The Judas Dynamic

Judas was not 1) an innocent bystander to the betrayal of Jesus, 2) a manipulated puppet whom God needed to demonize for all time, or 3) elected or damned by God from eternity to be the meat that betrayed the Son of God. The dynamic which moved Judas to come to Jesus, study with him, then, over time, to reject those very teachings, and finally to be willing to betray Jesus for a truly small sum of money is all his own temptation and betrayal.

While the betrayal of Jesus was certain, that Judas would be the instrument of that betrayal was only known by God’s omniscience which saw all of time and perceived that Judas was the one. Judas being that man was not for-ordained by God.

Judas was Not Elected to Betray Jesus

Speaking to Judas, Jesus said (Matthew 26:24, NIV), The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” Jesus affirms that the Son of Man will be betrayed. The Sanhedrin would get their murderous hands on Jesus. Jesus would be nailed to the cross. Yet Jesus also adds, “…woe to that man…” Jesus notes in those words that a man would betray him, but does not name who. Jesus might have been speaking generally so as not to use Judas’ name. Yet, Jesus also was beseeching Judas to give up his plan. Jesus’ words are a harsh statement of law meant to get Judas’ attention and turn him away from the betrayal.. (Similar words are spoken in Luke 22:21). If Judas had relented, someone else would have betrayed Jesus, but it didn’t have to be Judas.

God does not Use People for Evil

Another truth helps us understand Judas’ responsibility. James 1 verse 13 makes clear that God will not encourage sin nor will he tempt anyone – 13 “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; …” Instead, in every human being there are two factors, Satan, and personal, evil desire, that combine in temptation as James goes on to state. 14 “…but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed…” (James 1:14).

Satan Works to Find Tempt-ability

Satan is not all knowing. He cannot read people’s minds. Satan does closely and accurately observe each person and by test and observation learns what “evil desires reside” in a person that he might entice. Satan kept a “Successful Temptation” file on Judas Iscariot – those areas and those points on which Judas was most open to temptation.

Although Scripture does not give us a list of Judas’ desires, reading between the lines of Scripture we can see some of the areas on which Satan probably focused.

  1. Judas had been committed to an organization, the zealots, in which violence was accepted.   The zealots wanted Rome out of Judea and many of the zealots were willing to use violence to bring about that goal. Like his early group, Judas might have had a desire to “rescue” Israel from Rome by any means possible, a desire upon which Satan could focus.
  2. While many zealots might have spoken highly about the Torah, the truths of God were not central to their political desires. The Torah was primarily a talking point to justify their political desires. It is possible that in Judas lived that same strong political desire that Satan could tempt to overshadow the truths of the Torah.
  1. Judas had a love of money. As treasurer of the disciples he had abused funds. The love of money is the root and excuse for all kinds of evil as Paul wrote to Timothy. Satan could have focused on Judas’ love of money.
  1. There may have been a rising contempt for Jesus in Judas’ heart. Judas would betray Jesus with a kiss which is supposed to be a sign of love and commitment. Love was one of Jesus’ premier teachings and Judas was mocking that teaching by using a kiss for betrayal. Satan could easily focus on that rising contempt.
  1. It does make sense that someone like Judas would come to Jesus. Zealots like Judas could never gather enough power to really deal a blow to Rome. Jesus obviously had power. He also had the love of the people. Jesus was spoken of as a king by many people. Judas could easily have been tempted to see Jesus as the power-figure who could deal with Rome. When Jesus demonstrated that he had a different emphasis, a spiritual emphasis, Judas’ frustration with Jesus could easily have “been played” by Satan.

Including the five desires listed, Satan must have observed a number of ways in which he could have tempted Judas’ heart. But, the truth that Judas had desires on which Satan could act does not mean that God freely opened those desires so that Satan could make Judas his puppet.

Judas was Willing to Have Satan’s Influence

The LORD does not “allow” Satan to have direct influence with a person unless that person already has a willingness for that influence. Otherwise, Satan’s influence will always be indirect through the sinful nature. The LORD allowed an evil spirit to torment King Saul. Saul had already turned from the LORD and his heart was open to attack. Judas had gotten to the point that like Eve he saw his betrayal as “fruit that looked good to eat and good for gaining wisdom.” Certainly, the betrayal was “good” for money. Judas may also have hoped that by his betrayal he could force Jesus to show his just power and take up the scepter of rule in Israel rather than to be cruelly executed.

In Romans 8 verses 35-39 we learn that nothing can separate a believer from God’s love. Satan cannot come to a believer and grab him or her with his demonic power and pull that person, against his or her will, away from God. The LORD will not allow that to happen. When a believer falls from faith it is not that something has ripped him or her from God, that person has walk or run away from God. The falling faith has walked out from behind the protection and love of the LORD and sought another road.

Judas was one such falling / fallen believer. He had listened to the coercive temptation of Satan, and convinced himself that Satan was telling the truth and that Jesus’ road was foolish. Judas had followed the devil’s voice using whatever temptation-driven-logic he had that it would be better to turn Jesus over to the Jewish leaders who hated Jesus, than to let those same leaders do their own dirty work.

Judas had moved beyond having Satan’s indirect temptation, to more direct influence. We see the development of Satan’s direct influence in two specific cases. Before Holy Week we read in Luke (22:3), “Then Satan entered Judas…” Maundy Thursday evening Satan doubles down on Judas (John 13:27) – “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.”

Judas Was Responsible

Neither Jesus, the Father, nor the Holy Spirit despised, rejected, or elected Judas to betrayal. Judas gave in to the temptations of Satan and Judas would not repent. Judas was willing to walk away from the LORD, for reasons that scripture does not specifically state.

 

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