There, there. Settle. This works, trust me. We are wrapping up the school year and I am feeling a bit teachy so I thought we would do a deep dive, since the water has warmed up. “Judas Priest!” as an exclamation is often used as a substitute for saying, “Jesus Christ.” Which is absolutely taking the Lord’s name in vain. “JP” is a false and phony substitute that plays benign but is still bad. Isn’t that appropriate? Isn’t that who Judas was, a still wicked substitute for a real thing–a real friend? A real follower? A very real foe that pretended a very real faith?
John MacArthur called Judas, “…the most colossal failure in all human history.” How about that for a reputation. Really, though? All of human history? I’m glad to know it’s him and not me, because last week I felt sure it was me. Was his sin so terrible on its own? Or was it so terrible because it’s victim was the innocent Christ? Other Christians were betrayed, even crucified. What of their offenders?
Either way, Judas stands as a warning about the potential evil found in spiritual carelessness, squandered opportunity, and a hard heart. I know I should just be glad I’m not him and move on. But the recovering legalist in me is always concerned with how someone becomes such a colossal failure, to avoid this path myself. In a nutshell, here is what I found.
How a Follower of Jesus Became Judas Priest!
1. He didn’t have authentic relationships with other believers.
Anyone can have relationships, and maybe even with other Christians. But if they are the kind where your “dressed up, cleaned up, church self,” shares polite salutations with someone else’s “dressed up, cleaned up, church self,”—it is meaningless.
There is a reason God’s word encourages us to truly engage with the Body of Believers. IT IS BECAUSE IT’S GOOD FOR YOU (and them). It may be exhausting and painful at times, but ultimately, it’s for your good. It edifies and encourages you. Fellowship divides our burdens, gives opportunity for accountability and loving rebuke. Iron sharpens iron and it does it by being authentic and transparent about who you are in Christ, allowing yourself to be truly seen and known, loved, humbled, and corrected.
Authentic fellowship, or koinonia, is capable of acknowledging jerkiness and repenting. It forgives and moves on, helping others not to stumble whether by their weakness or its own.
Judas was doing a lot of things but participating in koinonia wasn’t one of them. He was with the group of twelve, but not in the group of twelve. He was from a different town, different family, and didn’t have a prior relationship with any of the other disciples. Now, we’ve all been there, at least I have. And being new wasn’t the problem so much as it was that he never moved beyond stranger to friend, family, or follower.
Many times, in Scripture the disciples are listed in pairs, either by relationship (James and John), occupation, or proximity to Jesus. John the beloved goes with Jesus, the others have their buddy—and then there’s Judas. His disconnected anonymity, in plain sight, allowed lies and resentment to go unchecked in his cold, dark heart. Friend, there is great danger in remaining on the fringe. Scooch in, lean in, press into the Lord.
- He was so blinded by resentment and disappointment about his circumstances, he missed seeing Christ for who He was.
Judas, like many Jews, wanted the Messiah to return in glory—to right the wrongs done to Jews, rebuild the temple, and set up His kingdom. Again, this was not the main problem. Even other disciples had similar hopes, but at some point, they realized this wasn’t the Messiah they got. But they built a bridge and got over it. They realized he was so much more—that it wasn’t about an earthly kingdom, but a place prepared for them with the Father. For eternity!
Not Judas, he couldn’t get over the selfishness and pride that he was hoping to indulge when he got his dues, or when he got his power and privilege that would surely come with being a faithful follower of the Messiah. But the dues never came. And though the Power was absolutely present, it wasn’t the kind Judas could harness for himself.
Following the Messiah was about serving humbly, dying to your own desires, taking up your own cross, and walking away from everything the world had to offer. Judas was never really drawn to the person of Christ. He was drawn to the potential of Christ. Jesus was the means to an end. Not a life-changer, but a game-changer for Judas, finally putting him on the winning team. Or so Judas hoped.
And there, the resentment began. Resentment that would cost him valuable time with His Savior and eternity with His Father. He was so blinded by what he wasn’t getting right then, that he missed the “riches” he could have actually enjoyed for eternity.
Judas Priest, you were so close to the Son, but with a heart so dark you couldn’t see Him. That couldn’t be any of us, right? In a trial or test, and instead of enjoying the nearness of the Savior we grow bitter because we don’t feel very “saved” yet? Or adequately appreciated for our obedience or the generosity required to follow Jesus? Just me? Prepare thy toes, friends. They might get stepped on.
Read the next post for more on the bad ways and good news of Judas Priest!