and does whatever can be done to make it so.

They know the outcome they want and take control of the process to assure that outcome.

It can be arrogant and selfish.

And the leader of the Rat Pack learned that.

This from Wikipedia:

Although this work became Frank Sinatra’s signature song his daughter Tina says the singer came to hate the song. “He didn’t like it. That song stuck and he couldn’t get it off his shoe. He always thought that song was self-serving and self-indulgent.”

What’s interesting is that Sinatra initially wanted control, but with that song, he lost control.

Even when he no longer wanted to sing it, when he hated what it meant, he had to keep singing it.

It was stuck to him and he could not scrape it off.

Maybe that’s what Judas Iscariot was all about.

John 13: 2-10; 18-30

2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ 7Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ 8Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ 9Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ 10Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’ 18I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But it is to fulfil the scripture, “The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.” 19I tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am he. 20Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.’

21 After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ 22The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. 23One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; 24Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ 26Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. 27After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’ 28Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival’; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

So, this week we talk about Judas Iscariot.

One of the twelve.

Picked by Jesus.

And the one who betrayed him.

With a kiss.

But what do we really know about him?

Not a lot.

He is listed in every Gospel as one of the twelve, but always last, stuck with that terrible phrase, “the one who betrayed him”.

Can’t get it off his sandal.

But I wonder what the disciples would have said about Judas before he turned Jesus in?

We only know what was written about him after his betrayal.

In the Gospel of John, written years later, Jesus says this:

… ‘Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.’ He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him.

What else?

We are told Judas was the keeper of the purse.

He was the apostolic treasurer.

We are also told that he was troubled when money was spent on extravagance rather than the care of the poor.

Yet in retrospect, his motives even then were questioned.

He did not care for the poor, John says, but was a thief and wanted the money for himself.

Judas reputation as a bad guy can’t be scraped off of his shoe.

Maybe he deserved it.

But remember, Judas was one of the twelve!

While there is no call story for Judas in the Gospels and we see nothing about Judas’ participation in the ministry and miracles.

Yet, it is clear that as “one of the twelve” he was called by Jesus and did participate in all the missions and ministries.

What we do know is that Judas ultimately turned Jesus over to the religious authorities.

All four Gospels say that Judas went to these authorities to arrange for Jesus’ arrest.

In Matthew, Judas approaches the chief priests and asks what they will give him in return for arranging Jesus’ arrest.

In Mark, Judas merely offers to turn Jesus in to the chief priests who then say they will give Judas money.

In Luke, Judas is possessed by the devil and then kind of negotiates the terms and price of the betrayal with the Temple authorities.

John describes Judas’ betrayal as having been instigated by the devil without any prior arrangement with the chief priests and no talk of money.

In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Judas meets with the religious authorities after Jesus arrives in Jerusalem.

John is silent on Judas contact with the religions authorities.

Only in Matthew does Judas actually receive money – the thirty pieces of silver.

All four Gospels have Judas at the Last Supper.

It is from there that Judas goes to get the authorities.

Judas’ departure is only described in John.

Our text for today.

Note that Judas’ departure is not recognized as significant by any disciple.

It is assumed he is going to the store, so to speak.

This is despite Jesus’ comment that one of the disciples is going to betray him and that the one who eats the bread after him is the one who will do it.

Judas is clearly that guy as we see in the text, but no one seems to notice.

The actual arrest of Jesus is for the most part the same in each Gospel.

Jesus, after praying in Gethsemane, gathers with the disciples.

Judas shows up with a bunch of soldiers and representatives of the chief priests.

Matthew, Mark and Luke have Judas kiss Jesus to identify him., while in John, Jesus identifies himself.

As an aside, you might ask why Judas needed to do this in the first place.

Because finding Jesus without GPS, surveillance cameras, or a social media picture or video of him, would have been impossible without someone who had traveled with Jesus for three years and knew exactly where Jesus would be that night.

Judas takes the soldiers to Jesus, pecks him on the cheek, turns and says, “Here he is boys!”

Now we need to think about what Judas thought was going to happen.

Jesus was betrayed to the religious authorities, not the Romans.

Judas seems to have been setting up a confrontation between Jesus and those Temple folks.

There is only one reason to believe that Judas expected Jesus to be killed.

Jesus had predicted it.

But did Judas think he was precipitating that?

Scripture is silent.

According to Matthew, when Jesus is ultimately condemned by the Sanhedrin and sent to Pilate for execution , Judas is full of remorse and returns the money he got from the chief priests.

He apparently wants to cleanse himself of his betrayal.

The chief priests basically tell him, “Sorry, too late for that.”

 Judas then hangs himself.

Judas’ repentance and suicide are in no other Gospel.

The only other reference to Judas’ death is in Acts.

We are told in Acts that Judas bought a field with “the wages of iniquity”, the source of which we are not told, and then fell into the field and literally burst open.

As an aside, you might ask if Judas was eternally damned.

Scripture is silent.

But Jesus promised the twelve, one of which was Judas, that they would sit on thrones in God’s kingdom.

Is that where Judas is?

Scripture is silent.

That’s it for Judas in the New Testament.

Lots of questions.

According to John Paul Meier, American biblical scholar and Roman Catholic priest, there are only two things we can be certain of about Judas from scripture.

He was one of the twelve.

And arranged for Jesus to be handed over to the authorities.

But did Judas “betray” Jesus?

Believe it or not, that is debated.

The Greek word for “betrayal” is also translated as “handed over”.

While the result is the same, the motive is different.

“Betrayal” includes a malicious intent.

The goal is clearly to harm.

“Handing over” is an act transferring possession from one to another.

The motive of “handing over” seems almost like it is required.

This distinction is part of the debate on the question of why Judas would do such a thing to Jesus.

Remember, before Judas cuts his deal, Jesus says that twelve will join him in the Kingdom of Heaven where they will each have a throne and judge the twelve tribes of Israel.

Judas was one of them.

He was the real deal.

What changed?

Why did Judas go from disciple to traitor?

Maybe Judas was never a real believer.

Maybe money.

Maybe the devil.

Depends on what you read.

But when we look at the passage today, we might be given some clues.

For instance, John says the devil was behind the betrayal.

What might the devilish influence on Judas look like?

Maybe a desire for control.

Control over Jesus.

Control over the outcome.

But Jesus knew that Judas was influenced by the devil from way back in chapter 6.

Jesus knew demonic possession when he saw it, right?

God had put all things into Jesus’ hands.

Well, Jesus had exorcised demons before, right?

Why didn’t Jesus exorcise this one?

Why did Jesus let Judas be used by the devil for the devilish work?

Because Jesus needed someone to do it?

Maybe, but why?

Jesus could have turned himself in, right?

Well maybe Jesus needed someone to get him from the middle of the disciples so that they could not stop him from his journey to the cross.

So, Judas, a control guy to begin with, inspired by the devil, was the best candidate to do just that.

Judas and the devil want control?

Jesus gives it to them.

And then, Jesus does something really interesting.

He puts the “communion bread” into the “communion cup” and hands it to Judas.

It was then that Judas devil inspired desire for control is unleashed.

Jesus says to Judas, “Do quickly what you are going to do.”

It’s almost like Jesus is giving Judas a blessing.

Maybe this is why Judas was called.

Because he would do this.

That’s sort of my take on this.

One similar theory is a bit less devilish.

Judas wanted Jesus to announce to the world who he was and take the throne of Israel.

But Jesus seemed disinterested in that.

Rather, Jesus just wanted to teach and preach about loving God and loving neighbor.

Judas, knowing the power Jesus possessed, set Jesus up and put Jesus in a situation that would force Jesus to take charge and be the Messiah Judas wanted.

Judas tried to be in control.

Whichever of Judas’ possible motives you want to pick, what Judas tried to do was take control.

Like Frank Sinatra, Judas wanted it to be done “My way”.

But it did not happen the Judas way.

It happened the Jesus way.

So, what do we make of all this?

Is there a lesson for us?

What does it all mean?

It might mean that we cannot control God or God’s purposes for our lives and our world.

We might want it our way.

But we will get Jesus’ way.

Which is incredibly frustrating, right?

We want to be in charge.

In control.

But we aren’t.

Unless … our goals are God’s goals.

Only then will we get what we want.

That’s why Jesus tells us to pray that God’s will be done, not ours.

And then we should pray that we be given a role in accomplishing God’s will.

Maybe that is what Judas was all about.

He was given a role in accomplishing God’s plan.

I kind of hope that is what was going on with him.

I kind of hope that is what is going on with all of us.

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