Jesus chose Judas because of the plan, yet offered Judas every opportunity not to fulfill it. He gave the lesson of the wedding garment to Judas. He gave the lessons of money and greed to Judas. He gave lessons of pride to Judas. Judas never listened and never applied anything and he kept up his deceit. You probably have never met someone named Judas. And it's obvious why.
The name is toxic. It's unusable because of the staggering evil committed by Judas Iscariot. But keep in mind, as bad as his sin was, you can still take away a lot of important lessons from his life.
John MacArthur drives that point home today on Grace to You as he continues his classic series, The Master's Men. Now, as a way of setting the stage for today's lesson, John, something our listeners might not know about you is that you've had a longtime interest in Judas and the disaster that he became. And in fact, this despised character in human history had a kind of unique part in your preparation for becoming a pastor. So talk about that for a minute.
Yeah, it really is true. When I did my graduate dissertation in seminary, I wrote on a character analysis of Judas Iscariot. And it was interesting that I couldn't find a lot of material. I remember having to go to a Catholic library to find some rather obscure treatments of Judas in order to fill out the research in the paper. But the bigger question is, why would I do that? And the answer to that question is because I couldn't comprehend how a person could be close to Jesus, intimately with Jesus, for three years, and betray him. It was more than I could comprehend. Because Christ is so compelling, so glorious, so magnificent, everything about him so attractive, so full of grace and truth.
How can someone be with him for three years? How profound is human depravity? How deep can sin be? How deadly and persistent is unbelief? So I really wanted to try to see if there was an answer to how a person can be that close to Christ and end up walking into hell. And what prompted the question also was the fact that I had experienced that with some of my friends, one in high school, one in college, and one in seminary, who studied the things of Christ, who professed Christ, and who abandoned Christ vocally and completely and walked in the direction of hell.
And I was always trying to figure out, how can you do that? Christ is too compelling for me to even imagine how that could happen. So we are about to look at Judas, this tragedy of all tragedies. He's the odd one out in the story of the disciples, but is a tremendously significant lesson, because the Bible says that Judas' hell will be far worse than anybody else's hell, because the proportion of punishment in hell is related to the proportion of truth you rejected. Nobody rejected more than Judas rejected. His is the worst of all ends. That's right. And thank you, Jon.
It's amazing that we can learn so much from such a bad example. And so now, friend, to help unlock truths that you may never have considered about the most notorious of the disciples, here's Jon. Matthew chapter 10. We'll complete our series on the Master's men by examining this man, Judas Iscariot.
Let me read from verse 1 through the first part of verse 5. And when He had called unto him His twelve disciples, He gave them power against unclean spirits to cast them out and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these. The first, Simon, who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, James, the son of Zebedee, and John, his brother, Philip, and Bartholomew, Thomas, and Matthew, the tax collector, James, the son of Alphaeus, and Levias, whose surname was Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent forth. Now we have met already the first eleven disciples.
We've set about to learn everything that we could learn about them. But one of them stands out against the background of the others. He is isolated. He is lonely.
He is alone. His name is Judas Iscariot. He is a horrifying colossal misfit.
He is the epitome of disaster. He is the vilest, wickedest man the Bible knows anything about. He is listed last, you'll notice, in verse 4.
And He is always listed last and with a comment about His betrayal because that was His brand and will be for all time. The dark story of Judas is a blight on the page of human history. Although there is much we know, there is much mystery and darkness surrounding Judas that perhaps we'll never know. His name became a byword for betrayal. His name is so despised that it is not used in human society, though its meaning is full of loveliness. There are forty verses in the New Testament in which there is a reference to the betrayal of our Lord and in each of them there is the implication of the incredible sin of this man Judas.
I believe this man can teach us some profound and awakening lessons. So let's examine what the Bible says about him. First of all, his name...his name, Judas, a common name, Lebbeus Thaddeus in verse 3 is also called Judas. It is simply a form of Judah, the land of God's people. Some say the root of it means Jehovah leads and others think the root of it might refer to one who is the object of praise.
But what a paradox either way. If it means Jehovah leads, there never was one who was more obviously led by Satan than was Judas. If it means one worthy of praise, there is never lived one more unworthy of praise than Judas, so he is a very, very enigmatic man even in terms of his name. It says his name is not only Judas, but Iscariot.
What does that mean? Basically it comes from two terms, ish meaning man and charioth meaning town. He was a man of the town of charioth.
That is simply a geographical identification. Why is it that Judas is identified geographically and the other eleven are not? It's important because he is the only non-Galilean. He is the only Jew from the southern section. He is the only Judean Jew. All of the rest came from Galilee.
And this may indicate to us that from the very beginning, Judas was never really one of the boys. Also, the southern Jews felt themselves greatly superior to the rural Jews of the north and would have looked down on them and consequently there may have been a certain amount of pride involved which deepened as time went on. Twenty-three miles south of Jerusalem, seven miles from Hebron, was a little group of tiny villages.
They were built near farms where the people cultivated the soil. As the little villages congregated together and grew, they became one little town and that little town became known as charioth in Joshua chapter 15 and verse 25 that is mentioned. And it was that little village that gave birth to this man.
Seven miles from Hebron, a little child was born that was one day to be the most hated human being who ever lived. From his name we look at his call, secondly, his call. And I hasten to add that the call of Judas is not recorded in the Bible. We meet him the first time right here in this list and we don't know how he got in the group. I mean, we know the Lord called him in but we don't know any of the circumstances. We know he wanted to be involved but we don't know how it was that he attached himself to Jesus. Apparently he was attracted to Jesus.
That's obvious. He followed him. He stayed with him. And he stayed with him longer than a lot of the other false disciples who bailed out much earlier than this. In fact, in John 6 there were many disciples who followed Jesus but when he demanded total commitment out of them, it says, and many of his disciples walked no more with him. But the twelve, it says, remained. So even when Jesus called for all that commitment, even when he said, You must eat my flesh and drink my blood, even when he made total demands on them and many of them left, Judas stuck it out.
He stayed. And so he was definitely attracted to Jesus. I don't think he was particularly attracted by the spiritual, I think he was attracted on a selfish level.
I don't think it was really Jesus alone that drew him, I think it was what Jesus could do for him that drew him. He saw the power of Jesus and he believed that this man would bring the kingdom. And he was not interested in the kingdom for the kingdom's sake or for Christ's sake, he was interested in the kingdom for what he might gain from it if he were on the inner circle. So he was totally motivated by selfishness.
But nonetheless, he followed in a half-hearted way. Now one thing is certain. Jesus knew Judas would betray him and that is why he chose him. Jesus knew the plan, you see. You say, how did he know the plan? Well he knew the plan for one thing because he was omniscient, he knew everything.
In the very beginning in John 6 verse 70 when it says many went away and the twelve remained, Jesus at that early time said, one of you is a...what?...devil. So from the beginning he knew. And he knew because of what the Old Testament said. The Old Testament predicted that one of his own would betray him. For example, in Psalm 41 verse 9 we read this and it has a messianic significance. It says, Psalm 41, 9, Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, who did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me. The psalmist saw in the future the Messiah being betrayed by his own familiar friend. Psalm 55 also carries a messianic perspective in verse 12 and following. Verse 12 says, For it was not an enemy that reproached me, then I could have borne it, neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me, then I would have hidden myself from him. But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide and my familiar friend.
We took sweet counsel together and walked unto the house of God in company. And then drop down into verse 21. The end of verse 20, he's broken a covenant. The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart. His words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords, treachery, hypocrisy and betrayal, again with a messianic perspective.
And then if you look into the prophecy of Zechariah chapter 11 as he speaks of the same event, it even gets more specific. Zechariah 11 and 12 says, And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price, and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said unto me, now listen carefully, cast it unto the potter, a lordly price that I was prized out of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord. Negotiations, someone is sold for thirty pieces of silver. The thirty pieces of silver are thrown to the potter in the house of the Lord. What an intricate prophecy and strange because what is a potter doing in the house of the Lord?
We shall see. Betrayed by his own familiar friend for thirty pieces of silver, the New Testament simply records the fulfillment of what the Old Testament prophesied. So when Jesus chose Judas, he knew he was the betrayer and he knew the prophecies about his betrayal, so he understood the entire plan and he chose him because of that plan. Now look with me at John 17, 12 and let's continue our thinking on this point. John 17, 12, Jesus is praying to the Father and He is praying about the disciples.
He's praying about the Twelve. And He says, While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Thy name. Those that Thou gavest Me I have kept and none of them is lost. Father, I kept them, He says, and none is lost but the son of perdition, or the child of lostness. Luther translated it the lost child, the one whose nature it is to be lost, the one who was always lost, the one who was damned always, who never altered his lostness. It isn't one who lost his salvation, but one whose nature was lost. He lost none of them but the lost one in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled. In other words, Jesus says to the Father, Judas is lost because it is the fulfilling of the Scripture. I say that Jesus therefore chose Him because He knew the Scripture. He chose Him to be the fulfillment of that Scripture.
That was the plan. Now listen, you have here the paradox. You say if it's in the plan, then is Judas responsible?
Yes. You say, well how can God predetermine this, set up the plan, make all the prophecies, pull it off, fit Judas in and then hold Judas responsible. That's exactly what God does. How He can do that I don't understand because the infinite mind of God is beyond my own.
But I do understand very clearly what the Bible says and for your own interest to resolve the problem, you listen to this verse, Luke 22, 21 and 22. It says this, Jesus speaking in the Last Supper, Behold, the hand of Him that betrays Me is with Me on the table. He's here.
He's right here. Then Luke 22, 22 says this, And truly the Son of Man goeth...listen to this...as it was determined. In other words, I am going into betrayal, I am going into arrest, I am going into death as it was determined. The betrayal and the man was determined. But, and here it comes, woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed.
You see? On the one hand it is determined. On the other hand, Judas is responsible. So you see, the overruling power, the overruling providence of God can allow such a man as Judas to wish to follow Christ, to choose to follow Christ and yet be in utter fulfillment of the divine plan and still have his own choice. And that is the power of God. Now outwardly, Judas didn't appear to have defective character.
I'm sure of that. In fact, he must have had qualities and capacities which commended him. Three years he was with the disciples and Jesus said in the upper room in John 13, He said, One of you will betray Me. And all the apostles responded. Do you remember how they responded? Did they say, Is it Judas? No. Every one of them said, Is it I?
Why? They had no more reason to suspect Judas than they had reason to suspect themselves. They knew better about themselves and they assumed better about Judas. He was a fantastic hypocrite. He was so good at it, they elected him treasurer of the group.
That's right. They gave him the money. That's how much they trusted him. You say, Well didn't they know he must have had a rotten sinful background if he was such a rotten, wretched, vile man that he would do this to Christ? He must have had a track record that was horrifying.
Yeah, but it wasn't at the worst any worse than any of the other ones. It's hard to be much worse than Matthew who was an extortioner and a thief and took bribes. It would be hard to be much worse than Simon the Zealot who was an assassin.
So you know, they were all kind of a crummy bunch if you look at it that way. And Judas must have put on an act to end all acts. It's interesting to me that he never has a word to say until he complains about the waste of money in Bethany. The whole biblical record, the whole three years he never opens his mouth.
I'm sure he really guarded his mouth well to keep the ruse up. He had the same potential as any of the others. He could have been a John or a Peter or whatever. I mean, Christ could have transformed him if his heart had been willing. He was the same raw material.
He was no more unqualified than anybody else. But the same sun that melts the wax hardens the clay and while the other men were being melted and molded, he was being hardened. He was probably young, a somewhat devout Jew, a zealous Jew, a patriotic Jew who didn't want the Romans to rule and he saw an opportunity to follow this man. He believed this man was the Messiah and that he would set up a kingdom and the kingdom would be earthly and he would overthrow Rome and he would push the conquerors out and he would reestablish the kingdom of Israel and days of prosperity and glory would come again and if for him it was all earthly and it was all crass and it was all materialistic and it was all something you could hold in your hand and he saw the possibility of getting in on the gravy train.
He was never really drawn by the person of Jesus to believe and to love Jesus, he only saw Jesus as a means to an end, to gain for himself. And, you know, he could put it off a little because at the beginning he didn't join the group for money because they were poor. But he figured if he hung around long enough, after the revolution, he'd get in on it.
He was willing to make the investment of a few years for a dividend that he thought would be tremendous. So Jesus chose him because it was the plan. But he chose Jesus of his own will because he saw the road to personal prosperity.
And so we could summarize by saying this about his call. Jesus chose Judas because of the plan, yet offered Judas every opportunity not to fulfill it. Jesus gave the lesson of the unjust steward, of a man wasting his opportunity to Judas. He gave the lesson of the wedding garment to Judas. He gave the lessons of money and greed to Judas. He gave lessons of pride to Judas. He said a lot of things. One of you is a devil, to warn Judas that Judas never listened and never applied anything. And he kept up his deceit.
Jesus knew exactly what he was. In John 13, at the Last Supper, Jesus said, one of you is going to betray me. They all said, is it I?
Is it I? He said, the one to whom I give the sop, he it is who betrays me. Sop was a piece of bread that you stuck in a bowl, and in the bowl was a sort of a paste-like jam made out of fruit and nuts. And you took the bread and just sort of soaked it in that. And it was common in the Orient to honor a guest at the meal. And the one who was the honored guest would be the one to whom the host gave the sop.
The host would dip it and give it to the honored guest. And he said, the one to whom I give the sop, he it is who betrays me. And he dipped the sop and gave it to Judas. And at that very moment, he was honoring him. He was respecting him. He was showing love to him. He was lifting him up. It was an act, I think, of affection.
It was an act of love. Beside teaching him and teaching him and warning him, he actually honored the man. He was ever reaching to that man, but he never responded. And that brings us to the third point, his progress into betrayal, his progress. John's gospel is the place we have to go to get the progress. And we can kind of see what's going on. Three years are going by and Judas keeps hoping that any minute, Jesus is going to grab the kingdom.
I mean, it's going to come. He sees a miracle and another miracle and another miracle and people are healed and the blind can see and the deaf can hear and the lame can walk and the dumb can speak and people are fed and he's in awe of all these things and he knows the power is there to do it. And he anticipates at any moment it's going to happen and he is so greedy that he just keeps hanging in there and hanging in there and hanging in there with tenacity, waiting for that kingdom to happen.
Now I would hasten to add to you that he is no different than the other twelve. They all believed that the Messiah had come. They all believed the Messiah would bring an earthly kingdom. They all believed the Messiah would overthrow Rome. He would establish the kingdom and they would enter into the glory of the kingdom.
They all believed that they had met the lion of the tribe of Judah. But the Lord began to tell them that before he was the lion of the tribe of Judah, he had to be the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. And he talked about dying. He talked about giving his life.
And he talked about being lifted up. And whenever he talked about that, you can just hear Judah saying, What is this? And I believe that the final thing that just destroyed Judas finally was the triumphal entry. When Jesus rode into the city and it was Hosanna to the son of David and palm branches at his feet and all the praises and everybody acknowledging him as the Messiah and he rides in and Judas has got to be in the back saying, This is it. It's going to happen today.
What a setup! Jesus gets off the donkey and gives a speech. This is his speech. Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone.
I have to die. And I believe that literally devastated, that was the last straw that Judas could handle. It wasn't going to happen. And I think that made it finally clear to him. You see, the other disciples started where he started. But the Lord lifted them to a spiritual plane. Judas never got there. The Lord elevated them to a spiritual kingdom to see things in a divine dimension but Judas never got off the crass, materialistic, earthly level.
He was the epitome of a crass materialist. The other disciples had worldliness, yes, and greed and selfishness but it was overcome by the love of Christ. And they began to love him and in their love for him he lifted them to another level. Well, it never happened in Judas' life. Greed and selfishness and materialism and worldliness conquered love. And the others were lifted and he stayed. The others became uncorrupted and he became more corrupted, more greedy.
He had at the root of his character a terrible, terrible passion and he never was willing to relinquish it. And so like Goethe's Faust sold his soul to Mephistopheles, Judas sold his soul eternally to hell itself. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur.
Thanks for being with us. Today's lesson looked at the tragic sins of Judas Iscariot. It's part of John's current series titled The Master's Men. And friend, maybe you haven't spent a lot of time studying the life of Judas but there is a lot to learn from him. And with that said, you'll appreciate an interview program called When Believers Stop Believing. John sat down with me to discuss the dangers of apostasy and how to recognize false Christians. Download that interview for free at our website.
You can do it today. Our web address, gty.org. The full title, When Believers Stop Believing, Portrait of an Apostate. It will show you what to think and do when a pastor or an elder or a Christian friend suddenly turns against Christ. Again, that interview is free at our website, gty.org.
And you can download it today. And remember, at gty.org you'll find thousands of free Bible study resources. If there is a passage in the New Testament that has always confused you or that you simply want to know more about, John has a sermon on it. You can also check out our blog. You'll find articles on compelling topics like glorifying God in the gray areas of life, or the doctrine of election, or the issue of moral purity, and many others. And if you have benefited from John's current radio series, let a friend know about this daily broadcast and encourage him to tune in to Grace To You on this station. Now for John MacArthur and the staff, I'm Phil Johnson, encouraging you to watch Grace To You television this Sunday and be here tomorrow when John wraps up his look at history's greatest traitor with another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time on Grace To You.
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