A very popular notion that has always been expressed regarding how the Bible should be read and followed relates to that aspect of Judas’ story where it says that he “went out and hanged himself,” (Matt. 27: 5), and then what if the next thing that you read is “look unto me and do likewise,” (Judges 7: 17). Judas is mainly known for how his life ended, and not for how he conducted his life up to the point of his death. Was he all wrong? Should he be avoided like leprosy, or the plague? Is there anything that we could benefit from by studying the life of Judas – that is apart from learning what not to do?
Before we look at Judas Iscariot we need to note the radical nature of Jesus’ method of teaching lessons as recorded in Luke 16. This was a story of a certain steward accused of being wasteful of his master’s goods. When the steward was summoned to give account of his stewardship, and being threatened that he would no longer be retained as a steward, this steward did something that was strangely commended by Jesus: he called in all the debtors and gave each one a special concession, hoping to secure favour with these persons once he comes upon hard times after he would be fired. Jesus did not focus on the ethics of whether the steward ought to have behaved in this manner. Neither did he focus on the possibility that these persons could take the deal but forfeit when it comes around to returning the favour to this unfaithful steward. What Jesus rather locked in on was the sheer wisdom of the steward exhibited in seeking to secure his future, for somehow He is aware that it is within this arena that He will most likely engage an individual. In seeking to secure ones future one usually:
- Does a reality check of where one is in life and must gain a sense of the trajectory that one’s life is likely to take given the current situation.
- Determines whether or not one is headed in the direction one desires to travel.
- Develops an agreement/relationship with those who can assist one in securing the desired future.
- Decides on an appropriate course of action that will derive the desired outcomes.
It is doubtless that Judas had exhibited these very traits and would have intrigued Jesus with the prospect of reaching him with the plan of salvation. Alas however Judas seemed locked in on a predetermined outcome and was not up for a discussion on the matter. But much like the ten virgins had many things in common at the beginning of that story; Judas likely had no outrageously different earthly ambitions than had the other disciples who often contended with each other about who’d be greatest in the kingdom they thought Christ had come to establish. The difference with Judas though was that he exhibited a much keener focus on his target and was always alert to the presence of an opportunity waiting to be exploited. The Apostle Paul was a man similarly characterized with the acumen of singleness of purpose: “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2.
When Judas would have discovered Jesus, He would have been the hottest new “fad,” who attracted quite a following from all levels of the society. And if ever an opportunity was present in a situation this would be that situation. He probably was not certain at first how exactly he could exploit this situation, but he determined to monitor the operations of Christ and when the opportunity presented itself he would make his move. Obviously, Judas was not interested in Jesus per se, he only saw Him as a way out of his current jam. Invariably however the power of Christ’s influence could not be entirely nullified from impacting Judas. Judas didn’t accept Jesus, but he understood a lot about Him, and though he probably would have denied that fact he had been changed, even as he locked the deal with the enemies of Christ, Christ had awakened his moral cognizance. And so whereas he would have calculated that the Jewish leaders had no power to capture Christ against His will, the long awaited opportunity had come, for Judas convinced them that he could arrange for the seizing of Jesus… for a price of course. But when he saw that Christ was indeed captured, and that He faced unavoidable death at the hands of the heartless Romans and at the behest and conniving of the ruthless Jewish leaders, Judas was overcome by guilt, for he had “betrayed the innocent blood.” Matt. 27:4. Here the story for Judas ends with him hanging himself; choosing the path of eternal separation from God, even as Christ was dying for him, and herein lays his fundamental flaw.
Judas’ fundamental flaw is: not that he had ambition and a sense of direction that he wanted his life to take; not that he sought for and exploited an opportunity that resided in Christ; not that he formed alliances. Judas’ fundamental flaw was that he missed the true value that Christ afforded him. He had consistently resisted every appeal to the conscience that Christ had wrought with His winsome ways. And so unlike Peter, who not only desired earthly greatness like everyone else, but allowed Jesus into his heart; allowing himself to be pulled in by the cords of love, when he denied Christ knew that there was still forgiveness and acceptance with Him. Chances are Judas never took the time to discover that about Jesus.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Judas actually liked Jesus; respected Him even. I wouldn’t be surprised if he really didn’t intend for Jesus to be hurt in anyway, he probably only wanted to “teach” these detractors of the Saviour of all mankind a lesson… at a premium cost of course. He would have likely calculated that Jesus would save Himself, and he (Judas) would be thirty pieces of silver the richer. There would be nothing that these devious leaders could do – he had kept his end of the bargain and had taken them to Jesus – a deal’s a deal. For what Judas had set out to accomplish, it seemed a foolproof plan. And…it was: He did his self-assessment and understood where he was with respect to where he wanted to be; he determined that he needed to align himself to achieve his goal; he developed the relationships appropriate to what he determined he needed to accomplish; he decided on a specific course of action to get him his desired outcome. That these actions were wrongly motivated and misapplied in no way minimizes the value of carrying out the actions. And so of a truth Judas’ life does have many positive lessons that, correctly applied, would enrich the observer’s life and accomplishments. After all his story is a part of the featured stories of the Holy Writings.