Friday, October 29, 2010

Judas Iscariot of the last days

        Judas betrayed Jesus when he offered to hand him over to the chief priests (Matthew 26:15a), when he covenanted to hand him over (Matthew 26:15b), and subsequently, when he sought opportunity to hand him over (Matthew 26:16).

        He did not betray Jesus when he handed him over (Matthew 26:47-50).

        Again, Judas betrayed Jesus, but handing him over to the chief priests was not the betrayal -  it was not the offense of which Jesus spoke, "He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me" (John 13:18 from Psalms 41:9).

        The devil put into the heart of Judas to betray Jesus (John 13:2). His intent was malicious. His acts of betrayal were performed with a spirit of ill will.

        If Judas had handed Jesus over to the chief priests in that same spirit, then that act too would have been a betrayal.

        But he didn't.

        Jesus allowed the betrayal to progress far enough that the scriptures were fulfilled (John 13:18), but then he intervened. 

        The notion of an heel of offense (Psalms 41:9) suggested his approach for the intervention - the footwashing (John 13).

        The enactment of the footwashing allowed Jesus to tell Judas his fault privately, though they were together with the other apostles (John 13:10,11).

        It also allowed him to convey symbolically his message of forgiveness for the trespass against him.

        In this manner, Jesus gained his brother in accordance with his saying (Matthew 18:15).

        Again, the footwashing was about cleaning an unclean foot.

        The foot was unclean because the heel had been lifted up against Jesus.

        The effect of the footwashing was to make the foot clean. 

        Interpreting the symbolism, the offense was forgiven.

        Additionally, the devil that had put into the heart of Judas to betray Jesus was cast out. Now, Judas no longer desired to betray Jesus. The spirit of ill will was gone.

        When Jesus announced that one of the twelve should deliver him up (Matthew 26:21), it was not a foregone conclusion for Judas, as it was for Jesus, that he would be the one chosen for the assignment, and this is true despite the outstanding covenant for him to deliver him up.

        When Judas asked, "Master, is it I?" (Matthew 26:25), the question was sincere. If Jesus had chosen Thomas or Philip or Andrew or even Peter, Judas would have experienced a great relief from the burden of the covenant to which he was bound. It would have been clear that any of those men would have been acting under the direction of Jesus - none of those men had betrayed Jesus as Judas had.

        His hope for such relief was crushed when Jesus said, "Thou hast said." Jesus referred to the covenant that Judas had made with the chief priests to hand him over. 

        In making the reference in this context, Jesus sent Judas implicitly to perform his covenantal promise.

        Jesus was in the process of laying down his life with power. No man was taking his life from him (John 10:18). He sent Judas to the chief priests (to hand him over) as part of his exercise of that power (John 13:16,17).

Note: When Jesus announced that one of them shall betray him (Matthew 26:21), that is, "give him up," the disciples understood him to be assigning an undesirable task. Their misunderstanding was about to whom the task was being assigned. When each of them began to say, "Lord, is it I?" (Matthew 26:22), each was not questioning his loyalty. Each was just trying to find out if the assignment was being given to him.

        The intent of Jesus was to be lifted up for all men to see, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness (John 3:14). 

        Jesus believed that his Father wanted him to lay down his life in this manner that he might take it again (John 10:17). 

        The work that he was doing was directed toward that end. He believed it to be the cup that his Father desired him to drink (Matthew 26:39). He believed it would topple the kingdom of  Satan.

        Satan, who opposed the handing over of Jesus to the chief priests (Matthew 16:21-23), entered into Judas after Jesus identified him as the one to hand him over (John 13:27). We have the words of Satan, "Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee" (Matthew 16:22).

        Now, instead of receiving relief from the burden of the covenant to hand Jesus over to the chief priests, Judas felt the magnitude of that burden increase multifold as Satan added all within his power to that burden.

Note: The kingdom of Satan was divided against itself. The devil put into the heart of Judas to betray Jesus, but Satan opposed the delivering up of Jesus to the chief priests. This division, according to Jesus, presaged the fall of the kingdom of Satan (Mark 3:24).

        Judas overcame Satan this time because he had just received Jesus as his Lord. In receiving Jesus, he received God, who worked within him to overcome Satan (John 13:20).

        Judas recalled the response of Jesus to that earlier manifestation of Satan, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24).

        Now, he realized that the covenant to which he was bound had become his cross. He put his shoulder into it as he got up from the table, and he carried it ... as he went out into the night.

        By his obedience in accepting this assignment, he glorified Jesus (John 13:30,31)

        The saying that Judas hanged himself is a figurative expression (Matthew 27:5). It follows from the saying of Jesus, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me (Matthew 16:24). The purpose for one to take up his cross is to hang himself, to lay down his life of sin (lose his life for Jesus' sake) in order to find his life (Matthew 16:25).
        The phrase "[Judas] went and hanged himself" means that he lay down his life of sin and followed Jesus.

        Judas went and hanged himself just after he confessed his sin (and Jesus) before men, saying, "I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood" (Matthew 27:4). Jesus spoke of such an one when he said, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven"  (Matthew 10:32).

        Most men know that Judas was lost (John 17:12). If they knew Jesus, they would not be surprised to learn that he was saved (Matthew 18:11)

        Consider these three parables of Jesus which indicate the value he placed upon that which was lost:

        Luke 15:1-32  Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.  (2)  And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.  (3)  And he spake this parable unto them, saying,

        (4)  What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?  (5)  And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  (6)  And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.  (7)  I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

        (8)  Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?  (9)  And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.  (10)  Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

        (11)  And he said, A certain man had two sons:  (12)  And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.  (13)  And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.  (14)  And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.  (15)  And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.  (16)  And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.  (17)  And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  (18)  I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,  (19)  And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.  (20)  And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.  (21)  And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.  (22)  But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:  (23)  And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:  (24)  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.  (25)  Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.  (26)  And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.  (27)  And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.  (28)  And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.  (29)  And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:  (30)  But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.  (31)  And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.  (32)  It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

        And consider his regard for leftover food which, apparently, he could produce at will:

        John 6:12  When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.

        A man says, "Show me a verse of scripture that even suggests that Judas was saved." If such a man knew Jesus, then he would know that it is the verse that says that Judas was lost.

        No direct affirmation of the positive role of Judas in God's work of salvation was given in the scriptures. On the contrary, his role was deliberately concealed in a manner consistent with the glory of God (Proverbs 25:2). His reputation has been safe with the children of God, however, because they have refrained from judging him (Matthew 7:1). The children of God need have no fear of judgment or condemnation (Luke 6:37). Likewise, the disciples of Jesus need have no fear of condemnation. They have not judged according to appearance (John 7:24).

        As for those who condemned Judas, Jesus knew that they would . This is the reason he said, "And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day" (John 6:39).

        When Simon Peter looked and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, he asked, "Lord, and what shall this man do?" (John 21:21)  Jesus said to him, "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? ... " (John 21:22)

        To answer the question, it is an enjoinment upon Peter, and hence, upon the others, to conceal the work of that disciple whom Jesus loved, till Jesus himself reveals it when he comes. Peter had the utmost interest in asking the question - the man was his son, Judas.

        It was perhaps the first time that Judas had been referred to as a man by his father. During the ministry of Jesus,  his age was between ten and thirteen years. He was young enough that Andrew could say, "There is a lad here ... " (John 6:9), but old enough that Peter could now say, " ...this man ... ."

        From the beginning, he was a tag-along. He did not have the mature interests of his father or his uncle, but he was happy to be included in their activities. He was given the bag to instill a sense of inclusion. His thefts were puerilities.

        It is wrong to assume that power was distributed equally to the apostles. The power was distributed so that a pair of them could do the works. Judas accompanied his father, Simon.

        Judas had been raised to respect the authorities. He did not have the critical insight of others, especially of Jesus. He was embarrassed and offended by the attacks of Jesus upon those authorities. He was offended when Jesus rebuked him, "Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always." Like the other apostles, he did not understand the primary work in which Jesus was engaged.

        It is wrong to conclude from the evangelist's words, "This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein," ... it is wrong to conclude that Judas did not care for the poor. To do so is wickedness. The reference of the statement is to the motivation of his objection - the motivation of his objection was not that he cared for the poor. His regard for the poor is not addressed.

        In fact, all condemnation of Judas is wickedness which follows upon rejection of the words of Jesus, "For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost." (Matthew 18:11)  Save him he did.

        Jesus did not come to judge Judas, but to save him. Others, rejecting the sayings of Jesus not to judge, or to judge not according to appearance, have judged him. The world has followed their judgment. This development is no surprise for Jesus. He knew what was in man; therefore, he said, "I will raise him up at the last day."

        Jesus preached the good news that the kingdom of God is at hand. He did not mean that it was soon to come, but that it is within grasp. The kingdom of God has always been and will always be. Today, as Jesus said then, the kingdom of God is at hand.

        Today, we are living in the last days, and the last day is at hand. The work of that disciple whom Jesus loved, the man of sin, the son of perdition, is being revealed. His work, in service to Jesus, was to hand Jesus over to the chief priests.

        I offer these words only in my own name.

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