Lessons From the Betrayer
“Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him. Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover? And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples. And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover. Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve. And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I? And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born. Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.” (Matthew 26:14-25)
Commenting on this passage, C. H. Spurgeon wrote…
“What a contrast to the incident we have just been considering! The anointing of Jesus is to be the theme of admiration wherever the gospel is preached, but his betrayal by Judas will be a subject for execration to all eternity. It was one of the twelve, who went unto the chief priests, to bargain for the price of his Lord s betrayal. He did not even mention Christ’s name in his infamous question, ‘What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you?’ The amount agreed upon, thirty pieces of silver, was the price of a slave, and showed how little value the chief priests set upon Jesus, and also revealed the greed of Judas in selling his master for so small a sum. Yet many have sold Jesus for a less price than Judas received, a smile or a sneer has been sufficient to induce them to betray their Lord.
Let us, who have been redeemed with Christ’s precious blood, set high store by him, think much of him, and praise him much. As we remember, with shame and sorrow, these thirty pieces of silver, let us never undervalue him, or forget the priceless preciousness of him who was reckoned as worth no more than a slave.”
Matthew 26:14-25 is the divinely inspired record of one of the blackest events in the history of the world. There is no greater evidence of the wickedness that is in man than that which is revealed in the character and conduct of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of our Lord. These verses speak of things we would all prefer not to consider; but they are written here for our instruction. And if God the Holy Spirit will be our Teacher, we will find much in them that will bring joy to our hearts. I want to show you five lessons to be learned from them.
The Word of God
First, these verses clearly establish the fact that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. You might ask, “Where is that taught in this passage?” The inspiration of Scripture is established by the precise fulfillment of the prophecies of Scripture. Here we once more see Old Testament prophecy fulfilled to the letter, not by one who was attempting to bring honor to the Word of God, but by one who was inspired by the devil himself.
The Scriptures clearly predicted that our Savior would be betrayed by one of his most intimate companions, one who ate bread with him. — “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me” (Ps. 41:9). The Old Testament specifically prophesied that the Lord Jesus would be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver, which would then be cast down in the temple, and that the money would be used to buy a place in the potter’s field (Zech. 11:11-13).
Ever reverence the Bible as the inspired Word of God. This Book alone is God’s Word. This Book alone is authoritative in the church and kingdom of God. This Book alone is our rule of faith and practice. This Book alone is able to make us wise unto salvation. Treasure this Book. Seek to know this Book. Believe this Book. Obey this Book.
Religious, but Lost
Second, we learn by the example of Judas Iscariot that a person may enjoy great religious privileges and make an impressive show of religion and yet be an unregenerate reprobate. Judas Iscariot was religious, but lost. He had the highest possible attainments and privileges of outward religion. He was a chosen apostle and companion of Christ. He was an eyewitness of the Lord’s miracles. He heard the gospel from the lips of the incarnate God, ate at the same table with him, and dipped his bread in the bowl from which the Master himself ate. Judas saw things that neither Abraham nor Moses could see. He heard things that neither David nor Isaiah ever heard. This man lived in the society of the Lord Jesus and his apostles. He preached with Peter, James, and John. Yet, Judas was a lost man.
He was, it appears, a man of highest reputation and esteem among men. He appears to have been a man who was, in outward appearance, quiet and unassuming. We read of very little that he ever said or did; but he was trusted by all to be the treasurer of the early church. When the Master said, “One of you shall betray me,” no one suspected Judas. Yet, Judas was a hypocrite.
Like Lot’s wife, Judas Iscariot is held before us as a beacon. Think of this base, vile man often. Do not ever imagine that he was outwardly wicked. He was not. Outwardly, he was an example of what men call “purity,” “holiness,” and “godliness.” But Judas was a devil. Whenever we think of Judas, we ought to pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24).
Do not be content with mere outward religion. Do not be satisfied with the approval of men. Make certain that your religion is a matter of the heart, a union of your very soul with the Son of God, by faith. Spurgeon warned, “A man may get very near to Christ, ay, may dip his hand in the same dish with the Savior, and yet betray him. We may be high in office, and may apparently be very useful, as Judas was, yet we may betray Christ.”
The Root of All Evil
Third, the Holy Spirit shows us here a vivid picture of the fact that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” I cannot conceive of a clearer proof of this fact than Judas Iscariot. The wretched question, “What will ye give me?” betrayed the evil that ruled his heart. Judas had given up much to follow Christ. Outward sacrifices he was prepared to make. But he could not and would not give up his covetousness. Money was his god. Money ruled his heart. His every thought was about money. His every word was about money.
We have many illustrations of the corrupting influence of the love of money. It is not the lack of money or the possession of money that is the root of all evil, but the love of money. It was for money that Joseph was sold into Egypt, Samson was betrayed by Delilah, Gehazi deceived Naaman and lied to Elisha, Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit, and Judas betrayed the Son of God.
Be warned, the love of money will destroy your soul. If ever it gets control of you, it will harden, paralyze, freeze, and sear your heart and conscience. It destroyed Judas; and it will destroy you and me, if ever it gets hold of our hearts. “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Be wise and pray daily, “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me.” They that will be rich in this world often find in the end, like Esau and Judas, that the bargain they made was the worst of bargains.
Having said all that, it must be recognized that many have betrayed the Son of God at a far lower price than the thirty pieces of silver for which Judas bargained. Many, especially those who claim to be preachers, have sold him for no more than the smile and approval men!
Our Sovereign God
Fourth, these verses give us a very clear revelation of the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior, is the sovereign God of the universe. Notice the language our Savior used to speak of Judas’ betrayal of him. He speaks not as one who was alarmed, or even slightly disturbed by the things he knew were about to transpire, but as One who is in total control of the circumstances and people around him. This Man who was about to be betrayed was and is the eternal God who made, and ruled, and disposed of his betrayer.
His divine omniscience is evident in the fact that our Master knew what his disciples would do, what the certain man in the city would do, what Judas had done and what he would do. He knew it all because he predestinated it all and controlled it all. His divine dominion is seen in the fact that the man whose house he would use for the observance of the passover would readily obey his will. We read in verses 18 and 19, “And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples. And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover.” His divine purpose is clearly stated in his assertions, “My time is at hand,” and “The Son of man goeth as it is written of him.”
Everything and everyone in this world is moving according to precise schedule to a predestined end. Everything and everyone, even the actions of wicked men, the very demons of hell, and the devil himself do nothing to thwart, hinder, or even disturb God’s purpose. They are only his servants, used by him to accomplish his purpose (Ps. 76:10; Rom. 8:28-30; 11:36). Even Judas was an instrument in the hands of our God for the accomplishment of his gracious purposes of redemption and grace for his elect. Nowhere is the fact of our Lord’s absolute and total sovereignty seen more clearly than in the events surrounding his betrayal and crucifixion (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28; 13:28-29).
Better Not To Have Been Born
Fifth, our Lord Jesus here teaches us that it would be better never to live at all than to live and die without Christ. Our Savior said, “The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born” (v. 24).
Judas stands before us in the Word of God as a glaring warning. He would this day give anything simply never to have been born. Judas is in hell! He lived and died without Christ as an unbeliever and an enemy of God. Now he suffers the wrath of God in hell. So, too, shall you if, like Judas, you live and die without Christ. Be warned. If you are yet without Christ, you are just like Judas. Your heart is exactly the same as Judas Iscariot’s (Matt. 15:19). You may be taken captive by Satan at his will, and led by him to do things you never dreamed you were capable of doing (2 Tim. 2:26). Unless you repent, unless you look to Christ by faith, you shall be with Judas forever in hell, suffering the terrible wrath of almighty God.
Let us never forget what we are by nature, where we were and where we were headed when God saved us by his matchless, free, and sovereign grace (Isa. 50:1-2). Let us ever give thanks to our God for his sovereign dominion of all things, and for his infinite mercy toward us. If we believe, it is because God the Father loved us with an everlasting love and chose us to be his own, God the Son loved us and gave himself for us, and God the Holy Spirit loved us and gave us life and faith in Christ.