Having conspired with Jesus enemies, he then looked for a convenient time and place to hand Jesus over to them. The opportunity came in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus had been praying. Suddenly the officers arrived. Judas was in the midst. He stepped forward to kiss Jesus. It was the customary greeting of that time. It was no more unusual then than a handshake is today. But here the kiss is the signal. As the officers moved in to arrest Jesus He said to Judas, "Do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?"
Judas will always remain a mysterious figure. We try to figure him out and cannot. There are three views about Judas. One is the charitable view. This view is held by those who say that Judas wanted to force Jesus' hand. He had seen the miracles. If he could get Jesus to turn those miracles against His enemies, great things could be done. He wanted to force Jesus to use His miraculous powers to destroy His enemies and establish His kingdom.
That's the charitable view. I do not subscribe to that view. It is theologically unsound. But I am glad that there are people who hold that view. I am glad that there are people who want to put the best face on everything. The world has enough people who want to construe everything in the worst possible way. I am glad there are a few who try to construe everything in the best possible way. People like that I take for my models in living, but not for my teachers in theology.
The second view is the demonic view. This is the view that Judas was not really a person like us, but a demon in human form. They say he was created for the very purpose of betraying Jesus. There are three things wrong with that view. First, there are really not many prophecies about Judas. The ones we have are very sketchy. It's always a mistake to say that events took place in order to fulfill prophecy. Just the opposite is the case. Prophecies were given because events were going to take place. This view makes God the betrayer of Jesus, and I don't like that. The view is based on that Scripture verse in which Jesus says, "I have chosen you and one of you is a devil." But Jesus also said to Peter, "Get thee behind me, Satan." It means the same in both instances. We cannot accept the demonic view.
The third view is the common view, that Judas started out well enough and then changed. He began to steal from the common treasury. He began to suspect that he was going to be found out and exposed. He knew that Jesus knew. Gradually his love turned to hate. There are many kinds of hatred in the world, but the most bitter is that which grows in the soil of love. Love turned inside out, love turned into hate, is the most bitter hatred of all. That's what happened to Judas. He began by loving Christ. He ended by hating Christ.
We can identify with Christ in this story because we all have sometimes felt betrayed. It is a common experience of life to trust someone and then have them betray that trust. Perhaps you ve been betrayed by a marriage partner, or by a business partner, or by a friend, or by someone in your family. But it is a common experience, and one man put it in a little verse:
I want men to remember meWhen you feel that someone has "had" you then you begin to identify with Christ.
When grey death sets me free.
I was a man who had many friends
And many friends had me.
The word "traitor" is an ugly word in any language. During the American War of Independence there was a captain in the Connecticut militia. He was soon promoted to colonel and then to brigadier general and then to major general. He fought bravely in battles against the British at Ticonderoga, Lake Champlain, and Saratoga. Twice he was seriously wounded. Congress passed a special resolution commending him for his heroism and thanking him for the contribution to American independence. His name was Benedict Arnold. He is remembered not for any of those things. He is remembered because he changed sides and became the most famous traitor of the American Revolution.
We have seen the country betrayed, the cause of Christ betrayed, and sometimes we have felt that we have personally been betrayed. We identify with Christ in His betrayal. We do not identify with Him in our response to betrayal.
Christ did not allow that betrayal to make Him angry or bitter. He didn't allow it to tempt Him to give up. He didn't say, "They're all like that!" Many a wife has counseled with the minister about her own experience of betrayal and said, "I hate all men! I could never trust another man!" Jesus didn't do that.
He didn't fight back or try to get even. We may identify with Him at the point of betrayal but not at the point of response to betrayal. Some of us may identify with Christ in this story, but all of us identify with Judas. When Jesus was in the upper room with the disciples He said, "One of you betrays me."
No one said, "Is it Judas?" Everyone said, "Is it I?"
And that's what we say - "Lord, is it I?" For we all feel that at some point in life we have betrayed Christ. We didn't intend to. We didn't want to, but we did. None of us planned to fail Him, but we did. And like Judas, it did not come suddenly.
We began to make little compromises. They grew and grew. Perhaps, like Judas, ours began with greed. How dangerous that disease is! Perhaps, like Judas, ours began with ambition, unbridled ambition, ruthless ambition. We cast ourselves in the role of Judas. It has been said that there is a little larceny in us all. It has been said that every man has his price. I hope it isn't so, but it's been said.
`Certainly everyone is sometimes tempted to steal. It may be only keeping the change when someone gave you too much. It may be defrauding the government by cheating on your income tax. It may be a large sum, it may be a small sum, but we are all tempted to be dishonest. The first dishonest step may be only a small one, but it makes it easier to take another and another and another; each one larger than before.
When people are strictly honest it's news. The newspapers in Tampa, Florida carried the story of two little boys who found a paper sack with more money in it than any two little boys ever expected to see. They returned it to its owner and it made the news. I'm glad it was in the newspapers, but I'm sad that it was considered sensational. I wish the article could have said, "As expected, they returned the money!"
Other newspapers carried the story of Dwayne Morgan of Santa Ana, California. He had been laid off from the aerospace industry. He was unemployed and almost broke. He sat down on a park bench and saw lying beside him a tattered wallet. Inside it was five thousand dollars. He turned it in and the story made the news. An executive at Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach read about it, and gave that man a job.
We've always been told that honesty is the best policy. But we must determine to be honest, whether or not it is the best policy. Even if it does not work to our advantage; even if it works decidedly to our disadvantage, we must be honest.
We can further identify with this story when the Bible writes for us Judas obituary. It says, "He went to his own place." We know that he went back to the chief priests and returned the thirty pieces of silver. We know that he hanged himself. And after that, "He went to his own place." He went to the place for which he was prepared.
Many people don't like to go to church. They don't like the songs, the sermons, the prayers, the fellowship. If you forced those people to spend eternity listening to that music it wouldn't be Heaven for them. So they go to their own place; to the place for which they are prepared.
A lady described once her brief venture into the world. She went to a cocktail lounge at that hour that is foolishly and inaccurately called "the happy hour." She didn't see very many happy people there. She looked around and said, "I don't belong here. This is not my crowd. These are not my kind of folks." It was not her place, and she left.
When we die we go to our own place. Judas went to his own place. And Jesus? He went to His own place: Heaven.
In 1649 King Charles I of England was brought to trial for high treason. The sentence was, "He deserves to die." Four noblemen rose from the crowd and offered themselves to die in his place. But the offer was refused. They said, "He deserves to die."
We read about Judas and we say, "He deserves to die." Then we think about it for a while and we change that sentence ever so slightly. We say, "We deserve to die." Then Jesus stands up in the courtroom of the soul and says, "I will die in their place." It is a mark of the love and grace of God that He permits the substitution to take place.
Two missionaries once came to a primitive society. They were not at all successful. They could make no headway. But while they were there a strange thing happened. Two young men got into an argument. The argument turned violent. One killed the other. Then, according to the inflexible code of that society, he had to give himself up to the father of the murdered man. Everyone knew what to expect, and so did the murderer. But he went. He said, "I have killed your only son and now I surrender myself to you." The old man sat thoughtfully for a while. Then he said, "Now I have no son. So you will be my son. And when I die you will inherit all that is mine." His punishment became his salvation!
When the villagers heard about it, they all gathered at the missionaries hut. They said, "Now we understand what you have been teaching us."
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.