Easter 2006
What Did Judas Miss?
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
April 16, 2006

 

Main Passage: Matthew 27:27-50 (NLT)

 

Every year since 1970 at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London, England, thousands of international visitors have been asked to name which person… past or present, real or fictional… they hate or fear the most. The name that has topped the list the most number of times has been Adolph Hitler. But through the years the list has included names like Idi Amin, Richard Nixon, Margaret Thatcher, Dracula, Saddam Hussein, Charles Manson, Jack the Ripper and Osama Bin Laden. But as far as I know, Judas Iscariot has never made the list. And that’s surprising. I mean think about it: This was the man who betrayed Jesus Christ, the Son of God, King of Kings, Lord of Lord, Prince of Peace. His name is synonymous with betrayal. In fact, he’s even made the dictionary. None of the other eleven disciples made Collins English Dictionary, but Collins defines Judas as “Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, a traitor or betrayer.”

If immortality was Judas’ goal he certainly achieved it. His name has never been forgotten. It has gone down in infamy. People really just don’t like Judas or what he did. When was the last time you saw a Church of Saint Judas? Even when new parents are naming their children, they often look to Biblical names like Joshua and Josiah and Jeremiah and Daniel and Aaron and Levi and Peter and Mary and Rachel and Deborah and Hannah… Hey, even Gwyneth Paltrow just named her new son Moses. But you never heard anyone naming their bouncing baby boy Judas, did you?

And speaking of baby boys, do you know that Jesus actually had younger brothers? I mean, Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born, but she didn’t stay that way. After all, she was married! And do you know what one of his brother’s was named? Judas. In fact, he wrote one of the letters included in our New Testament. But, when he wrote that letter, used the shorter version of his name… his nickname… Jude. Now, we don’t read the letters of Phil, or of I or II Timmy, or I and II Pete, or I and II and III Jack. No, they’re Philemon, and Timothy, and Peter and John. So why was it that Judas felt that he had to shorten his name to Jude? I suspect it was because he didn’t want to be identified with Judas Iscariot. And who could blame him? Same with Thomas, one of the disciples. His actual name was Judas Thomas. Is it any wonder he goes only by Thomas?

But who was this Judas Iscariot? Well, we don’t really know all that much about him. We do know that his father was Simon and that his surname Iscariot was probably a combination of the Hebrew words Ish and Kariot, which would then be translated, Man of Karioth, a collection of small Judean towns. From the Bible we discover that he was appointed treasurer of the twelve disciples and that he became a thief, stealing from that very same treasury. But what would compel a man to sentence his closest friend to one of the most horrible deaths imaginable?

There have actually been six main reasons suggested as to why Judas might have betrayed Jesus. These aren’t in your notes…

1) Being from Karioth Judas would have been the only non-Galilean in the group of disciples. It may be that he grew bitter over being the odd man out, and that drove him to his dastardly deed.

2) It may be that he worked out a deal with the authorities in order to save his own skin, and then saw the enormity of what he had done.

3) Maybe he did it out of greed, plain and simple. He did it for the money. The thirty pieces of silver would have been worth about $10,000.00 today. Not a bad piece of change for an evening’s work. Sometimes money talks so loud that it can’t be ignored.

4) It could well be that Judas came to hate Jesus because he couldn’t hide his inner self from Jesus. Other’s looked at Judas and saw one of Jesus’ disciples a good man… a kind man. But Jesus saw him for who he truly was, and so he had to destroy the one who saw into the darkest corners of his heart.

5) It might be that Judas’ last name wasn’t a derivative of the Hebrew Ish Kariot as much as it was a form of the Latin word “sicarius” which meant “Dagger Bearer.” Now, there was actually a group of men known as the sicarii, or Dagger Bearers, and they were violent nationalists, prepared to use every means available to them to free Palestine from Roman rule. Even if it meant assassination. Perhaps Judas had set his hopes on a Messiah who would deliver his people from his oppressors. And then in bitter disappointment, he betrayed him.

6) Or, it’s quite possible that Judas never intended for Jesus to die that day. Instead, perhaps he hoped to force Jesus’ hand. Maybe he really believed that Jesus had the power to liberate Israel from the Romans, and reasoned that if he forced Jesus’ hand, Jesus would act. If that was the case, then what a tragedy Judas witnessed when he saw he plan fly to pieces.


Of course, there is one more explanation that’s been circulating in the news recently. I don’t know how many references I’ve seen to the Gospel of Judas in the past 2-3 weeks. So let’s just take a few minutes to talk about it. It’s supposedly an ancient manuscript that reveals that Judas didn’t really betray Jesus after all. Instead, Jesus asked Judas to hand Him over to the Pharisees and the Romans. It was all part of their elaborate plan. In this text, Judas is supposedly an enlightened person while the rest of the Disciples were quite ignorant. In fact, Judas and Jesus are pictured laughing at the rest of them. Judas and Jesus are essentially portrayed as equals, having a secret knowledge which was hidden from the rest.

One of things that confounds me is this: if Jesus had actually asked Judas to betray him and had even promised him exaltation as a reward, then why would he have been so disturbed but his actions? Why so guilty that he actually hung himself?

The Gospel of Judas also relates a bizarre account of creation, involving an angel named Nebro who created some other angels including one named Saklas who created some other angels who created Adam and Eve. So God wasn’t actually involved in the process.

Plus, there’s a great deal of contradiction between how the Gospel of Judas says things played out and how the Bible says they played out.

Now, do I believe this Gospel of Judas is real? I don’t really doubt it. I think it probably is. I mean, it’s a real 4th century document, preserving a 2nd century work. It probably is legitimate. But that doesn’t mean it’s true. I have here this morning a legitimate first edition copy of Spiderman issue #1. But I don’t really believe there was a guy in red and blue leotards web-slinging through New York battling mutants.

You see what I mean? Even if this Gospel of Judas is a verifiable ancient manuscript, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a work of fiction. Let me give you some of the context of this Gospel.

First of all, it wasn’t written by Judas. It was written about Judas. So while Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we don’t really know who wrote the Gospel of Judas. But we do know that the first reference to the Gospel of Judas dates back to Irenaeus who spoke against it in A.D. 180. So while the news is portraying this as a new discovery, we’ve known about the Gospel of Judas for 1800 years! It was one of what are known as the Gnostic Gospels written and believed by a splinter sect known as the Gnostics. And basically, what the Gnostics tried to do was merge Christianity with Eastern mysticism.

The word “Gnostic” means knowledge, and in this context refers to a secret mystical knowledge available only to the privileged elite. There are actually several variations of Gnostic teachings. Let me tell you one of the core beliefs. One of the beliefs is that anything spiritual is pure light and good, and anything physical is dark and evil. They believe that when these angels created Creation, they messed up, and it became corrupt. In fact, since anything physical is evil, they didn’t believe that Jesus the man was Divine. They believe that a spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism and then left him right before he died on the cross. Seems rather cruel, if you ask me.

It’s also interesting that in every first century work including the four Gospels included in the Bible, Peter is recognized as the lead Disciple and is named first. But in the later Gnostic Gospels, this in not true. Such as with the Gospel of Judas where—guess who—Judas is presented that way.

And the early church leaders decisively rejected these Gnostic writings as being false teachings… they were heresies. And that led to the affirmation of the authentic and authoritative Scriptures which are right here… our Bible. There were lots of cults and splinter sects popping up, and people needed to know what writings were true and whose authorship could be traced back to the apostles and first-hand witnesses… and whose teachings were reliable and consistent with the rest of Scripture… and which had been written within just a short period of time following the events, so that no mythology or legends had crept in and so that there were still witnesses alive who could verify that everything was true. But the Gospel of Judas? Not particularly reliable, contains very questionable theology, and written between a hundred and 150 years after the Crucifixion. Not much chance of it being confirmed by a witness.

So basically what I’m saying is this: You may hear a lot about this Gospel of Judas over the next little while and you may be asked some questions about it. Don’t be sucked in by the lies and don’t feel that the basis of your faith is somehow threatened or weakened, because it’s not. This is not a new document… it was examined thoroughly and reject 1800 years ago. Why? Because it has more in common with second and third century heresy than it does with genuine first century Christianity. So if you want to read a bit more about the Gospel of Judas, then in your notes you’ll find a list of websites you might want to check out.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/115/43.0.html
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/114/43.0.html
http://breakpoint.org/listingarticle.asp?ID=2103
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/115/21.0.html#GospelofJudas
https://www.townhall.com/opinion/columns/calthomas/2006/04/11/193242.html

For now, let’s get back to talking about the Biblical Judas… the one who is a friend, a confidant, a disciple, a treasurer, and a traitor. How it must have broken Jesus’ heart when Judas stepped out of the crowd of those who came to arrest Him and betrayed Him with a kiss on the cheek.

That’s the legacy of Judas. And his name will go down in history being synonymous with betrayal. He turned Jesus over to the corrupt religious leaders and to the Roman soldiers, knowing full well that they intended to have Jesus killed. Listen to what happened next…

Matthew 27:3-5 (NLT)
When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and other leaders. “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”
“What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.” Then Judas threw the money onto the floor of the Temple and went out and hanged himself.

Judas hung himself even before Jesus was sentenced. Before Pilate finished questioning Jesus, Judas was dead. Before Barrabas was released, Judas was dead. Before Jesus was flogged with the whip, Judas was dead. Before the crown of thorns was pushed onto Jesus’ head, Judas was dead. Before they nailed Jesus to the cross, Judas was dead.

So this morning, for the rest of our time here, I want us to answer this question: When Judas hung himself on that day, what did he miss? And really, he missed a lot! He missed out on seeing the resurrected Jesus. He missed out on those 40 days Jesus spent with the disciples and over 500 other people. He missed out on the Day of Pentecost and the birth of the Church. He missed out on the rapid expansion of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. So he missed out on a lot. But there were three things in particular… that he desperately needed and wanted… that he missed out on. And those are the three things I want us to talk about this morning.

 

What did Judas Miss?

You see, the real tragedy is this: When Jesus looked down from the cross… at those who had mocked him and spit on him… at those who had slapped him and struck him… When Jesus saw those who had pulled his beard, who had beat him, who had jammed that viscous crown of thorns deep into his forehead and nailed him to the cross… When Jesus looked at the mob and cried out…

Luke 23:34 (NLT)
“Father, forgive these people, because they don’t know what they are doing.”

When Jesus did that… Judas was already dead by his own hand. And so the first and the most important thing that Judas missed was Forgiveness…

 

1. Judas Missed Out on Forgiveness

Now you may be one of those who believe that was Judas did was so monstrous and so horrible that Judas could never have been forgiven. But look at what the Bible says… read this with me…

2 Peter 3:9 (NLT)
He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent.

Did you catch that? The Lord does not want anyone to perish. Anyone? Even Judas? Even Judas. I have absolutely no doubt that Jesus would have forgiven Judas, too, if he had hung around long enough. (Perhaps “hung around” is not the best choice of words.) But just as it was Judas’ decision to betray Jesus, it was also Judas’ decision to die unrepentant and for all we know, and in all likelihood, go to Hell.

But there are some who would claim that what Judas did was so wicked that he was beyond forgiveness. He didn’t deserve it.

Well, Duh. And neither do you and I. To write off the possibility that Judas could have been forgiven for his actions is scary, and it goes against what we are taught in God’s Word. You see, Jesus’ forgiveness is not dependent on our behaviour, and it doesn’t matter whether or not we deserve it.

The forgiveness that each one of us needs is dependent on one thing and one thing only, and that is the grace of God. And by its very definition, grace is the unmerited favour or undeserved love of God. You can clearly see this in what Paul wrote to the believers in the church in Ephesus…

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.

You can’t earn it. You don’t deserve it. That’s true for you, and it was true for Judas. Judas needed this undeserved love as much if not more then the rest of us.

You know the saddest part of the story is that Judas came so close to forgiveness. If we were to list the three things that are required from us in order to experience the forgiveness of God, they would be…
 

Required for Us to Experience Forgiveness:

A. Acknowledgment of our sin
B. A sense of remorse for our sin
C. Acceptance of forgiveness by faith
 

So how close did Judas come? Well, he declared…

Matthew 27:4 (NLT)
“I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”

There’s step one. There was the acknowledgment of his sin. Judas didn’t try to justify himself and offer up excuses for what he had done: “Well, really, they already knew who He was and it was just a matter of time until they came to arrest Him anyways.” And he didn’t try to rationalize his guilt: “Well, how was I to know that they were going to hurt Him, let alone crucify Him?” Instead, he said, “I have sinned, for I have betrayed an innocent man.” He acknowledged his sinfulness.

And then in verse three of that same chapter we read these words…

Matthew 27:3 (NLT)
When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and other leaders.

So he was deeply remorseful. He regretted what he had done. That’s step two.

So close, and yet he couldn’t bring himself to ask for forgiveness. And while two out of three might be alright in some cases, it just doesn’t cut it when it comes to eternity.

And you know, there are people just like that in churches all over Charlottetown this morning and perhaps even right here right now… People who know the truth of Romans 3:23…

Romans 3:23 (NLT)
For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

They know that they have sinned, and they feel really bad about their sin. But for some reason they just can’t bring themselves to seek forgiveness from Christ.

I don’t know what it is holding them back… whether it’s pride or stubbornness… I don’t know. But I do know that it’s a dangerous game to play. You don’t have to hang yourself to miss the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. You just have to never accept it.

The great irony is that is Jesus died to offer forgiveness, but Judas died because he thought he was beyond forgiveness for what he had done. And so he missed out on it.

You and I don’t have to make that same mistake. Jesus extends the same offer of forgiveness to you and to me. And it doesn’t matter that we don’t deserve it; it’s a free gift of His love. And I know most of us here this morning have received it. Let’s sing about that…

SONG – “YOU ARE MY KING”

Well, there’s something else Judas missed out on…

 

2. Judas Missed Out on Peace

On the third day after Jesus and Judas died, Jesus rose again, but Judas was still dead. And as Jesus appeared to the disciples after His resurrection, He made a statement that would sadly never apply to Judas…

John 20:19 (NLT)
That evening, on the first day of the week, the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said.

Peace. How that peace eluded Judas. Judas seemed to have lived without peace, and now it would appear that he died without it, too. Here’s the sad thing: just hours before Jesus was arrested and subsequently executed, Jesus promised his disciples…

John 14:27 (NLT)
“I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

But Judas wasn’t there when He said that. Judas had already left to conspire with the religious leaders to betray Jesus to them. And so he didn’t hear that promise. And just a few short hours later, Judas’ lips would touch the cheek of Jesus in betrayal. Even though that promise of peace would have been extended to Judas, too, he never realized it. And he never experienced it.

You know it’s easy to fake peace. Felix Powell was a composer in the UK in the early 1900s, and he wrote the song… “Pack up your troubles in your old kitbag and smile, smile, smile.” It was once called the most optimistic song ever written. And yet Powell died by his own hand.

The world can never give you peace. That is why suicide is now the second greatest killer of Canadians aged 15-44. Every year in Canada over 2000 men, women and children take their own lives. Why? Well, sometimes there are contributing factors like a psychological or chemical imbalance. But often it’s because they are missing a critical ingredient in their lives… peace.

But just as Jesus died to offer forgiveness, He also died to offer peace.

Isaiah 53:5 (NLT)
But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace.

Paul wrote in one of his New Testament letters…

Philippians 4:7 (NLT)
… You will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

But that’s the key… it’s only available “in Christ Jesus”. Underline those words.

If you have that peace then you know what I’m talking about, but have you ever tried to explain the depth of that peace to someone who hasn’t experienced it? They just look at you funny.

You see when most people talk about peace they think about what’s going on in the Middle East. But the peace that the Bible talks about isn’t just an absence of war. The Greek word used for peace literally means, “To set at one again.” And it deals primarily with broken relationships.

When we are granted forgiveness through the grace of God then our relationship with God is restored. We are brought to the place where we belong. Judas missed that restoration. Though he was a man who was torn apart with conflict, the method that he chose to resolve the conflict really wasn’t a viable option at all. And it is very doubtful that Judas at his point of death was able to say the same words that Jesus used…

Luke 23:46 (NLT)
“Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!”

But I am convinced that if Judas had sought the forgiveness that only Jesus can give, then he would have experienced the peace that only Jesus can provide.

 

3. Judas Missed Out on Power

One thing that most commentators will agree on it that Judas was a fanatical nationalist. He was looking for an end to the Roman Tyranny and the Jewish enslavement. And he thought the answer lay in Jesus.

I’m sure that if you asked Judas what the one thing was that he craved, his answer would have been power. Power to make a difference, power to affect change, power to throw the Romans out of Israel, power to get done the things that needed doing. And yet his tragic demise brings to our minds a lot of images, but power isn’t be one of them. If anything, he was a pawn… subject to the power of others.

When Judas came to the end of his relatively short life, he felt so powerless to cope with the events which engulfed him… most of which were his own doing… that he took what seemed to be the easiest way out. Judas was so caught up in his own problems and in his own solution to those problems that he missed the one thing that he craved the most. Because Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose from the grave. And just over forty days after Judas died, Jesus was alive and He made this promise to the remaining eleven disciples…

Acts 1:8 (NLT)
“But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere--in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

And then, within ten days of that promise, it happened. And a power of unparalleled magnitude swept into the world. And Judas missed that one thing that had driven his life… power. The power that Jesus gave to His followers was a world changing power… a power that could only be described using the Greek word dunamis, which is the same root word from which we get words like dynamic, dynamo and dynamite.

And that same power that Judas so desired but missed is available to every one of us. The power of the Holy Spirit isn’t any less available or any less powerful today. If we have failed to experience or use that power, then it’s by our own choosing. Paul wrote to Timothy…

2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.



Judas missed a lot. He missed the forgiveness of Jesus, the peace of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit, but I’m here today to tell you that you don’t have to. Everything that Judas missed is available to you this morning. Jesus’ forgiveness is just as complete today as it was 2000 years ago, and you haven’t’ done anything so vile that Jesus can’t forgive you. The peace of God still surpasses understanding in 2006, and the power of the Holy Spirit can still change our world as effectively as it changed the world of Peter and Paul.

But just as Judas had to make the choice for himself, you have to make the choice for yourself. Jesus died and rose again to offer you forgiveness and peace and power. Will you accept it?

The choice is yours, so choose. On this Resurrection Sunday, will you receive what Jesus died and rose again to give you? Will you be humble enough to admit your sinfulness and ask for forgiveness? Will you place your trust in Him so that you can experience the peace you can’t find on your own? Will you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and the power that He offers to make you a world-changer?

Let’s pray together. And I want to just give you a few moments of silence where you can express your hearts desire to the Resurrected Jesus. Let Him know if you need to receive His forgiveness or peace or power. He wants you to have it, so don’t be shy about it. Go ahead and pray…

 

Jesus, thank you for Easter. Thank you for dying in our place and conquering the grave on our behalf. Thank you for the hope and confidence that gives us, and thank you for your gifts of forgiveness, peace and power. As Your Church… as Your people… we’d love to experience those gifts anew. We ask that you will pour them out on us. Thank you.

 

[Adapted primarily from material by Denn Guptill]

 

 

 

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