MARK 14:10-11: “Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them. And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. So he sought how he might conveniently betray Him.” NKJV
OBSERVATION: Why are so many Christians falling away today? Why are so many pastors leaving the truth to follow paths of heresy? Why are prominent believers daily in the news with personal and moral failures?
Why did Judas Iscariot give up?
We don’t usually teach or preach about Judas Iscariot. We know that he was chosen to be one of the twelve disciples. Jesus knew when He chose Judas that he would betray Him. Jesus said,
- “…Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.” John 6:70-71 NKJV
It would be easy to take that statement and declare – “Case closed!” Yet, even though Jesus knew Judas’ true nature, may I suggest that Judas did not know and understand this himself. May I suggest that Judas followed Jesus because he wanted to be part of the coming Kingdom –
Until the day he did not!
What changed Judas’ mind? What turned him from a disciple of Jesus to the one who betrayed Him to His death? I believe the answer will provide us insight into the falling away that is happening today in the church. And, just like Judas’ falling away was the precursor to the final days of Jesus, the falling away we are seeing in the church is the precursor to the end of the age!
Judas signed on because he was interested in position, money, and power. If Jesus was the Messiah, and if He chose twelve inner disciples to follow Him, it only made sense that each one of the twelve would rule over one of the tribes of Israel during His reign. Judas was quick to secure the position of treasurer of this new band of disciples. He had his hands on the purse strings and looked with anticipation to the day Jesus would liberate Israel and set up the Kingdom!
Today, so many have followed Jesus for what He can do for them. They have been promised power, blessing, favor, and prosperity. They have seen their leaders live like kings and display their wealth and power. Yet, the tarnish is starting to form on the cup. Cracks are developing in the doctrines they have been taught. And, just like Judas, many have begun looking over their shoulder for the next opportunity!
It is insightful that the straw that broke the camel’s back for Judas was the anointing of Jesus by Mary.
- “And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply.” Mark 14:3-5 NKJV
The Gospel of John (chapter 12) reveals to us that it was Mary who anointed Jesus. It was not merely the waste of this costly perfume that bothered Judas. The straw that broke the camel’s back for him was Jesus’ response. In Jesus’ response, Judas saw his kingdom aspirations die and he decided to cash in by betraying Him.
- “But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” Mark 14:6-9 NKJV
What kind of response was this? Jesus condoned the waste. Then, He said it was for His burial. I am sure that this talk about dying bothered Judas to no end. Finally, Jesus elevated this wasteful woman above everyone in the room. What about all that Judas had already done for Jesus? What about his role in the kingdom? All of this began to sour for the final time as Jesus lifted Mary before all of the disciples.
I believe there is a shaking taking place. So much of the teaching that became prevalent in the last 40 years is being tested in the crucible of this pandemic and the post-Christian era that we find ourselves living in. I have listened to the prophecies of many well know preachers that have not come true. And, when they did not come to pass they were simply swept under the rug and never answered. There was little repentance, and few who turned, and I believe many, like Judas, began to look over their shoulders.
Jesus did not call us to be blessed (although He does bless us!). Jesus called us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. He called us to lose our life for the Kingdom and Him. He called us to count all but loss so that we could gain all that the world could not give us. He called us to fulfill both the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. He did not call us to put on our crowns and strut our stuff. He called us to humble ourselves and serve one another!
As the church is being faced with the call to sacrifice and suffer, God is beginning to expose our fruit. Our lives are being tested. There is a shaking and a purifying move of the Holy Spirit taking place. It is beginning to reveal the Judases among us. We need not be shocked that this is happening. It should move us to sincere prayer for those who are faltering and a call for God’s grace for our walk of faith and the witness of the church.
The biggest temptation we must resist is twofold. The first is to point our fingers at others and be quick to judge them and write them off. We should be praying for their repentance and restoration. After all, only God knows if they are simply stumbling in their walk or truly abandoning it.
The second is that we must never rejoice when someone who names the name of Christ falls in public disgrace. We can become Pharisaical in our gloating over their failure. We can use it to justify our smaller sins. We are never to rejoice when our brother or our enemy falls. Like David, we need to pray for them and place them in God’s hands for His restoration or judgment. Our prayer should always be for their restoration!
- “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:43-45 NKJV
- “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” Romans 2:4 NKJV
Finally, in this day of a great falling away, we must take heed to our walk of faith. We are saved by grace and we are kept by grace. If we move away from His grace we too might find ourselves the one who is falling!
- “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” I Corinthians 10:11-13 NKJV
Lord, my heart is convicted that I have looked upon those who have fallen from grace with a Pharisaical attitude. As I think about the tragic life of Judas I am reminded of how easy it is to be misled and fall from grace. I pray for those who have fallen that they will turn to You once again for forgiveness, cleansing, and restoration.
- “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. Brethren, pray for us.” I Thessalonians 5:23-25 NKJV
In Jesus Name!