During two millennia since his demise, the name “Judas Iscariot” still stirs strong emotions.
Jesus Christ called the disciple who was leading a mob to arrest him “my betrayer” after saying at the Last Supper that it would have been better if the man who betrayed him hadn’t been born.
But when it became clear that Jesus would be crucified, Judas threw the money he had been paid into the temple and went away to hang himself, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”
“Judas thought he was doing something good because if he forced Jesus’ hand, Jesus would bring about the revolution against Rome,” said the Rev. Larry Long, pastor of Fellowship Christian Church in Midland.
“He’d seen Jesus use his miraculous powers to raise the dead and feed the hungry multitudes. There was a group of assassins called the Sicarii, meaning ‘dagger-wielders,’ that Judas might have been from. The Apostle Simon the Zealot had a similar background. It all unwound on Judas and didn’t work out like he wanted.”
The Rev. David Adkins said Judas “was more of a politician than a disciple of Christ.
“He thought the Messiah’s role was to boot the Romans out and restore Israel to power because that was a rough collar they were chafing under,” said Adkins, pastor of Circle J Cowboy Church. “He was disappointed because every time Jesus had the opportunity to demonstrate political power, he showed passivity, saying, ‘Love your enemies.’
“Judas took it on himself to say, ‘Why don’t I show you who he is and you can question him and see what he thinks about these things?’ Jesus gave him one last chance to repent at the Last Supper, then said, ‘Go ahead and do what you’re going to do.’ My goodness, what a way to end.”
Mike Crowley said Judas’ thefts from the disciples’ money box are telling because Jesus knew about Judas’ perfidy but let him keep his position. “To me that’s an incredible example of grace,” said Crowley, minister of Fairmont Park Church of Christ in Midland.
“He had given Judas the ability to do miracles just like the other disciples when they went healing the sick and casting out demons, which means grace is not about being qualified. Judas thought Jesus would save himself and he would make a few bucks and nobody would know the difference. The last thing Jesus said when Judas betrayed him with a kiss was to call him ‘friend,’ and I don’t think he was being sarcastic. That was Judas’ last opportunity to be saved. Jesus was reaching for his heart.
“Jesus broke the bread at the Last Supper and said Peter would fail him but then said, ‘Let not your heart be troubled.’ Peter would fail, but it would be OK. Judas missed that conversation. He had already left.”
Chris Vore, president of the Odessa Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, cited Matthew 12:31-32, which says blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable. “This verse refers to the kind of individual who has a perfect knowledge and understanding through the Holy Spirit of Jesus as the son of God and savior of the world but turns against him,” Vore said.
“Judas Iscariot falls into that category. This individual will not choose to return to him in faith and repent. All others are capable of reaching out to him in faith and repentance to receive his forgiveness, grace and mercy.
“It’s one thing to understand and lose your way or even not to believe anymore, but that’s not what happened with Judas. He knew Jesus was the savior of the world. There was more responsibility and accountability and he suffered the consequences.”
The Rev. Terry Easley said Judas’ kiss is a warning to everyone that expressions of affection may be false. “It says, ‘Beware of those who give you a kiss because it’s not always in love,” said Easley, pastor of the First Southern Baptist Church in Gardendale.
“It might be for selfish gain. Judas was an insignificant man who played a significant role. It was the fulfillment of the prophecy that someone would betray Jesus. He just seems to be the guy who falls into that slot.
“All of us have free will to choose. Judas took the 30 pieces of silver and threw them at the priests’ feet, so he had a soul. He felt bad about what he did and tried to correct it, but it was too late.”
The Rev. Wally Schiwart, pastor of New Dawn Fellowship, said the story “is representative of the fact that the Bible is just as applicable today as it was in Biblical times.
“Men struggled with temptation and most of us in today’s world do the same,” Schiwart said. “Unless we’re perfect, I’m not sure we want to cast the first stone. Judas was a flawed individual. The way he dealt with temptation wasn’t a good thing, but our sins today are not a good thing.
“It attaches to the thinking that the result of sin is death, and Judas paid with his life. His sins are more noticeable because of their ramifications in the greatest story ever told. They were between him and God, and the judgment was God’s.”