Monday, September 22, 2014

The Disciple with the Satanic Heart (John 13:2-5, etc.)


(The passages in view here are John 13:2-5; 10-11; 18-19; 21-33; as well as material drawn from other passages.) 

Parents often name their children after famous people. Over the years, I’ve met a number of men named Mickey, because their father was a fan of the New York Yankees and wanted to name their sons after Mickey Mantle. There was a member in my first church whose name was Spurgeon. His father had named him after the great British preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon. But of all the people I’ve met, I’ve never met anyone named Judas. I’m sure there are some out there still today, but I think the name has fallen out of favor by and large, and I’m quite sure I know why. While many parents choose a name that has a connection to someone famous, very few would choose a name that is associated with someone infamous.

There is a difference between being famous and being infamous. My favorite discussion about the distinction between these two words comes from the movie The Three Amigos. As the Amigos are talking about the infamous El Guapo, one says, “What’s that mean, in-famous?” And another says, “In-famous is when you are more than famous. This man El Guapo is not just famous, he’s in-famous.” But infamous doesn’t mean “more than famous.” To be infamous is to be widely known for all the wrong reasons. It is to be notorious for evil. Hence, President Roosevelt said that December 7, 1941, the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked, would be “a date which will live in infamy.” Indeed, there are infamous dates and infamous people, who will never be forgotten. And Judas Iscariot is a man whose name lives in infamy.

Prior to the notorious legacy of Judas Iscariot, the name “Judas” was quite common, especially among Jewish people. It was a form of the Hebrew name Judah – one of the 12 sons of Israel who was a patriarch of the people. It was also the name of one of the great heroes of Jewish military history – Judas Maccabbaeus, who led the successful revolt against the Seleucid Empire between the times of the Old and New Testaments. Small wonder then that it was one of the most popular names for boys in the First Century. There are seven of them found in the New Testament. One was an ancestor of Jesus, one was a brother of Jesus.[1] Three different men named Judas are found in the Book of Acts.[2] In fact, amid Jesus band of twelve disciples, there were two different ones named Judas. One was rather obscure, not much is known about him other than that he had a kinsman named James.[3] John is careful to refer to him as Judas (not Iscariot), while Matthew and Mark prefer to call him by another name altogether, Thaddaeus, so as to not confuse him with the infamous Judas Iscariot.[4]

What do we know about Judas Iscariot? We know a few biographical details. We know that his father’s name was Simon, as indicated in the verses we have read in John 13. We know that, along with his father, he was known as Iscariot. We must not think of this as the “last name” of Judas or Simon. Rather, it is a locator. It means, “a man from Kerioth.” Almost certainly, this is a reference to Kerioth-hezron, mentioned in Joshua 15:25. This being so, Judas was the only one of the twelve disciples who was not from Galilee. He was from Judea. If he was like most of his fellow Judeans, we can surmise that he might have been a man of great patriotism and nationalistic zeal, longing anxiously for the day when the land would be free from Roman oppression. But none of these details are what makes Judas Iscariot infamous.

He is most well-known for his act of betrayal against the Lord Jesus. In the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), we are introduced to Judas first in the listing of the twelve disciples chosen by Jesus. In all three of their lists, Judas comes last. Matthew and Mark say, after barely getting his name off the end of their pen for the first time, that he is the one who betrayed Jesus. Luke says similarly after first mention of his name that he is the one who became a traitor.[5] In fact, every single mention of his name in any of the four Gospels and Acts occurs either in the context of his betrayal of Jesus, or else there is mention of his betrayal immediately following the occurrence of his name. Judas is infamous. It is impossible to think of the death of Jesus without thinking of Judas, and it is impossible to think of Judas without thinking of his betrayal. John Piper says, “The most spectacular sin that has ever been committed in the history of the world is the brutal murder of Jesus Christ, the morally perfect, infinitely worthy, divine Son of God. And probably the most despicable act in the process of this murder was the betrayal of Jesus by one of his closest friends, Judas Iscariot.”[6] And if you don’t take his word for it, you can take the word of Jesus, who said to Pilate just before he issued the order for Jesus to be crucified, “he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin” (Jn 19:11).

Well, how did this come to be? How did one who had been so close to Jesus come to commit this despicable act, this most spectacular sin? That’s what we want to examine today. And as we do, we want to study the Bible, but we also must study our own hearts. Judas is the disciple with the satanic heart. My reason for calling him that should be evident from the text we have read. Alarmingly, church history is replete with examples that prove that he was not the last disciple whose heart had been taken captive by Satan. Judas, therefore, stands as a warning to us all. As we dig into the soil of the Scriptures pertaining to Judas, we make several shocking discoveries about how he came to be in these circumstances that resulted in the betrayal of Jesus and beyond. As we do that, we will also want to examine the soil of our own hearts. None of us are immune to the circumstances that led to this tragic spiritual shipwreck, and all of us could benefit from being reminded of the course-correctives prescribed for us in God’s Word.

The first discovery we unearth regarding Judas that is profitable for our instruction is this:
I. Christian activity is no substitute for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

I count no less than eighteen distinct names and titles conferred upon Judas in Scripture. Four of them relate to his name and background: Judas, Judas Iscariot, simply “Iscariot”, and the son of Simon. Half of them (nine) relate in some way or other to his betrayal of the Lord. But five of them are titles that relate to his standing among the followers of Jesus. He is called a disciple (Jn 12:4). He is called an Apostle (e.g., Mk 10:1-4). He is called “one of the Twelve” (e.g., Mt 26:47). He is called a minister (Ac 1:17, 25). And perhaps most amazingly, even in the very moment of betrayal, the Lord Jesus called him “friend” (Mt 26:50). From all of his titles, we could not expect that he would be one to turn away from Jesus in such a reprehensible way.

Moreover, as one to whom all those titles applied, Judas was very close to Jesus. He had spent the better part of three entire years with Him. He saw every miracle that Jesus did, and he heard every sermon and parable that Jesus spoke. In fact, he was even party to the private discussions that often took place afterward in which Jesus explained carefully the meaning of these things to His disciples. Decades ago, Southern Baptist churches would give out “perfect attendance pins” to people who had not missed Sunday School all year. Some of you may have one. Had they been given out in Jesus’ day, Judas would have had one.

Not only was Judas present when all these things took place, he had an active role in the ministry of Christ’s followers. When Jesus designated His apostles, the Bible says that He had set these twelve apart so that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons, and to perform healings in Jesus’ name (e.g. Mt 10:1; Mk 3:14-15). We have every reason to believe that Judas did all of those things. In fact, we have good reason to believe that he did them well and faithfully. He was trusted by his fellow apostles. As people began to make financial contributions to Jesus and His disciples, a treasurer was appointed. If I had been there, I would have nominated Matthew. He’d been a tax collector, so he obviously had a good head for numbers and financial matters. But they didn’t entrust the position to Matthew; they entrusted it to Judas. He was the first church treasurer in church history.

He received great spiritual blessings as a follower of Jesus. Here in our passage, Jesus is with His disciples in the Upper Room on the last night before His death. Judas was there. Jesus washed his feet, and Jesus served him the Passover meal, including the bread and the cup of the first-ever communion service.[7] In fact, we can even infer more about this than what is explicitly stated in the text. We have strong evidence to support that Judas Iscariot occupied the seat of honor at the table. In ancient times, folks did not dine in chairs seated at tables. I know that’s how DaVinci painted it, but he wasn’t there. I’ve actually partaken of more than one meal in the Middle East where meals are still eaten in the same way they were then. Around the table, there were arranged cushions in a U-pattern. Typically three people would recline with legs extended away from the table on these cushions. Because it is considered taboo to eat with one’s left hand, a person would prop himself up on his left elbow, leaving the right hand free to eat. The host of the meal would be in the center of the center cushion, and that would be Jesus at this meal. The position of highest honor would be immediately to the left of the host, and the position of second honor would be to his right. We know that John was seated to Jesus’ right, because the Bible speaks of him reclining against the Lord’s bosom (Jn 13:23). If he was upheld on his left elbow, he’d have to be seated on the right to lean into Jesus that way. But Judas was seated so closely that Jesus was able to hand him the bread. That would mean that he had to be seated on Jesus’ left, the position of honor. They were close enough to have a private conversation that no one else in the room could hear.

I say all of that to say that Judas was not one we would expect to the betrayer. In fact, no one did. When Jesus announced that He would be betrayed by one of the Twelve, not a one of them said, “I bet He’s talking about Judas.” In fact, Mark tells us that they were all saying, “Surely not I?” In their minds, each one considered himself as likely or unlikely a candidate as any other. And this is the first discovery that we make here. When it comes to Christian activity in the service of the Lord, and all the outward marks of genuine discipleship, Judas Iscariot would have likely put most of us to shame. He held significant titles, he had unprecedented spiritual opportunities and blessings, and held a position of great responsibility. But this was no substitute for a personal relationship of faith and trust in Jesus as Lord. In fact, the startling observation is this: not one time in all the Gospels do we ever find Judas Iscariot referring to Jesus as Lord. His body was close to Jesus, but his heart was far from him. And we must take note of this, lest we assume that we or anyone else are secure in our relationship with Jesus on the basis of our Christian activity. Christian activity is good, commendable, and necessary. We have been saved to serve. But our service does not save. In spite of all the good that we or any others may do, the ultimate question is have we come to Christ in faith to trust Him as our Lord? Judas never did. Have you? There is simply no amount of Christian activity that can substitute for this.

The second discovery we make here concerning Judas Iscariot which is relevant for our instruction is this:

II. The secret sins of the heart can become opportunities for great evil.

For quite some time, we have been receiving complaints about the air conditioning not working well on the second floor of the educational building. The thermostat seemed to be functioning correctly, and there was some air coming through the vents, but it never seemed to cool the rooms. We chalked it up to inefficiency and irreparable decay in the duct work. But recently we had our air conditioning guy take a look at it. The unit sits in a little room no one ever enter, and the workings are all concealed behind panels that are screwed tightly shut. Shortly after he began looking at it, he came to get me so I could see what he found. At some point in the past, it seems that a tiny little short in the wiring inside the unity had sparked into a flame, and everything that could be burned was completely consumed within the unit. No one ever smelled smoke, no one ever saw fire. But hidden away in an area that no one could see, a fire was raging that could have taken the whole building down. It is only by God’s gracious providence that we were spared from a catastrophe. But deep down in the secret areas of the human heart, unseen fires can rage and cause great destruction.

When we look at Judas’s sin of betrayal, we might like to give him a pass. We may try to say, “The devil made him do it.” There’s some truth to that. John 13:2 says that the devil put it into his heart, and verse 27 says that Satan actually entered into him. Judas was not just under demonic influence, or even demonic possession. He was possessed by Satan himself. So, does he get a pass on this? We would like to hope he does, so that we can take up the same mantra whenever we sin, and say of ourselves, “The devil made me do it!” But nowhere in Scripture does Jesus give Judas a pass on this. In spite of clear and obvious Satanic activity in Judas’s heart, Jesus holds him fully culpable for his despicable deed. We may protest and say this isn’t fair. Let’s be careful that we do not put ourselves in place as judge over Jesus. Whatever He does is good, and right, and fair. If we do not think so, the problem is with our standards, not with Him. So, how can Judas be both controlled by Satan and yet remain personally responsible for his deeds? The Bible makes it clear to us that Satan merely took advantage of an opportunity that Judas gave him in the secret places of his heart.

Satan is a great tempter. Because he hates God, he hates all who bear the image of God – the entire human race. And because he hates Jesus, he also hates those who call upon his name. Since Satan is unable to destroy or defeat God, he aims to destroy those who are devoted to him. He could care less what becomes of you. You are merely a pawn in his strategy to strike God by attacking and destroying what is most precious to Him – His own people. He knows that enticing Christians to stumble advances his cause in the world and gives a reason for others to blaspheme against the Lord. The Apostle Peter, who was no stranger to the strategies of Satan, writes in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” And he does this by luring us along with many temptations to disobey and dishonor God in all manners of sin.

That said, when we sin, Satan is not the one to blame. The Bible says in James 1:14 that “each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.” It is that hidden desire deep down in our hearts that makes us susceptible to Satan’s temptations. Shall we blame our sin on him when he merely affords us the opportunity to gratify the sinful desire that is already raging within us? The devil has no power to make you do something. But he does have the power to arrange an occasion for you to do what it is that you secretly want to do. And we have the power to give him that opportunity to lead us into sin by leaving the secret desires of our hearts unchecked.

This is how it happened for Judas. Something in his heart was not right. It was a secret to all who knew him, with the exception of Jesus and Satan. Satan, seeing that spiritual malfunction in Judas’s heart, saw an open invitation to lead him into evil. So what was the problem in Judas’s heart? There are a number of things on which we can speculate, some with more sure footing than others. One of them that is a strong possibility concerns his background – this man Iscariot, the one from Kerioth. Being the only non-Galilean among the followers of Jesus, perhaps Judas felt like he was the odd-man-out. Sure, he occupied a position of great trust, but he was not part of that inner circle of three (Peter, James, and John) who regularly withdrew alone with Jesus. Perhaps he nursed a grudge in his heart against Jesus and these Galileans for leaving him out. Or perhaps Judas was like so many others from Judea, in that he was keenly intent on seeing the overthrow of Roman oppression in his homeland. Encountering in Jesus one who spoke and acted with unrivaled power and authority, it could be that he saw in Him one who could finally make it happen. However, when Jesus refused the crowd’s efforts to enthrone Him as king in John 6, Judas may have become embittered toward Jesus. It was not many verses thereafter that Jesus said to His followers, “One of you is a devil.” Were the seeds of evil and betrayal already sprouting in his heart at that point? Judas was a man with a great dream, and Jesus came along and killed it. As William Barclay put it so well, “Judas was the man whose tragedy was that he refused to accept Jesus Christ as he was, and sought to make Jesus into what he wanted him to be.”[8]

These are mere speculations – speculations on strong footing, but speculations nonetheless. There is one matter, however, about which there is no need to speculate. Whatever else might have been going on down in the dark recesses of this man’s heart, the Bible tells us with certainty that he was greedy. In John 12, we read that after Jesus was anointed with the costly perfume by Mary in Bethany, Judas protested that the perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor. The Bible says that the perfume was valued at approximately one year’s salary for the average working man, and Judas considered it to have been wasted on Jesus. But note well that John 12:6 says clearly that Judas did not protest this because he cared about the poor. He protested it because he was a thief. As the keeper of the money box, “he used to pilfer what was put into it.” He was driven by a sinful love of money, which the Bible warns us is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith (1 Tim 6:10).

It was at this point that Luke tells us that Satan entered into him. Satan came in by way of the open door of greed in Judas’s heart and made a little deposit. Suddenly Judas had a plan. Knowing that the Jewish authorities had already put a bounty on Jesus’ head, Judas immediately went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?” (Mt 26:15). If Jesus would not fatten his pockets any longer, he for those who wished him dead to do it. And they gave him thirty pieces of silver, an amount roughly equivalent to about a third of the value of Mary’s perfume. And then, piecing together the details of the four Gospels, it seems that Satan must have departed once the deal was done, but Judas began looking for the opportune moment to follow through.

John tells us that the devil is the one who put it – literally “thrust it” – into Judas’s heart to betray Jesus (13:2). But he could have never done it if the secret sins of Judas’s heart had not given him the opportunity to do so. Oh, we must guard our hearts against these secret sins. You may think, “Well, it is a small thing, and it isn’t really affecting anyone else, so what could be wrong with it?” Friends, when we think such things, we are swinging wide the door for Satan to lure us into destruction. He gave Judas the opportunity to betray Jesus, but not before Judas gave Satan the opportunity to invade. Are you nursing a secret grudge? Are you clinging to bitterness against the Lord or someone else? Are you harboring a relentless love of money, power, success, fame, or any other self-centered thing? We must plow up the soil of our hearts and seek these things out. If they be discovered they must be purged at once, lest we invite a great temptation upon ourselves. But let us remember what is written in 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” The temptation is not a sin. It is an opportunity to sin. Satan brings it our way when we grant him room to do so by our secret desires. But when he brings it, God comes along too. He is able to help us resist, escape, and endure it.

This brings us to the third discovery:
III. There are many opportunities for a course-correction, but there will come a final one.

Judas was not the only disciple to undergo, and even fall, to temptation. Jesus called him a devil, but remember he also called Peter that on one occasion. When we are confronted with uncomfortable sternness by the Word of the Lord, it is actually a great display of His kindness beckoning us to repentance. Peter received it that way when he was rebuked by the Lord. Judas never did. Every time Jesus spoke about Judas and his impending betrayal, He was offering him the chance to turn back. When He said, “One of you is a devil,” Judas knowing the evil that was springing up in his heart could have well said, “I need to remedy this situation immediately.” But he didn’t. When Jesus repeatedly told His followers that He would be betrayed, Judas could have considered that it was not too late to turn the plan around. Even after he had taken the money, he could have returned it.

Time after time, Jesus gave him the opportunity for course-correction, but the window of opportunity was closing fast. Now, in the Upper Room, Jesus takes the basin and the towel and washes Judas’s feet, as if to say, “Judas, this is how much I love you. I want to serve you and make you clean.” But Judas’s heart was steadfast in rebellion. Jesus took the bread and the cup and handed it to Judas, as if to say, “I’m giving up My body and My blood to save you Judas,” but Judas would not have it. Even as Jesus said that the betrayer was “the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him” (v26), Judas did not have to take it. There could have been a change of heart. And so finally, Judas freely taking that morsel of indictment from the hand of the Lord Jesus, Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” It was the final offer. It was as if Jesus said to him, “This is the last chance. You have to make up your mind right now. Do it, or don’t do it, but whichever you decide, do it quickly and get it done.” But, John records that Satan had entered him, afresh and anew, and he allowed his heart to be taken captive to evil for the last time. Next, the Bible records these tragic words: “So after receiving the morsel he went out immediately.” Undeterred by the kindness of the Lord and the repeated offers of repentance and reconciliation, Judas had made his final decision. He is not seen again until he comes back into the garden with the mob to betray Jesus with a kiss, even as Jesus continued to call him His friend.

What is it that you are wrestling with in your heart of hearts? Is there some besetting sin, some sinful passion that is driving you to contemplate things that are entirely displeasing to the Lord? You don’t have to do it. Maybe you already have. Listen, you are no different from the rest of us. Church is not a gathering place where good people come to celebrate their perfections. We’ve all got baggage, we’ve all been down those roads. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul gives a veritable laundry list of sinners: fornicators, idolators, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, covetous ones, drunkards, revilers, swindlers. But then he says to the church there, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” Listen, we’ve all been on that list, or some list just as bad. But, in God’s kindness, He offers us an opportunity for a course-correction. Christians aren’t people who’ve never blown it, they’re just people who have taken the opportunity granted by God’s grace to repent and turn to Jesus to be saved from our sins. And I know God has given every one of us one opportunity after another to do just that. Look how many times Jesus gave Judas that opportunity. He is calling you His friend, looking into your eyes, down into your heart where the seeds of sin take root, and He’s saying, “Right now, it is not too late. Will your turn back? Will you turn to Me?” It is time to make up your mind. What you do, do quickly. But know that one day, just as it was for Judas, so it will be for all of us who resist these opportunities. There will come a final offer.

Now you might say, “Well, what ever happened to Judas?” It is not a pretty story, my friends. The Bible says that he was filled with remorse – not repentance, but remorse. He was not sorry for his sin, just plagued with the guilt of it. He tried to return the money after Jesus had died, but the priests wouldn’t take it back. So, in despair he went out and killed himself. I suppose he thought it would bring an end to his guilt, but it didn’t. You see, Judas lives on. You might wonder, “Was he forgiven? Did he go to heaven? Does his story have a happy ending?” Sadly, it does not. Sin utterly destroyed him on earth, and it is destroying him forever in hell. You might object and say, “How can you say that?” Well, I hope you will not just take my word for it. This is what Jesus said about him: “Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matt 26:24). He said of His disciples, “Not one of them perished, but the son of perdition” (Jn 17:12). There you have Jesus declaring that Judas would perish. The word “perdition” means “destruction.” He was destroyed spiritually forever. When the leaders of the early church spoke of him in retrospect in Acts 1, all they could say of him was this: he “turned aside … to go to his own place” (Ac 1:25). He went to the place of his own choosing – just as all will. You might wonder, “Did he somehow lose his salvation by his sin? If I am a Christian, can I fall away and lose the assurance of heaven and find myself in hell?” Oh no friends. But the thing with Judas is that he was no Christian. He looked like one. He acted like one. He surrounded himself with them. But he was never one of them. Are you? Judas never called Jesus Lord. Have you? Judas never guarded his heart against the destructiveness of secret sins. Have we? He never chose to turn back from the evil in his heart that he might be with Jesus, and be with Him forever. Instead, he chose to go to “his own place,” he perished, according to the words of the Lord Jesus, in that place of eternal destruction. What choice have you made? Friends, Judas is a warning to us! Christian activity is no substitute for a personal relationship with Jesus. The secret sins of the heart become opportunities for great evil. There are many opportunities for repentance, but there will be a final one. Don’t miss it.


[1] Lk 3:30; Mt  13:55; Mk 6:3
[2] Ac 5:37; 9:11; 15:22-23
[3] Lk 6:16; Ac 1:13. In both passages he is called, in the Greek text, “Judas of James.” Some have suggested it should be understood to mean “brother of James,” though this construction almost always means “son of.” In either case, it must not be assumed that the “James” in question is one of the three who are known to us in the New Testament.
[4] Jn 14:22; Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18. Some inferior manuscripts of Matthew and Mark also include the name “Lebbaeus” with or instead of “Thaddaeus,” however the primary reliable manuscripts have “Thaddaeus” only.
[5] Mt 10:1-4; Mk 3:13-19; Lk 6:12-16
[6] John Piper, Spectacular Sins (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2008), 98.
[7] There is some debate amongst scholars about whether Judas left before or after the bread and cup were passed. Mt 26 and Mk 14 are inconclusive on this matter. Jn 13 speaks of Jesus giving Judas the morsel he had dipped in the sop but some believe that this would have occurred prior to the institution of the Lord’s Supper. However, Lk 22 seems to be conclusive, for Luke says that after the bread and cup were shared, Jesus said, “the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table.”
[8] William Barclay, The Master’s Men (New York: Abingdon, 1959), 80. 

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