The Bible’s Second Greatest Villian
Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. Matthew 27:1-10 ESV
I wonder if anyone saw it coming when Judas betrayed Jesus. I wonder if Levi the tax-collector said, “we always talked about money! He was so nice! NEVER saw this coming! (I mean, the perfume thing was weird, but still.)” If not then, we see him as nothing but a betrayer now. “Judas Kiss” is a synonym for betrayal in the thesaurus. The picture I used for this very devotional is one that came up when I searched the word “betrayal”.
Recently I was commissioned to play Judas in the Easter musical at our church. During a rehearsal as I staged with Russ, the man who played a roman soldier, ready to go and betray Jesus he posed the question, “everyone has a choice. What if Judas had chosen not to betray Jesus?” “I dunno. I suppose someone else would have betrayed Him. The betrayal had to happen”, I posited.
But, it made me think. Judas is the villain in this story because he betrays Jesus for a small sum of money (not that the amount matters.) And for all the times I’ve heard it, what happens next seems reasonable; he feels so guilty about this that he returns the money and kills himself.
I think I have always thought of this as a well deserved ending. This is Judas, in his deception and treachery now getting what he rightly deserved. This is the wages of his sin.
But now I realize that the betrayal isn’t the most tragic part of Judas’ story. It’s not even his worst betrayal. What happens next in his story just might be. Jesus had been speaking to His disciples for years about what would happen, about His death, and a even telling them He would be alive again. Had Judas listened and believed, he would have known he had no more than 3 days to wait to ask for forgiveness. Not beg, not grovel, not earn, just ask. He could have been the greatest redemption story of all of the disciples. The one who most betrayed the Christ could have later lived for Him. He robbed the story of that. Instead, he took matters to the gallows and ended his own story. His story isn’t one of redemption but of tragedy.
Friends, hear me. Judas was not outside of Christ’s redemption until he denied Jesus’ power, and you are never outside the redemptive power of Christ either. The only unforgivable sin is the belief that you cannot be forgiven. My prayer for you, this week and forever, is that you will always choose redemption of Christ over sin’s gallows.