Dr. Charles F. “Chuck” DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
APRIL 24, 2016
14 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. 17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. 20 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. 21 And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”
— Matthew 26:14-25, ESV
Nothing is more disheartening to the soul and disrupting to the lives of many than betrayal. It changes our world in ways we wish it would not. When it strikes, we can see no good coming from it at all.
Our American forefathers had made West Point an impenetrable fortress, until the turncoat Benedict Arnold handed over its secrets and gave the advantage to the British. Spies like Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Robert Hanssen sold American secrets that enabled the Soviet Union to heat up the Cold War. Most infamously of all, Judas Iscariot betrayed the Lord Jesus Christ for thirty pieces of silver.
Betrayal is the loss of a battle. But who won the Revolutionary War? Who won the Cold War? And, who rose from the dead to be proclaimed as King of kings and Lord of lords?
Article four of the historic Baptist creed “The Abstract of Principles” states: “God from eternity, decrees or permits all things that come to pass, and perpetually upholds, directs and governs all creatures and all events.” Even betrayal is not beyond the scope of our sovereign God. He who makes “all things work together for good to them that love God” (ref. Romans 8:28) can even turn the heartbreak of betrayal into a hidden blessing for His children.
God places people in our lives who will betray us.
In Christian and secular surveys of the world’s worst traitors, Judas Iscariot is usually first on the list. His name has become anathema ever since his existence two thousand years ago. How many men named “Judas” have you met in your life?
Little is known about Judas except his infamous end. This text tells us he was “one of the twelve,” the strategically numbered first followers of the Messiah. He is designated in John’s Gospel as the treasurer of the group, meaning he must have been highly trusted. Some renderings of the gospel actually defend Judas, painting him as well-intentioned zealot trying to force Jesus’ powerful hand, or as a victim exercising the excuse he took from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemene, “The devil made me do it.” But the Bible tells the truth that, from the beginning, Judas was a hypocrite, a thief, and a traitor waiting for the most expedient moment to sell out the Savior for his own personal gain.
So why did Jesus allow Judas to have such an important place in His life? Judas obviously fooled his fellow disciples, who couldn’t fathom Christ’s subtle identification of “his hand in the dish.” Did he fool Jesus, too? A lack of judgment is not necessarily a sin, so was the sinless Savior fooled by Judas’ false statements on his application for apostleship? No, He wasn’t. Judas was a member of “the twelve” because Jesus chose him and put him there deliberately. It was all part of the perfect will and ultimate plan of God.
If God put Judas in Christ’s inner circle, could he not put someone in your life who has betrayed you? Maybe that business partnership really wasn’t a bad idea, it was just with a bad person. Maybe you weren’t stupid to trust that boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe you weren’t wrong in marrying that person who eventually left you. Perhaps God put that person in your life, knowing it would bring you pain and sorrow, in order to accomplish something greater, more spiritual, thoroughly redemptive, and everlasting in your life and the lives of others.
But that still doesn’t make it right, does it?
God will punish those who betray us.
Sinners and traitors cannot blame the devil for their sin. If the devil made them do it, they are the ones who let the devil in. Sinners and traitors certainly cannot blame God for their sin, for God cannot make anyone sin, He simply gives us the gift of freedom of choice. Sinners and traitors sin and betray because they choose to do so, for their own selfish and sinful reasons.
Judas Iscariot made a choice, similar to that of may nominal Christians, to follow Jesus for earthly gain. He must have thought the prophet from Galilee had enough power and charisma to grant him all the health and wealth he could ever want in this lifetime. There may be a hint of truth in the take of some Judas sympathizers, who claim that once Judas saw Jesus reach for the cross instead of the crown, he bailed. But when you freely and willfully cause another person’s pain for your own pleasure, this is sin, this is betrayal, and it will be punished most severely by God.
Jesus pronounced a “woe” upon Judas and said of him, “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Stronger language our Lord could not use. The Gospels tell us that while Judas eventually felt remorse for what he had done to Christ, he did not repent. He died a most horrific death on earth, and then things for this traitor got eternally worse.
Some of us have been betrayed by people who have not even felt remorse for what they have done. Do not pray for their remorse. Pray for their repentance. Remember Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Luke, “Except you repent, you will all likewise perish.” These are extremely harsh and punitive words coming from the lips of our loving Lord and Savior. Do you really want them to go to the place where Judas Iscariot has gone? Pray for them and let the Lord take care of them, one way or another.
God will judiciously take care of the traitors. God will graciously take care of those among His children who have been betrayed.
God will use betrayal for our good and His glory.
Is there any question that Judas’ betrayal was used for the ultimate glory of God and the gospel? Is there any question that Judas’ betrayal has become a blessing to all who come to God by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone? God put Judas into this picture. Judas chose to betray the Son of God. God took the sinful choice of Judas and wove it into the fabric of redemptive history, for the glory of God and the good of all those who are saved. Hallelujah, what a Savior!
This does not change the fact that nothing is more wicked than betrayal. Nothing hurts more than being betrayed by someone you love and trust. But, betrayal can be a blessing when you trust in God. Here’s what you must do:
Stop blaming yourself. In a world where the victim card is played too often, those who have been betrayed are the purest victims in the world. It is not wrong to love someone, to trust someone, to value someone, like Jesus did to Judas. Though you give your love and trust in imperfect ways, it is in no way your fault when someone else betrays that love and trust. No one deserves to be betrayed. And when a person is hell-bent on betrayal for selfish and sinful reasons, there is nothing you can do to stop them.
Stop hating the one who has betrayed you. There is not a hint of hatred in the words and actions of Jesus towards Judas recorded in Scripture. Betrayal is a serious sin, so is vindictive hatred. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Pray for the person who has betrayed you, realizing they have put themselves in a precarious position before God, and God will hurt them infinitely worse than they have hurt you if they do not repent.
Start trusting in God and allow the pain to deepen your faith. Start trusting more deeply in God’s word, burn Romans 8:28 into your memory. Start trusting more deeply in God’s sovereignty, He really does take the sinful choices of His free creatures to put grace and goodness into the lives of His people. Start trusting more deeply in God’s Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. He knows what it feels like to be betrayed. He knows what it feels like to get over it. He knows the truth that even the worst betrayal can lead to the greatest blessing.