This lesson explores the series of decisions and weaknesses that led one of Jesus' chosen Apostles to commit history's most treacherous act.
27m
12It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. 13And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles: 14Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James and John; and Philip and Bartholomew; 15and Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot; 16Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
- Luke 6:12-16

When Jesus called Judas to be an apostle, he wasn't a traitor, not yet anyways. The Bible says, as I read here, he became a traitor, big difference. He wasn't a traitor when he, you know, when he answered the call, he became a traitor.

When you read the story of the apostles' ministry, you see that Jesus gave all of the apostles special powers to heal and to do signs and wonders, you know, Luke chapter nine verses one and two. You realize that Judas was part of this, he had and exercised these gifts.

He went and he preached with the others. He returned with the others excited at his newfound powers as did all of the apostles. He continued to witness and experience the teachings, the miracles, the ministry of Jesus firsthand as did the other apostles.

He saw the multiplication of the bread and the fish and wasn't he in the boat when Jesus was walking on the water? He was privy to all of this, he saw all of this. You think with all of these advantages, all of these privileges, all of these influences in his life, why did Judas fall? Why did he fall? Why did he become a traitor? Well, in my lesson tonight, I'd like to address that particular question, why did Judas fall? Now Judas, as I said in the beginning, he didn't become a traitor overnight.

It was a gradual process with definite marker points along the way that we can see. So as we briefly review his life, we can recognize several key elements that led to his fall and his betrayal of Jesus.

First of all, he didn't overcome his basic immorality, first problem. Judas, like the other apostles, was a witness of John's preaching and had been with Jesus from Jesus' baptism. He saw Jesus being baptized.

Remember, that was one of the criteria to be an apostle, you had to be with him from the baptism of John. Well, Judas was there. And of course, Judas himself had heard the message of John and had obviously responded to the message of John.

All of the apostles had been baptized by John. And what was the message of John? Repent, he said. Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, why? Because the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And Peter and James and all of them, they all went and they were baptized hearing the message of John the Baptist, repenting of their sins.

And so we can say that Judas was baptized, but his repentance and the change of heart required was not fully there. Now you have to understand, of course, all the apostles had problems. Peter, well he was a coward, right? Big talk, but when push came to shove, he denied the Lord.

So he was a coward. Matthew was a swindler. John very proud and ambitious man, all the apostles had their various weaknesses and sins. The Bible says that Judas was a thief. Is it worse being a thief than a coward? Is it worse, you know, being a thief or being something else, being proud? Is pride less of a sin than being dishonest? I would think both of those types of sins, you know, could do you in.

So the Bible says that Judas was a thief, but the difference between him and the others is that he never dealt with this particular sin even after he became an apostle. Like Cain in the Old Testament, this particular sin festered in him, and it grew until it led him to commit an even greater and more deadly sin, and that was, of course, to deny Christ, unto, to betray him.

So Judas, he wasn't any worse a sinner than the other apostles, he simply did not deal with his sin like the others did. He allowed it to grow within him unchecked. You know, the most dangerous sin is the one that you ignore.

The most dangerous sin is the one that you excuse or that you keep secret. It's usually the one that leads you to a great fall. Number two, Judas didn't really believe. He didn't deal with his sin, he didn't really believe.

I mean, all of the apostles were hard-hearted, again, they all shared that same trait. Even after the resurrection, Jesus was rebuking them for their disbelief, Mark 16:14, it's like just how much evidence do you need to believe? And he was rebuking them.

So we can't fault Judas for not believing, they didn't believe either. They were slow to accept some of the things that Jesus said and did and the conclusions that stemmed from these actions, but in the end they did believe that he was the Messiah, they did believe that he was the Son of God, and acknowledged that fact.

As Peter the apostle so pointedly stated, when Jesus asked him if he was going to abandon him like the others had because of a difficult teaching that Jesus had made, and what does Peter say? You almost hear the pain in his voice, he says,

68"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God."
- John 6:68-69

Almost says it in a pained voice. You know, belief is deciding that something is true and then acting upon that decision. Pretty much a summary of what belief is, what faith is. You believe that some issue, some thing, some proposition is actually true, and then that proposition believed that's true moves you to some sort of action.

For example, I believe as true that too much fried food's bad for my heart. I need to cut back on the fried food or eliminate it. Now, I can hear the reports of this and my doctor can tell me this, and my wife can get after me, but until I decide that it's really true, that it's really bad for me, I won't do anything about it.

Well, Judas's best opinion of Jesus was that Jesus was a respected teacher, but he never really did accept as true that this person was the Messiah, regardless of the miracles. And the only two times recorded where Judas actually addresses Jesus directly, this would be at the last supper in Matthew 26:25, and then in the garden, Matthew 26:49.

Judas calls him rabbi. Only two times the writers, you know, record what he says, and both times he calls Jesus rabbi. It meant teacher. Judas also recognized later that Jesus was innocent and he felt remorse for having betrayed him.

Who did he betray? Well, in his mind, he betrayed an innocent, gifted rabbi. This was his appraisal of Jesus Christ. I mean, there was enough to follow him and learn from him, a good man, a sincere man, a knowledgeable man, you know, good enough so that Judas could identify with him.

But one does not give up sin for a gifted teacher. And one does not give up one's life for a gifted teacher. Without faith in Jesus Christ as God, there is no salvation, there is no significant change, there is no protection against being used as a pawn by Satan.

If one doesn't believe as true that Jesus is the Lord and the Savior, then what he says makes no sense, and what he asks is impossible to do. I'm not going to give up my life for a well-meaning teacher.

I may give up some time, I may give up an effort to listen, I may read the person's book, but I'm not about to change my life, I'm not about to give up my life for a well-meaning teacher. You know you're with Jesus or you're against him.

And in the end, Judas showed what side he was truly on when he went to the Jewish leaders with a plan to betray him. So Judas didn't deal with his sin, he didn't really believe the essence about Jesus.

And Judas loved the world more than he loved God. If it was just about ideals or a question of doctrine, Judas could've confronted others like Thomas, and said to the Lord, you know, I don't buy it, I need more proof.

I mean, he could've denounced Jesus, or he could've argued with Jesus. But Judas's motives to remain with the group were tied more to his love of this world than the love of the next world. He harbored the notion that the Messiah would bring in a new political and economic advantage for the Jews, which was a popular view at that time.

And he along with the other apostles were going to be at the head of this new world order, wow, look at our leader! Our leader's able to multiply bread and feed 5,000 people. Our leader's able to shut the mouths of the present leaders.

Are you kidding me? He can walk on water. With this person as our leader, we will take over, we're going to be great again. And if I am one of the 12, if I am one of the inner circle, how high will my position be when this Messiah, when this King finally comes to power? Of course, we know what happened, right? When this didn't happen in this way, and it seemed that Jesus would eventually be arrested or killed, what did he do? Well, he tried to save himself, and he tried to find a place in the system by siding with the priests.

Jesus said, no one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other, you cannot serve God and mammon, Matthew six, a little further down here in verse 24.

Eventually who you love and who you love more will always win out. I mean, some people, you know, they love booze more than they love their health or their sanity. Some people love their work or their independence or they love their lovers or they love their toys or they love their hobbies or they love something else more than they love their spouses or their families.

And some people love the life in this world more than the life in the church. How do I know that? Because I know many brethren who never miss a football game but find it easy to miss a worship service.

That's just the truth. So it took a while, but eventually when push came to shove, Judas showed who he loved more. And you know what, eventually we do too, eventually we do too. It might take a little while, but eventually who we really love shows.

So there's some lessons here from Judas. Although I'm persuaded Judas himself never meant to, he does provide us with important lessons for our own lives as disciples, because everyone who's here tonight, we're disciples.

Different ages, different backgrounds, men, women, you know. But we all claim to be disciples. So here are some of the lessons for the disciples. We need to remember that we are capable of some pretty wicked things if we're not careful.

I don't think that when Jesus called Judas, when Judas became one of the apostles, I don't think in Judas's mind, he was saying, man, I cannot wait till three years from now when I send this guy to the cross.

I don't think that that's what he was thinking. But that's what he did. You see, being a disciple of Christ is no guarantee against temptation and certainly no guarantee against failure. So if we don't deal with our small sins and our small doubts and our small bad habits, they can come together just at the right time to make us fall.

That's just how it works. You know, I appreciate the brethren, you know, that come forward or call or visit with me privately to pray in order to deal with their stuff. I don't know where their stuff is, before they get out of control.

I see that as a sign of courage, I see that as a sign of wisdom, I see that as a sign of faith, not weakness. In First John chapter one verse seven and nine, John tells us that the only way to deal with sin is to acknowledge it and ask for forgiveness and move on.

So people are always in a hurry to move on, but it's the acknowledging part. I am this kind of person, I am thinking this, this is what's motivating me and I don't like this. Shine the light on it. Shining the light on sin by confessing it to God or to your spouse or your minister or a elder, you know, what I'm saying, the person you feel you're able to share with.

Shining the light on sin by confessing it in some way, this is what begins the spiritual process of neutralizing and healing for that particular problem. So long as we keep stuff secret, Satan is the one that has the upper hand, always.

He is controlling us. The moment we shine the light on that thing, that's it, we're in control. That doesn't mean we overcome the sin, doesn't mean the sin, you know, the temptation or the pull that it has on us goes away, it just means we're in the driver's seat now, we're the one in charge of that thing, we're in the ring, we're fighting.

We're not just giving away the match, you know, without a fight. So lesson number one, deal with your stuff, get with it. Lesson number two, you can't have it both ways. As much as we'd like to, we just can't get it both ways.

If Jesus is your friend, then the world is your enemy. If you've entered the kingdom, then you've left the world. If you serve God, then you cannot serve sinful flesh. You live in sinful flesh. But there's a big difference between living in sinful flesh and serving sinful flesh.

If you're going to heaven, you cannot make your permanent home here. John said for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life is not from the Father, but is from the world.

And the world is passing away and also its lusts, but the one who does the will of God abides forever, First John 2:16 and 17. You know, some people think they live here and then they die and then they go to heaven.

But the truth of the matter is that you have to leave this place while you are here in order to get to heaven after you die. See what I'm saying? And of course, you die in the waters of baptism. And when you do, that is the first step of leaving this world behind.

You might still be in it, and you might still have to pay your mortgage, and you might still have to dig your garden and do your stuff here in the world, but you have left the world, you're on your way to another place.

The church is heaven's waiting room and only those who wait here are going to get there. Lesson number two, you can't have it both ways. Then lesson number three, Jesus is our only true protection against Satan.

I talk a lot about Satan, because I sincerely believe that the Bible teaches that Satan is real and Satan interjects himself in human history and through a variety of ways, influences our lives, always for bad, always for evil.

And so Jesus is our only true protection against sin. We're no match for Satan's schemes to destroy us. You know, the Bible says that Satan wanted to destroy Peter, but Jesus said that he would personally protect Peter, personally protect.

Satan wants to destroy every single one of us if he can, and only faith in Jesus will protect us from this. Did you ever wonder why? Because only Jesus can equip us with what we need to withstand the attacks of Satan.

Intelligence does not protect you against Satan. Will power does not protect you against Satan. Those are physical things that we do. Intelligence will help you earn a living, will power will help you, you know, what I'm saying, to lose weight or get in shape or whatever, but those things don't protect you against Satan.

See, the moment we're baptized, Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit to dwell within us to guide us and to enable us to overcome sin and his precious blood is there to keep us continually pure from the sins we do commit.

The armor of faith, the sword of the Spirit, the helmet of the gospel, that's the equipment that you fight spiritual battles with. Satan cannot pierce this spiritual armor to deliver any kind of lethal blow.

And so we need to realize that Satan attacks everybody, nobody is spared, and only those protected by Christ will survive. You know, every story and every character in the Bible is there to serve us in some way.

Judas, as we have seen, is no exception. One final scene in Judas's life is very revealing. And it takes place at the last supper. Jesus speaks to His apostles. And in this scene He reveals to them that one of them is a traitor.

20Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples. 21As they were eating, He said, "Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me." 22Being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, "Surely not I, Lord?" 23And He answered, "He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me. 24The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born." 25And Judas, who was betraying Him, said, "Surely it is not I, Rabbi?" Jesus said to him, "You have said it yourself."
- Matthew 26:20-25

I want you to note that each apostle asked Jesus, "Is it me?" Because each of them felt that they had fallen short as disciples. They're thinking, well maybe it's me, in some way I have done something wrong, right? Because every one of them is wondering now, uh-oh, is he talking about me? Even Judas says it.

And Jesus, you know, what I see here, Jesus leaves Judas one last chance to repent, to make things right, a chance for fellowship, a chance to share the communion. You've got to, you know, I'm giving you a chance, I'm calling you out, I know what you're going to do.

But Judas chose not to respond. And John in his gospel tells us that after he received the morsel of bread signifying that Jesus really knew his true intentions, Judas leaves immediately, John 13:30. Now this same scene in the spirit of the moment, is repeated every Lord's day when all of us gather around the Lord's table to share the communion as disciples.

Among our number there are those that have denied Christ, those who have been unfaithful to him, those who may not be worthy to share in the meal for some reason or other. And we know who we are, don't we? And Jesus knows who we are.

And so before we take the supper, even tonight, for example, you know, the way that we organize our service tonight, we take the supper after the sermon. In the morning we take it before the sermon. But even tonight or even before next Sunday, I ask you to carefully examine our hearts to make sure that we approach that particular moment with sobriety, with proper understanding.

And so if someone needs to acknowledge to the Lord that they have been unfaithful, living in a way which is unworthy of Christ, make peace with him before you go to the table. Do that, please. And ask his forgiveness.

And if for some reason you need to come before the church to confess public sin or actions that may hurt the Lord's body, do that, do that before you take the communion, whether you're supposed to take it tonight or next week, make sure that that is right thing.

And if you need to become a Christian in order to be worthy of taking the supper, I know people who are not Christians, but they take the supper anyways because they think well, I guess that's what I've got to do and you know, I'm just going to, I don't want to stand out in the crowd, so I'm just going to take the cracker and the juice.

I'm saying to you, think very carefully, if you're not a Christian, if you've not confessed Christ and been baptized, don't take the supper, take care of that first, acknowledge Him as your Lord, obey the gospel before you meet Him at the table for the remembrance.

And of course, for those who are not in fellowship with us in this particular congregation, there's no harm there, there's no sin there, of course, but if you wish to be part of our family, then acknowledging that desire is always the right thing to do before you take of the supper.

You know, Judas, his life ended very badly. I've heard some apologists try to preach, Marty was saying, I've seen preachers trying to preach some old boy into heaven, you know, never darkened the door of a church in his life, you know.

I've seen people try to preach Judas into heaven. No, no, his is a very sad story of an epic failure of one human being. And if there's anything we learn from Judas' life, it's how to avoid betraying the Lord.

Maybe not in such a huge way that he did, but we all do it, I do it, we all do it in one way or another, we betray our faith, we say one thing, we do another. My encouragement is just like Jesus at the last supper before they partook of the meal, appealed to Judas one last time, you know, to make it right.

So I appeal to you one last time before you take communion tonight, before you take communion next week, make things right with the Lord before you join Him at the table.