There are lyrics to a song that always come into my mind when I read of Judas’ betrayal. I don’t know where these lyrics come from, but they’re haunting words. They read like this, “For thirty pieces of silver, oh Judas what have you done. For thirty pieces of silver, you gave up God’s own Son.” Haunting words to me…
Judas is perhaps one of the more famous people in the Bible. He is famous for his betrayal of Jesus. He is famous for turning in a friend, and a mentor for a few coins. On that night of betrayal, Judas sat there reclining on cushions to Jesus’ immediate left – the place reserved for a close friend. He dipped into the same bowl as Jesus. They were so close to each other that evening…but then Judas left. “What you are about to do, do quickly.” Jesus had advised him.
Later that same night, Judas, he came back. He followed Jesus’ advice and did what he had planned to do. So it was, when he found his Lord in the garden, he greeted his Savior with a kiss, but that kiss wasn’t one of friendship: it was to mark him. This mark showed that this was the man the temple guards were to arrest. And do you remember what Jesus said after Judas greeted him with that kiss? He said, “Friend, do what you came for.” Friend! Friend…what more could Jesus do?
I think it’s easy when you look at the story of Judas and his betrayal, I think it’s easy to believe that Judas had no real true love for Jesus. We often see Judas as this horrible greedy person, this villain, and so he’s really unrelatable to us – I’m no Judas, right? And, yet, didn’t Judas hear Jesus’ preaching and teaching? Wasn’t Judas in perhaps one of the best small group Bible studies that ever existed? And don’t we read that Judas was among the other 11 whom Jesus sent out to preach and teach on his behalf? Judas like the other disciples was given power to heal and to drive out demons, and apparently, he had success. God’s Spirit was on Judas.
So, this was no villain. Judas wasn’t some horrible person. He had a problem, yes, but it wasn’t that he was some irredeemable person…no. So, what was Judas’ problem? Well, take a look for yourself. Let’s look together at our brief sermon lesson tonight from Matthew 27. “When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4 “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”
When you think of the story of Jesus and Judas, one question I think you must ask yourself is, who abandons whom? Just who gives up on whom? In the history of Jesus and Judas, you don’t find Jesus turning his back on his disciple. In fact, we find countless times where Jesus is reaching out trying to warn Judas. And so, the fatal sin of Judas was not that he betrayed Jesus, was not that he did some terrible thing, no, Judas’ fatal sin was that when seized with remorse, he didn’t turn back to Jesus. I mean, listen to his words, “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” But that is as far as Judas gets, and when he had to face his guilt, he didn’t know where to go with it. Judas looked in the mirror and he didn’t recognize the monster in front of him, and he didn’t know what to do with it, that monster, so he killed it. He killed himself.
It’s a sad story, and it’s one we need to learn from. Everyone in this room has experienced something similar to Judas, you’ve been seized with remorse because of a sin in your life. And, if you haven’t, you either have not lived long enough on this earth or, perhaps, you don’t have enough Christian friends who will hold you accountable. But all of us like Judas, will have to wrestle with a moment of terrible guilt, and shame, and remorse. You’ll do something terrible…something you just can’t believe, and you’ll look in a mirror and you will wonder, “who is this monster?”
Now, there is no difference between the monsters. We might like to compare, but God makes no distinction between our sins, all of them are damnable offenses. And, yet, there can be a difference between how we react to that monster in the mirror. Judas, as he was seized with remorse over his betrayal, believed he had only one path. He couldn’t fathom the idea of forgiveness in his moment of grief and shame. He knew he didn’t deserve it. And, in this we are just like him.
We don’t deserve forgiveness for our sins. There are no redeeming qualities about us. The Bible is quite clear, all our righteous acts are like filthy rags. In this, we are the same as Judas, but I pray that is where you see your similarity ends, because here is how you can be, and Lord-willing you are, different: when you are seized with remorse, you look to Jesus.
Did you catch to whom Judas confessed his betrayal of Jesus? It wasn’t to Jesus! It was to the chief priests and to the elders. Do you know how they responded to Judas’ confession of sin? They said this: “What is that to us? That’s your responsibility.” And Judas believed them. He believed it was his responsibility to somehow pay for the terrible thing he had done, and he knew he couldn’t do it, and he also didn’t seem to believe Jesus could either.
So, you need to remember this: Judas was wrong. Jesus can and Jesus did pay for those terrible things you’ve done. We need to see Jesus as more than just that kindly helper and good friend in tough times. He is those things. But meet him first at the cross where he is your Savior. Your rescuer. The slayer of your deepest-darkest monsters. Meet Jesus at the gates of hell – the gates you will never go through because he already endured that fire, that torment, so that your path would only go one way, to heaven. Never forget what Jesus already did for you on the cross, and never forget what he will continue to do for you; he will forgive you. He will love you. That’s why he came here…to save you.
If you ever doubt that, if you ever doubt that Jesus wants you, you need to remember this story. You need to remember Judas. You need to remember how Jesus loved him, and called his own betrayer, “friend.” You need to remember that Jesus died for Judas too. But when he reached for him, when Jesus reached for Judas, his hand came back empty. Every day your Savior reaches for you in so many different ways and through so many different people, don’t be like Judas and wrestle yourself away, don’t think you can’t be saved.
Instead, when you’ve sinned, when you’ve done something terrible and you are seized with remorse, confess that sin, repent. You don’t need to keep beating yourself up over what you’ve done. Instead, turn to Jesus. But – you know what? – don’t just turn, trust. Trust Jesus. Trust that he has seized your sin and utterly crushed it on the cross, and trust that he has seized you for his kingdom and his family, and he does not want to let you go. May you ever rest in his grip. Amen.