Judas, as one of Jesus’ disciples, walked daily with the Living Truth. He was an eyewitness to many of the miracles performed by our Lord. He heard Jesus teach both the multitudes and His small band of disciples. But in the end Judas was able to betray Jesus, reject the Truth, and in the ultimate act of self-destruction committed suicide.
Before we pounce on Judas Iscariot, we must recognize that inherent in each of us are the seeds of the Judas “Sin-drome,” the tendency to betray the truth, to cause misery to others around us, and to self-destruct. We can listen to God’s Word, gain knowledge of the truth, and yet never allow that truth to transform us.
Judas received Jesus as a teacher, but he did not receive Jesus as Lord and Master. Matthew 26:20-25 reveals the striking difference between Judas and the other disciples. Matthew tells us, “Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples. As they were eating, He said, ‘Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.’ Being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, ‘Surely not I, Lord?’ And He answered, ‘He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me. The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.’ And Judas, who was betraying Him, said, ‘Surely it is not I, Rabbi?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said it yourself.’”
We need to take note of several things in this passage. The first being, the statement of Jesus concerning the one “who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl.” This was more than a simple violation of etiquette, it was an act of Judas, affirming his perceived equality with Jesus. In that culture one would never dip his hand in the bowl with one he viewed as his master. Craig Keener in his commentary on Matthew points out: “By dipping his hand with Jesus in the bowl containing the sauce of bitter herbs Matt. 26:23), the betrayer had shown himself a treacherous person indeed; rising against one with whom he had eaten violated the sanctity of tradition (Ps. 41:9).”
Secondly, Matthew makes it quite plain, that the other eleven disciples refer to Jesus by the term “Lord,” the Greek word being “Kurios.” But Judas uses the term “Rabbi,” which means “teacher.” There were many rabbis in Israel and Judas acknowledged Jesus’ status as part of that group, but he did not acknowledge Him as Lord. Thirdly, note the response of Jesus in verse 25; “You said it yourself,” what had Judas said? I believe it was his reference to Jesus as “Rabbi” rather than “Lord.” I recognize that there are those who claim that these two terms were used interchangeably in the popular parlance of that day, but many commentators see significance in Matthew’s nuance. They also find Jesus’ roundabout reply as significant. Judas regards Jesus only as a teacher.
The Judas “Sin-drome” begins to take effect in our lives when we receive Jesus as our teacher, but not as our Lord. We listen to His teaching and even agree, mentally and verbally, to the wisdom of it. But we fail to come under the authority of it. As a result, the “sin-gap” begins to widen in our lives – the gap between what we know and what we do (James 4:17). We begin to drift toward destruction. If I think that I am immune from the Judas “Sin-drome,” I am already ensnared by it. We can minimize, justify, and rationalize our betrayal of the truth, our disobedience, and our sin.
The only way to live free from the Judas “Sin-drome” is to be well aware of our tendency to fall prey to it. This brings us to the place of dependence upon God’s grace, working through His Spirit, to keep us from the assumption that because we know the truth we are living the truth. Being in the company of Jesus’ disciples does not necessarily make you one. Having Jesus as our teacher is not the same as having Him as Lord.