The Devil and Judas Iscariot

Judas Iscariot is the most notorious traitor in history for his betrayal of the Son of God.  He took advantage of his relationship with the Lord Jesus for his own monetary gain.  Knowing that the chief priests and elders of the Jews were pursuing Jesus, Judas offered to deliver Christ for a price (Matt. 26:14-16).  The Lord’s enemies wanted to find Him at a time when He was apart from the crowds (Luke 22:6), so they needed someone close to Him to help them.  For a meager thirty pieces of silver, Judas led a multitude armed with swords and clubs to arrest Jesus during the night at the private garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:47-50).  With a kiss, which was typically an expression of friendship and affection, Judas identified the Lord and betrayed Him.  The mob then seized Jesus and led Him away to trial before the chief priests and elders, who counseled together to put the Lord to death (Matt. 27:1-2).  Judas, realizing his own condemnation, attempted to return the money, but the chief priests and elders refused him.  Therefore, Judas threw the money into the sanctuary and went away to hang himself (Matt. 27:3-5).  The discarded blood money was taken by the chief priests and used to purchase a plot of land, Potter’s Field, as a burial place for strangers, which gives a measure of how little the Lord’s life had been worth to Judas (Matt. 27:6-10).

Why would a man such as Judas commit such a heinous act of betrayal against the Lord Jesus?  It seems unthinkable that one of the Lord’s own chosen apostles would turn against Him after having witnessed so many convincing proofs of Christ’s power.  Jesus even seemed to ask this question Himself when He said, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” (John 6:70).  It is a difficult question, but the answer is understood in part by considering the role of Satan in the story of Judas.  Luke recorded that “Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot” before he went to negotiate with the Lord’s enemies (Luke 22:3-6).  John’s account reiterates this by saying that “the devil (had) put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray (Jesus)” (John 13:2) and that Satan entered into Judas before he went out to fetch the men who would arrest Jesus (John 13:27).  Thus, we see that Satan was present within the heart of Judas both in the planning and the executing of his betrayal.  In other words, Judas’ thinking was affected by the workings of Satan.

Is this a case of “the devil made him do it” or is Judas to blame for his act of betrayal?  Certainly, Satan had a profound influence upon Judas, but nothing in the Scripture ever indicates that Judas was forced by Satan to act against his own will.  The fact that Satan entered the heart of Judas does not mean that he took possession of Judas to forcibly control him.  The truth is that Judas prepared his heart to welcome Satan and willfully yielded to Satan when the opportunity presented itself.  It is evident that Judas was given to greed and lust for money, for he stole from the money box carried by Jesus and the apostles (John 12:4-6).  Satan took advantage of Judas’ weakness and found a heart that was fertile for sin.  By planting a seed of temptation with Judas’ lustful heart, Satan reaped a harvest of sinful betrayal from Judas that ruined him forever.

Judas’ story stands as a warning to the rest of us.  Satan “prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1Pet. 5:8), and he preys upon the weaknesses in our hearts.  As in the case of Judas, if we make our hearts fertile for sin, then Satan will take advantage of us.  For Judas, greed was a smoldering ember within his heart that erupted into a sinful blaze when Satan fueled it with the opportunity for sordid gain (consider 1Tim. 6:10).  For someone else, the ember may be hatred that leads to murder (Matt. 5:21-22) or inordinate lust that leads to fornication and adultery (Matt. 5:27-28).  It is dangerous to harbor such passions within our hearts because they are breeding grounds for sin.  James summarized this well in James 1:14-15:  “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.  Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”

Therefore, let us be on guard against the devil lest we become like Judas.  No one is immune to Satan’s evil schemes, including those who consider themselves close to the Lord.  If an apostle of Christ can fall into Satan’s influence, then so can we.  Ultimately, Satan’s effect upon Judas rendered him as perhaps the most tragic character of all time.  Jesus even said of Judas, “It would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matt. 26:24).  If we give in to Satan, then a similar fate can befall us according to 2Peter 2:20 – “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.”  Therefore, let us remain faithful to Christ, deny the overtures of Satan, and avoid the sad fate of Judas.

Stacey E. Durham


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