Less than a week before the crucifixion, Judas was openly indignant over the honor done to Christ by Mary, as she poured out her expensive ointment upon Jesus’ feet (John 12:4-5). Judas believed that something or someone else was more worthy of the valuable contents of Mary’s bottle (John 12:6). In an earlier post, which can be read HERE, we saw that Judas was one who had been devoted to Christ, but his heart began to change and became increasingly more committed to someone or something other than Jesus. His friendship and loyalty to the Lord was apparently overshadowed by something else that compelled him to steal and even covet the love offering of another poured out for Christ. He would rather have sold the contents of that bottle and used the money for something else. What changed Judas? What made him a thief? He was the treasurer of the group, but he stole from what was entrusted to him (John 12:6).
What purpose did stealing serve Judas? He could not have been using the money for personal items, since that would have become obvious to the group. I do not believe Judas would have been able to hide his greed from anyone in the group, if he stole for personal reasons. Why then did Judas steal? What purpose did it serve? It certainly wasn’t for humanitarian purposes, since whatever the group didn’t need specifically for the Gospel was given to the poor (John 12:5-6). If he was consumed with lust for women and stole to support his addiction, how could he have hidden this from the others? So, neither does his thievery make sense for this purpose. Yet, Judas stole from the group’s ability to support itself. He may have caused want within the group and hindered financing ministries commanded by the Lord. At times, the others may have been hungry, because he stole too much from the treasury. In other words whatever the reason for Judas’ wrongdoing, he did not mind sacrificing comfort and supplies to support it.
The widow, who gave away her living (Mark 12:41-44), was committed or devoted to God. Judas was giving away the funds out of which both he and the rest of the group lived, probably to support a cause (cf. Romans 5:7). He loved Jesus but became increasingly more loyal to another. Jesus said that we could not have two masters (Luke 16:13), but Judas thought differently. He could serve Jesus and at the same time support something to which he believed Jesus had to support as well. He may have even thought that in the end, his stealing served both the cause and Jesus. If Jesus was the Messiah, wouldn’t He sooner or later have to get rid of the Romans, and is that not what the Zealots were seeking to do? The end justifies the means and perhaps two masters are really one and the same! People will go to great lengths to justify wrongdoing.
It seems to me that a political cause is the only possibility for Judas’ stealing from Jesus and the group. If there is another logical possibility, it escapes me. The fact that Judas’ was probably Simon Zelotes’ son, leads me to believe that Judas was a Zealot and stole for the purpose of advancing the plans of that political group. He was their man with Jesus, and therefore he could spend all the time he wanted with Jesus and still be serving the cause. In different towns or villages, he would hand over a portion of the bag to someone he knew, and would not be missed for the short time he was away. Thus, he was able to exploit his friendship with Jesus and the others within the group for the greater good. Someday, he would be vindicated. Someday, it would all be known, and the others would agree that he did the right thing.
How easy it is for me to justify myself in this way! While most of this description of Judas is speculation, it doesn’t deny Scripture. In fact, it gives a plausible explanation for Judas’ thievery and betrayal of Jesus. Therefore, we must ask ourselves, is the example of Judas telling us a story about problems we may have in following Christ, or is Judas unique in historical Christianity?
I don’t believe Judas intended to see Jesus killed. Neither do I believe that he realized he was proving himself to be a traitor. I believe he was able to justify all he did in his own subtle (Genesis 3:1; 1John 1:6-10) heart. There is nothing in the Gospel accounts to indicate Judas realized the end of what he was doing, until it was too late (Matthew 27:3-5). Does this vindicate him? Absolutely not! He dealt subtly with Christ, thinking to do one thing, but found he could not control the events that were destined to transpire as a result of his deed. His double-dealing finally backfired on him, and to his horror, he realized it too late.
I believe the story Judas tells us is a warning to beware of loyalties that draw us away from Christ. In the end, the two never become one. Jesus is the one and only. There is no other like him. We must live in this world and make our living here, but we are not **of** this world. Nothing here, whether career, political or moral causes etc., should ever be allowed to replace our relationship with Jesus. Judas did and that reflected upon Jesus. If I am known more for who I am in this world than who I am in Christ, I need to reconsider whether or not I am trying to serve two masters. Judas should prove to us that this doesn’t work.