In his self-seeking sinfulness and greed, Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 silver pieces. Greed is one of The Seven Deadly Sins. However, it is important for us to realize all sin is deadly (see Rom. 6:23). Judas is known as the betrayer of Jesus, and his name has become synonymous with betrayal. Before we get too down on Judas, it is important for us to realize all sin is betrayal. Our sin betrays: betrays God, our neighbors and ourselves. In addition, when we sin, our sin sells out our Savior. It is because of our sinfulness that we all have need of the gospel; we have the need for repentance and the need to walk in obedience to God and His will.
Let’s look at what we can learn from the life of Judas Iscariot, one of the 12 disciples who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver because of his sinfulness and greed. Psalm 41:9 is a prophecy about Judas’ betrayal of Jesus: “Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me.” Judas was one of the 12 disciples who Jesus himself had chosen, yet this close friend betrayed Jesus.
Jesus called Judas, and he was given authority along with the other disciples. Judas was sent out along with the others to do ministry. We see this in Matthew 10:1-15, “And He called to Him His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter…Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”
In John 6:67-71, Jesus talked about choosing the 12and how one of them would betray Him and how this person, Judas, had a devil. Jesus said this in John’s Gospel, “‘Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.’ He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray Him” (John 6:70-71). Jesus chose a disciple whom He knew had ulterior motives and would betray Him, yet Jesus trusted him with ministry and to be in His inner circle.
It is a fascinating thought to consider Jesus would allow someone who was not a true believer, who had mixed motives, who had treacherous plans, who had a devil to be one of His disciples. Could it be possible that some who claim to be following Christ today are not truly His followers? Jesus spoke of this, concerning those who do good deeds in His name, in Matthew 7:21-23 when He said, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name and in Your name drive out demons and in Your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!'”
In John 12:1-11, we see the true nature of Judas revealed in stark contrast to Mary of Bethany, who anointed Jesus’ feet with a pint of pure nard, perfume. In this account, Judas was exposed as a thief when he said, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?” (John 12:5). John then noted this perfume was worth a year’s wages and went on to tell of Judas’ true motive of greed, making a statement of his character when he said Judas, “Did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it” (John 12:6).
Judas was a thief according to this passage in John, and he was looking for personal gain from following Jesus, stealing from the moneybag. Ironically, Judas was attempting to steal what Mary was freely giving to Jesus as a selfless act of worship, pouring out on Him all she had in reckless abandon. The value of this gift was about a year’s wages and was meant to prepare Jesus for His burial, from the death Judas’ betrayal would set into motion. This gift was worth what would be about $23,000 by today’s standards, approximately three times the amount of Judas’ blood money.
Jesus said what Mary did in worship of Him would be remembered every time the gospel’s proclaimed. In Matthew 26:13, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” This contrast between Mary’s generous and extravagant worship and Judas’ greed and treachery is no exception. We see these two accounts side-by-side in the gospels and it is clear we should look at these accounts together in comparison and in contrast.
Judas’ price for betraying Jesus was 30 pieces of silver, as recorded in Matthew 26:14-16, “Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?’ And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus.” This payment was worth about four months wages, about one third of what Mary poured out onto Jesus in worship. This would be around $7,500 in today’s market.
Thirty pieces of silver was also the price of a slave. According to Exodus 21:32, “If the bull gores a male or female slave, the owner must pay thirty shekels of silver to the master of the slave, and the bull is to be stoned to death.” Did Judas, and the Jews to whom he betrayed Him, value Jesus as a slave? It appears to be so. More interesting is the reality that Judas was a slave to his own greed and his love of money. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, “You cannot serve both God and money.” Judas was also a slave of the religious leaders when he agreed to sell Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. Here he would do their bidding and would be beholden to them as their slave.
What makes Judas’ betrayal of Jesus harder to imagine is the scene painted in John’s Gospel account of the Passover in which John describes Jesus’ announcement of His impending betrayal. In John 13:1-30, about six days after Mary’s anointing of Jesus, John tells of Jesus washing all of His disciple’s feet. Judas was there and Jesus washed his feet, as well (see John 13:2-5). This responsibility of foot washing was reserved for non-Jewish slaves. In this act of service, Jesus became a slave of the lowest regard to serve all His disciples, including Judas, whom Jesus knew would betray Him. Jesus freely offered Himself as an humble slave, and Judas still betrayed Him at a slave’s price for his own selfish gain.
In Haiti, there are silver coins worth .50 Gourdes, equating to about one 80th of $1, a little more than a penny. These coins are despised and rejected by vendors and are looked upon with distain. They are worthless. People do not use these coins, and merchants will laugh you away if you try to pass them off on the street or in the market. Thirty of these silver coins would not buy a soda on the street corner. These coins are worthless. No one would sell anything they owned for these coins, let alone betray someone they love for them.
These worthless coins are like our sins. They appear to have value, but they are worthless. Indeed, all the money in the world is valueless compared to Jesus, our Lord. Christ is of infinite value. As Paul said in Philippians 3:7-8, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.”
Everything is a loss compared to Jesus; He is our gain and reward. If Judas believed this about Jesus, he would not have betrayed Jesus for worthless silver coins. If we believe this about Jesus, we will not sell out our Savior for cheap trinkets of sin. However, like Judas, we betray our Lord for personal gain when we sin and seek our own selfish desires. In our sin, we ask with Judas, “What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?” (Matthew 26:14-16).
CompellingTruth.org addresses this issue of following Jesus for selfish gain in the article “What Prompted Judas to Betray Jesus?” According to this article, Judas was not the only person in Jesus’ life who used Him. Countless people today do the same thing. They hear about Jesus’ healing power, His ability to grant wishes or comfort. Many respect His teaching, and they learn about His character, His claims, and His crucifixion. Yet they don’t accept Him as Lord. We are just as guilty as Judas when we use Jesus for our own selfish gain.
The truth of the mater is that Jesus is all we need. As Peter said in John 6:67-71, Jesus “has the words of eternal life.” Unfortunately, we do not always treat our relationship with Jesus as if He is our everything. In our sin, we handle our relationship with Jesus treacherously. When we sell out our Savior for cheap trinkets and lies, we betray a Holy God. Our sin sells out our Savior. We should consider the following questions: Have we sold our Jesus? What was/is our price? Are we more interested in what Judas would do, or are we more interested in what Jesus has done?
The tragedy of Judas betraying Jesus is not only that this betrayal happened but that it still happens. We all are capable of playing Judas. We play Judas when we look to our selfish and sinful desires rather than to God. We play Judas when we behave as our own gods and when we seek our own good outside of God and His perfect will for our lives. When we sin, our sin betrays a Holy God and sells out our Savior.
Our world has glorified Judas just as it glorifies sin and self. Sin makes Judas the hero. When we love our sin, we are in love with Judas; we are in love with betrayal, and we do not love Jesus and His faithfulness. When we love something or someone more than Jesus, whatever that other entity is becomes our god, our idol; this is the gospel according to Judas. This is betrayal, and in doing this, we make Judas the hero.
This glorification and love affair with Judas can be clearly seen in Lady Gaga’s song “Judas.” In this song, Gaga sings: “I’m just a holy fool, oh baby it’s so cruel, but I’m still in love with Judas, baby, in the most biblical sense, I am beyond repentance, fame hooker, prostitute wench, vomits her mind, but in the cultural sense, I just speak in future tense, I wanna love you, but something’s pulling me away from you, Jesus is my virtue, and Judas is the demon I cling to, I cling to, just a holy fool, oh baby it’s so cruel, but I’m still in love with Judas, baby I’m just a holy fool, oh baby it’s so cruel, but I’m still in love with Judas, baby.”
How about us? Are you in love with Judas…or Jesus? Judas was greedy and unfaithful and betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, a slave’s price. Then he hanged himsefl in despair and regret. While Judas showed regret, he lacked repentance and most certainly perished in his sin and in judgment. Jesus, on the other hand, is the faithful Friend, who remains faithful and gives us everything freely in His grace, laying His life down as a servant for us—His unfaithful and treacherous friends. We can choose a life of treachery, or we can choose to truly follow Jesus Christ.
While we all have played Judas at some point in our lives in our sinfulness, Jesus is a faithful Friend. Jesus said this about His love for His friends in John 15:12-15, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are My friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Jesus has laid His life down for us.
Judas’ life ended in a tragic demise with him taking the worthless 30 pieces of silver back to the Jews, and then he hanged himself. Matthew 27:5 records the incident, “So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.” This also fulfilled the prophecy recorded in Zechariah 11:13, “And the Lord said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’—the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord.”
Psalm 109:8 also speaks of Judas’ end, saying, “May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.” Jesus also prays to His Father concerning Judas in John 17:12, “While I was with them, I kept them in Your name, which You have given Me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” Here we see Jesus’ patience and desire that no one should perish, and that everyone should come to repentance (see 2 Peter 3:9).
While Judas’ life ended in hopelessness, despair and unrepentance, ours does not have to end in the same way. The solution to betrayal is the gospel, repentance and obedience. Scripture promises us in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Jesus also demonstrates His love for the repentant with the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11. When the woman was brought before Him after being caught in her betrayal, “Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, Sir,’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin'” (John 8:10-11). It is not too late for us to turn to our loving God, to confess our sin, and to walk in obedience.
It should be our desire and our goal to be more in love with Jesus than we are with the Judas we often play in our sinful betrayals. We need to be aware and see that our sin sells out our wonderful Savior who is of infinite value and worth and who has the very words of eternal life. Would we come to Jesus and seek Him in response to the good news of His salvation in humble prayer of repentance and in obedience?
As it says in Hebrews 4:14-16: “Since then we have a great high Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Most merciful God, we confess we have sinned against You in thought, word and deed by what we have done and what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole hearts; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry, and we humbly repent. For the sake of Your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of Your name. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, Penitential Order II, p. 352)
Robbie loves Jesus, ministry, hiking, backpacking and mountain biking. He also enjoys writing poetry and writing about theology, discipleship and leadership. Robbie has been in ministry more than 17 years and is a graduate of Trinity School for Ministry and Columbia International University. Follow his blogs at RobbiePruitt.Blogspot.com and RobbiePruitt.com. Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.