Each day from Palm Sunday until Easter, we’ll publish a short devotional to help prepare your heart for Resurrection Sunday. For each devotional, we recommend opening with a short prayer for illumination, reading the text for the day, spending a few moments meditating on it, reading the devotional, and then closing with a prayer.
Judas Iscariot may be the most well-known villain in history. There is no doubt that his notoriety comes from the stature of the One he betrayed. But there’s also a level of intrigue that accompanies the man. Many people wonder how someone who was so close to Jesus for so many years could possibly betray Him. How, after traveling around Galilee with Jesus and seeing the miracles—healings, walking on water, feeding thousands, Lazarus rising from the dead—could Judas possibly turn his back on Christ? There are at least three possibilities.
First and foremost, the fact that Judas betrayed Christ is evidence that He did not believe Jesus was the Son of God. Given all that he’d seen, Judas surely thought Jesus to be unique and even powerful, but because he abandoned Jesus we can know that Judas was not truly a believer in Jesus. The Bible tells us that all who are truly followers of Christ will endure until the end (1 John 2:19). It is a sobering reality that many who claim to trust Christ and even appear to be following Him are not. Jesus tells us that these people will be banished from heaven at the judgment (Matthew 7:23).
As you think about your own relationship with Jesus, is it one of association or devotion? Do you simply go through the motions of following Him because you’re supposed to, or do you cling to Him as your only hope of salvation?
Perhaps another reason for Judas’ betrayal is that Jesus did not turn out to be who Judas wanted Him to. The gospels are clear that the disciples expected Messiah to be a political hero (Mark 8:27-33, 10:35-37, Acts 1:6). He was to overthrow the Roman government and restore the nation of Israel to a place of prominence. Their days of oppression and shame were over. Glory was ahead. Jesus, however, looked quite different. As we saw on Palm Sunday, Jesus chose the route of the Suffering Servant to establish His kingdom. For many Jews, this was unacceptable. They had a vision of who Jesus ought to be. When He didn’t fit that vision, they sought to kill Him.
In what ways are we prone to conform Jesus to our image? How do we try to make Jesus into something He’s not? Why is it so important to receive Jesus as He presents Himself to us?
Finally, we see that Judas loved something more than he loved Jesus. In his meeting with the chief priests and temple police, Judas was offered something that was worth more to him than Christ. In many ways, Judas sold his soul for 20 pieces of silver. Judas, it turns out, worshipped money instead of the Son of the Living God. While this may seem unfathomable to us as we read this story, we should take time to examine our own hearts in light of this passage. Our hearts deceive us (Jeremiah 17:9) and often lead us to chase lesser gods. Perhaps it’s money for you, too. Or maybe you’d be willing to trade Christ for power. Or for comfort. Or for success. Or for a high. The list goes on and on.
What idols tempt you to abandon Christ in pursuit of them?
Yet while our hearts are constantly being pulled in different directions, God’s mercy remains steadfast. The cure for our idolatry is Christ. Return to Him. In just two days we’ll celebrate His going to the cross. Your idolatry put Him there. His death covers your failure. This is the glorious reality of Good Friday. Jesus is lifted onto the cross in our place because we lifted idols into His place. As a result, we no longer bear the consequences of our deceitful hearts.
Spend some time worshiping God for sending Jesus to the cross on your behalf. Ask the Holy Spirit for the power to battle the besetting idols in your life.
Written by Stuart Owens