He couldn't have been all bad. There had to be some good in there. What was the tipping point? I just have a hard time believing that Jesus would have allowed Judas to be part of the twelve when there was only evil in his heart. Luke 6:16 says he, "became a traitor". Could it be that he started out in earnestness, truly desired to follow Jesus?
Today, I am thinking about the betrayal. It is ugly, and painful, but without it we really wouldn't have forgiveness of sin. Jesus died a horrific, traumatic death, to take my place. But what about Judas?
I have often wondered if it had to be Judas. I know that the Father knows everything, so He knew it would be Judas, but I really feel like if Judas had chosen to go another way, the Father would have allowed it. He is the perfect Redeemer, and He is not willing that any should perish. I know if Judas had asked, He would have forgiven him.
I don't think it happened overnight. In some ways, I picture a young, innocent Judas, eagerly joining the disciples. He might have been out to change the world, even. He obviously recognized how important Jesus was. He was one of the Twelve from the beginning- it wasn't like he just showed up at the last minute to commit his evil deed.
I think it was a slow, gradual, seduction. It probably began with a few grumbling thoughts. Perhaps he saw the wealth and prestige of the Pharisees and thought, "Why can't I have both? Why do wealth and Jesus have to be mutually exclusive?" Here he was following around a Man who lived hand to mouth-teaching ungrateful crowds, catching naps at the oddest times, fasting for days, Who had no place to lay His head. No glamour in that.
It is clear Judas had a thing for money. John 12:6 said he was the "keeper of the money bag". I think Jesus lived off donations. People gave as He touched their lives. We know Jesus had some fairly wealthy followers (Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, most likely there were others) so perhaps at times that purse was pretty full. Judas was in charge. One of the disciples needed new sandals? Go ask Judas. Time for dinner? Go get the money for bread from Judas. It was a position that demanded trust. And initially, I am guessing he earned it. He probably had proved himself an able accountant- perhaps he worked with numbers before he joined the disciples. Whatever the case, it would prove to be his downfall.
He decided that the things of this world, the things he could see and touch, were more valuable to him than serving the One who would die for us all. 30 measly pieces of silver- Delilah sold Samson out for considerably more, gaining 1,100 shekels from each Philistine ruler (Judges 16). I found that 30 pieces of silver in Jesus' day was often the price for a slave. How greedy was Judas? It seems like so little. Judas literally sold Jesus to be the ransom for us. But I am guessing at the time Judas didn't know that.
And by that point he probably didn't care. He had slowly, but surely, become so calloused in his heart that he could no longer discern between right and wrong. We are all familiar with his chastisement of Mary when she poured her perfume on Jesus' feet. He was jealous that all that wealth would be wasted- in his eyes at least- on the lowliest part of Jesus when it could have gone in Judas' pocket. He could only see his own ravenous appetite for personal gain. He was not rejoicing because his Master had been honored- he was angry because he felt slighted.
And then, when I stop to think about it, I feel sorry for him. I turned that feeling over and over. Why? He was the worst kind of traitor. He felt remorse over his actions- but not until the next day after Jesus had been found guilty. Had Judas held out hope that perhaps Jesus would be released? Surely, Judas recognized that Jesus had not done anything wrong.
I could have been Judas. That is why I feel such empathy with him. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) God can- and fear not, He does. He sees that the ability to do evil far greater than Judas exists in the human nature that often threatens to control me. Would I have sold Jesus? Yes, again and again.
If ever I allow my human appetites to control me, if I ever stop trying to "take every thought captive" (2 Corinthians 10:5), if I ever allow my gaze-even for just a moment- to be fixed on anything other than His wonderful face, than I am in danger of becoming Judas. Judas knew Jesus, but when the time came to make it count, Judas was more concerned with the immediate than the eternal. He was more concerned with his comfort now than his condition for eternity. And that could be me.
Except for the grace of God. And that is the only exception that matters. When I am relying on Him I am nothing like Judas because He is the one that keeps me from falling. "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man (that should make you very afraid! Greed is certainly a human temptation, but no worries the best part is coming) and God is faithful, He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. BUT when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (1 Corinthians 10:13).
So I could be like Judas, but I don't have to be. I can weep over the death of my Lord, but I can also rejoice knowing that His resurrection was also my coming back from the dead. Good Friday is truly a day of rejoicing, knowing He is fully aware of the evil I can commit but instead of condemning me, He chooses every day to give me His power to be so much more than that. The power to do good, to bear His witness, to love others and put my own needs aside. The power to be like Him, not anything like Judas.