Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Redemption of Judas - Guest Post by Captain Scott Strissel

The Redemption of Judas
Captain Scott Strissel

Judas has a bad reputation, and it’s no wonder why that is.  After all, he did betray Jesus.  There is further indication of his love of money within scripture.  For example,  when Mary Magdalene washed Jesus’ feet, Judas viewed this as a waste of money since the perfume was very expensive.  He was also the one who carried the money purse for Jesus.  Isn’t it interesting that Jesus assigned a person obsessed with money to hold the money purse for Him?  I do not think that this is coincidence, Jesus knew what He was doing. 

Let us speculate for a few moments that this vilified character in the narrative of Jesus was not so unlike you and me – a sinner needing to be saved.  Could redemption have come to Judas?  If the Apostle Paul called himself the ‘chief of sinners’ (1 Tim 1:15), where does that leave Judas?  Wasn’t he worse than a former persecutor of Christ-followers?  After all, didn’t Judas betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver?  In Judas’ day that was the equivalent of $450 (our dollars to give us a perspective of the value) …in today’s value, this would be around $3,000. 

Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. (Matthew 26:14-15)
It is intriguing to note that 30 pieces of silver was also the cost of a slave who was killed.  That was the going price tag.  Think of it, Jesus became a slave so that we might be ransomed.  “He gave himself as a ransom for all people.” (1 Timothy 2:6) 

With that thought in mind, did Judas have a choice in the matter, or was this something set in stone – predestined, if you will?  Naturally, this is a troubling question to ask, but I fear we must confront this question.  Please know, that I do not come to this question with a Calvinist view of Predestination, rather this is a speculation and pondering of free-will.  Was Judas naturally predisposed to his love of money so much so that this was the definite course of his narrative in life?   If we arrive at this conclusion then we have determined that predestination is, in fact, accurate.  I, however, do not arrive at this conclusion, but rather present this question for you to consider.  Instead, what I arrive at, is this:  Choice.  Judas had a choice in the matter.  He was never forced into this narrative to fulfill the scriptures…but inevitably there would have been someone else to take his place.  Judas chose to betray Jesus.  One must also consider the political ramifications of such an act.  Jesus had declared himself to be Messiah, the world in Judas’ day needed deliverance from the Roman oppression, and perhaps a part of Judas’ motivation was politically driven.  He desired to help Jesus (in his own broken way) to assume his rightful place in Israel – as Messiah, the deliverer.   Another unique side note is this:  Judas in Hebrew means “God is Praised”…could it be Judas desired to force Jesus’ hand so that others might praise Him too? 

Is it no wonder then that Judas goes out and agrees to betray Jesus? 
Perhaps Judas envisioned the outcome was going to be a glorious victory against the Romans and that Jesus, in all of His might and power would push them back and drive from Israel.  Judas approached this plan in a very logical and humanistic perspective…but it did not go the way he thought it would.

Consider Simon Peter’s Betrayal.
Peter vehemently refused to believe that he could ever deny Jesus. 
Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.”  (Matthew 26:33-35)
Yes, when the rooster crowed, sure enough Peter had done just that – he had denied Jesus not once, not twice, but three times.

Peter is primarily considered a better character in the narrative of Jesus that Judas is…why is that?  Was Judas always despised and vilified?   No.  He was, after all, a disciple of Jesus who followed Him and witnessed the miracles Jesus performed. 

Yet within this story of betrayal, an illegal trial and crucifixion, Peter and Judas have both betrayed Jesus in their own different ways.

Two Roads Diverged…
So what is the difference between Judas and Peter? 
If they both betrayed Jesus, how are they different from one another? 
The short answer: the outcome. 
Judas, torn by guilt and grief throws the coins into the temple and goes off and commits suicide by hanging himself.  I believe he thought the outcome would have been different, yet it ended (at least he thought it did) with Jesus’ death on the cross.  Thus racked by shame and guilt he kills himself, and the Jewish leaders take that money back and buy the potter’s field in which Judas hanged. 

Peter, racked with guilt could have done something similar.  He thought he was strong and full of faith…yet he crumbled in a moment of panic and fear.  He swore to people that he did not know, nor was he remotely associated with Jesus.  Can you imagine Peter replaying that scenario over and over again in his head in the next few days?  Living with that regret must have eaten him up inside.  Yet, Jesus comes to Peter on a beach and asks him three times “Do you love me?” 

You see there was still hope and forgiveness.
There was still life to live.
Peter was redeemed because he still loved his Lord. 
Did Judas have this opportunity of redemption too?  
Yes.  But he chose, when racked with guilt and shame, to end it all. 
This wasn’t the desired outcome God had for Judas.  God doesn’t want any of his creation to end it all like that.  Judas chose to do so…and, I believe he could have been redeemed had he desired to be forgiven.  But alas, he felt he was too far gone. 

Despite vilifying Judas, I fear that many of us can identify with him in some small way.  We too have stood in his shoes.  We too have, like Peter denied Jesus.  We have found that our lips were on Jesus’ cheek.  We too have felt the guilt and shame, but there is still redemption.  Jesus became the ransom for all people…and He still desires to redeem the whole world.  Everyone has the opportunity to be saved…He believes in us, and He desires that we say ‘yes, I you know that I love you.’ 

Are you prepared to follow Jesus today?
You are extremely valuable to Him.
He longs for you to seek Him out and believe.  It doesn’t matter what you have done in your past, but rather what you will do in this present moment.  Choose Him.  He stands ready, willing and able to accept you with arms wide open.  If Judas could have been redeemed, then all of us can be as well. 

Something more to ponder today.

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