In the days leading up to the crucifixion, the religious elite found themselves once again frustrated in their attempt to publicly discredit Jesus. They had tried to thwart Jesus so many times without success that they gave up on that plan; they instead shifted strategies and began looking for a way to secretly arrest him. To their surprise, an accomplice emerged, not from the crowds or from their ranks, but from Jesus’ inner circle -- one of Jesus’ twelve closest followers, a guy named Judas.
Judas, like all of us, had a hole in his soul. And Judas, like all of us, had a choice: “With what will I fill that emptiness?” You’d think that a guy who saw everything that Jesus did and heard everything that Jesus said would actually look to Jesus to fill that void. Surely all of Christ’s great teachings, miracles, and demonstrations of love and friendship would fill that internal emptiness!
But Judas had a problem: he had a divided heart, a heart that he propped up with money and the approval of others. Naturally, Jesus doesn’t want to be one God among many in our lives, and we can’t really hide it if we do in fact have other gods, so one day Jesus challenged Judas on his misguided values (which we read about in John 12).
Our Whole Heart
Every time God exposes misplaced allegiances in our hearts, he’s not doing it to embarrass us -- he’s doing it because he wants our whole heart. God wants a whole-hearted relationship with us, so he lovingly exposes the false gods to which we turn. When God exposed Judas’ heart, he, like all of us, had a choice to make: “I can receive this as intended -- a correction from someone who loves me and wants my whole heart to belong to him -- or I can get offended and resentful.”
Judas tragically chose to be offended and resentful. And every time that we choose to be offended, every time we agree with Satan’s interpretation of events in our lives, we give him a foothold in our souls. With this newfound advantage in Judas’ heart, Satan offered Judas a way to “get even” and to “get rich” in a single act of treachery. Here’s how Luke describes it
“Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present” (Luke 22:3-6).
Later that night, Judas betrayed his friend with a kiss.
The Ninth Circle of Hell
We despise and hate betrayers; we often view them as the worst of villains! Why? Probably because we’ve all been betrayed ourselves. It is one of the most devastating experiences that we all share. Just look at all the great literature and films devoted to the subject of betrayal.
Do you recall how Dante described the ninth circle of hell, where the worst of the worst were kept in torment? The ninth circle was Treachery and betrayers populated its frozen lake. If literature and movies are an indicator, it seems that all of the world for all of time has hated betrayers.
All humans can relate to the pain that Jesus experienced that awful night; he was betrayed by a friend, this was one of his band of brothers. But we can also, as it turns out, relate to Judas, because at one point or another we ourselves have all been betrayers. In fact, every sin we commit is, in its own way, a kiss of betrayal upon the face of Jesus.
Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus calls us out on our misguided values just as he did Judas. The question for us is, when he does call us out, will we accept his correction and throw ourselves at his mercy? Or will we choose to be offended and resentful, and give Satan a foothold in our souls?
For as long as we draw breath, we still have time to heed the words of Christ.