Matthew 26:1-25 – Avoid Becoming a Judas

Matthew 26
1When Jesus had finished all these words, He said to His disciples, 2“You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.” 3Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together in the court of the high priest, named Caiaphas; 4and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him. 5But they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise a riot might occur among the people.”

6Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, 7a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table. 8But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, “Why this waste? 9For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.” 10But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you bother the woman ? For she has done a good deed to Me. 11“For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me. 12“For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. 13“Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”

14Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15and said, “What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?” And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. 16From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus.

17Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” 18And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is near ; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”‘” 19The disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover.

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.” 25. And Judas, who was betraying Him, said, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself.”

Considering the approaching anniversary of our Lord’s death and resurrection, this is where I began reading my Bible this morning.

The first thing that struck me about this passage is how utterly specific Jesus was when He prophesied about His own death in verse two. You’ll recall that He alluded to His death often when He spoke with the disciples, but usually in parables or in such a way that He did not make clear what was actually going to come to pass. Here, at this moment, in this very verse, Jesus revealed to them all that He was going to be crucified, and in a matter of days.

This knowledge makes the disciples’ reaction to the woman with the alabaster jar particularly appalling. The context of the passage reveals that Jesus had made it clear – in no uncertain terms – that He was going to be crucified in a matter of days. He explains in verse twelve that the woman’s intention was to prepare Him for burial. Obviously, the twelve disciples and Jesus’s other followers knew and understood that He was about to give His life. And yet this is the only record (at least in this chapter of Matthew) of anyone acknowledging that fact.

The second thing that occurred to me when I read this passage was the absolute sovereignty of our God. In verse 24, Jesus says: “The 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.” Jesus knew that He was going to die – that it was the only way for Him to save us; but more than that, Jesus knew that He was going to die one way or another, regardless of Judas’s betrayal. When He said “The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him,” he was speaking of the fulfillment of prophecy and the carrying out of God’s holy will. True, it was Judas who ultimately made the decision to hand Jesus over to the chief priests, but our Father’s will would have been accomplished no matter what – and no man would stand in His way. Even His own son’s prayer for mercy could not deter the Father from His ultimate, holy goal (Matt 26:39).

But all this got me to thinking – why did Judas do what he did? How could he betray his teacher, the man he followed, the one they called the Messiah, for thirty pieces of silver? Please note that from here on out, I am purely speculating about something that isn’t necessarily addressed in the Bible, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. But you would think that someone who had been following Jesus as long as Judas had would have learned some of the principles that Jesus taught, and become aware of the consequences for those who did not abide by His teachings.

As I prayed about this today, I came to the conclusion that there were several possible reasons that Judas betrayed Christ – the first being that it was the means to God’s end. This is another one of those moments when a man meant his actions for evil, but God meant them for good (see Gen 50:20). Judas betrayed Christ because it was God’s will that His son take our punishment.

But even when we admit the fact that, yes, there is no “if” Judas hadn’t betrayed Christ, there is still an amount of personal responsibility to be laid upon Judas’s shoulders. He made the decision to turn against his teacher, his Rabbi, and his friend.

I heard a sermon on the radio this afternoon while I was thinking about this topic. The pastor was speaking about how there isn’t a safe environment in our churches; people cannot come to church and feel relief to confess their sins in front of their brothers and sisters and be in prayer for one another. Instead, there is an attitude of condemnation that makes us want to bottle up our sins and pretend to be living lives that we are not (this, by the way, is the definition of a hypocrite). I’m firmly convinced that Satan uses this against us to rob us of the freedom we have in Christ.

But I wonder – could such an attitude have contributed to Judas’s heinous actions? Could Judas have been so consumed by greed the entire time that he followed our Lord that it ate him up inside? Did he feel like he couldn’t confess to the evil in his heart, and did he let that drive him away from his Father in Heaven? Again, I will remind you that I am speculating here, but yes, I think the guilt Judas may have been carrying around for what he knew was evil in his own heart could have driven him to forsake his master.

Is that so hard to believe? Doesn’t it attack us, too? I can certainly say that there have been times in my life when I have known that God was pointing directly at a sin in my heart, and my response has not been to pray for forgiveness, but to run from the condemnation. Brothers and sisters, it is so important that we not let our guilt enslave us like this! Our God loves us, and trying to pretend He isn’t there will only increase our problems, not liberate us from them. Please remember: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1) – so stay in Him!

The last reason I thought of for why Judas may have done what he did came from the sermon my pastor gave this past Sunday morning. We have been studying the book of 1 Timothy, and we looked at the last two verses this week. This is where Paul exhorts Timothy to “guard what has been entrusted to [him]” (v 20), that being the Gospel of Christ. Our pastor took us to Matthew 13, where Jesus tells the disciples the Parable of the Sower. He says, by way of explanation, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart” (v 19). Our pastor was illustrating the point that if we don’t guard what we have been taught, Satan can steal it from us!

Is there an area in your spiritual life that you have gone over and over, but on which you still have not learned a lesson? Is there a lesson that God has been trying to teach you that just doesn’t take root in your life? Maybe it is that you are too quick to anger; maybe you have a weakness for lust or greed. Christ says that if we do not sow the seed into our hearts, it doesn’t matter how many times we hear the lesson. It is understanding that is essential, not the teaching.

So Christ taught Judas; Judas heard Christ; Judas may have even listened in earnest and known that the words applied to him – but he did not sow the seed into his heart because he did not understand it.

Understanding the Word of God is of the utmost importance. How can we worship if we do not understand the worship our Lord desires? How can we evangelize if we do not understand what it is we teach? How can we live Godly lives if we do not understand what God has willed for us?

Pray for understanding! It is His desire for you to have the salvation that comes with it.

And if we are to avoid becoming a Judas – a betrayer of our Lord and of our faith – we must avoid the things that ensnared him. First, remember that if God wills it, it will come to pass; everything is under His holy control. Second, do not let your guilt and sins drive you from your Father. It is during these times that you need His loving forgiveness the most! And lastly, “guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’ – which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith.

Grace be with you.” (1 Tim 6:20-21).


Matthew 9:1-6 – Jesus Sets the Precedent of Forgiveness

1Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city. 2And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.” 3And some of the scribes said to themselves, “This fellow blasphemes.” 4And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? 5“Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’? 6“But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” – then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.”

Jesus came to earth for only one reason: to save us. So His entire ministry here was focused around giving us proof that God exists and loves us.

Why would He want to prove that God loves us, a truth not fully-formed in Old Testament Scriptures? Because God was about to do something miraculous: God was about to forgive all our sins through the death of His only Son on the cross. Only if we were sure that He loved us could we have accepted such an action as the Truth that it is.

And so in this specific instance, Jesus also sought to prove “that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” How awesome to set a precedent with such a dramatic example, so that we would know this was His plan from the very beginning!

I Am Forgiven!

It may help you to read one of my earlier blogs before reading this one.

Did you know that the Bible never refers to Christians as “sinners”? We are called Children of God, Beloved, Brethren, and a lot of very complimentary things that we don’t deserve, but we are never called sinners.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that we do not sin. In fact, we sin a great deal. We still need forgiveness, and we still need continual grace even after we’ve accepted Christ as our savior, because we are not made perfect until the day we walk through Heaven’s gates. It is for this reason that we must come humbly to God, and to others – we know that we have sinned and are undeserving of God’s love.

The pastor at my church recently defined humility for the congregation as something close to “looking at life, and others in your life, through the lens of your own sins” and reminded us that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) I think that is a beautiful way of looking at humility, and personally, sometimes I need to be reminded that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) “All” includes me.

But it has been on my heart recently to make something known to you all: being humble is not the same as feeling guilty!

Allow me to explain.

True joy in life comes from knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God has forgiven you for your sins, and will forgive you for your future sins if you only confess them (1 John 1:9). “It is finished” (John 19:30); there is nothing left for us to do in the matter. We are saved by Jesus’s blood on the cross, and we cannot add anything to His sacrifice to make it more meaningful. It would be arrogant for us to believe that any number of good works on our parts could possibly earn Jesus’s death for us, or to think that His death is not enough.

Most Christians acknowledge the above points fairly easily. Where we stumble is on what is not so obvious – the flip-side of the same coin. If we cannot add works to Jesus’s suffering to further our own salvation, we cannot subtract them (by adding sins) to reverse the process, either. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) No matter what you do now, Christ will forgive whatever sins you confess to Him, because you are a Child of God.

The devotional I’m currently reading, Who I Am In Christ by Dr. Neil T. Anderson, says that we are not “sinners who are forgiven,” but “saints who sin.” In reality, “saints who sin” are sinners, because a “sinner” is one who sins. But the distinction Dr. Anderson is making isn’t necessarily one that matters in reality, but only in our perception of ourselves. If we consider ourselves sinners, we will go through life feeling worthless, guilty, and undeserving of the salvation of Christ. But if we realize that we are loved by the Lord, that He accepts us the way we are, and that we are in fact His “saints,” it is much easier to recover from a fall, because we know that we are on the right path, even if we stumble or get a little lost along the way.*

I say to you that humility, and taking joy in Christ’s love for you, are superior attitudes to guilt. Feelings of worthlessness and discouragement are not what God has designed for you; in fact, they can be tools of the Deceiver himself. If we focus solely on our own sinfulness and the reasons that we should not have salvation, our continual failures will only lead us down a road that will try to convince us that it is futile to even continue trying to cultivate a relationship with Christ. It is possible to become so disheartened that we will turn away from God, believing that we are too sinful, that He must be exasperated with us, and that the Christian life is too hard. This is never what our Father wants for us!

Instead, we are instructed to be encouraged, not discouraged. Take joy in the sacrifice Jesus made for you, despite the fact that you do not feel you deserve it. If you allow yourself to love the Lord instead of feeling constantly indebted to Him, you will be so much more useful to Him as a vessel of His goodness and glory. (Philippians 1:6).

Therefore, do not feel unworthy of Jesus’s sacrifice for you. God knows all; He knew what He was doing and who He was saving long before He even sent His son to Earth. But He did it anyway; He did it because He loves us. (John 3:16). Do not reject the sacrifice of what was so tender and dear to Him simply because of feelings of guilt – those feelings are not inspired by the Lord.

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13)

*A distinction must be made here between Dr. Anderson’s assertions and those made in Caleb Osborne’s Christ Through Me, which I argued against in the blog linked at the top of this page. The theses appear similar, but they are in fact markedly different. Whereas Dr. Anderson argues that we should not consider ourselves “sinners who have salvation” but “saints who sin,” Caleb Osborne simply asserts that we are no longer sinners. Mr. Osborne also asserts that Christians no longer need forgiveness, and that we should not change our behavior when we become Christians. There is a big difference between believing that we have God’s grace even though we sin (Dr. Anderson’s assertion), and believing that we do not sin (Mr. Osborne’s assertion).