One of the saddest statements in the Bible, in my opinion, is Judas’ epitaph in Acts 1:17: “He was numbered with us!” That is, it was so at one time, but is no longer true. The disciples remedied the situation by looking out among those who had been with them throughout Jesus’ ministry and chose two and of them chose one by lot to replace Judas.
Judas was called and ordained by Jesus and was sent out to preach the Gospel. He was given power to heal sickness and cast out demons (Mark 3:13-15; Luke 6:7, 13). He was not someone who infiltrated the ranks of Christ. He was a believer (Christian). He was called of God and empowered to do the work of God, and he obeyed and did what Jesus told him to do (Luke 9:1-2, 6; Mark 6:7, 12-13). Jesus considered him a member of his spiritual family (Matthew 12:49), and said that Judas was his friend (Matthew 26:50; cp. Luke 12:1, 4). Judas understood spiritual matters about the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 13:11; cp. Luke 10:23-24). He worshiped Jesus and claimed he was the Son of God (Matthew 14:33). When Jesus told the disciples that he would be turned over (betrayed) to men and killed, Judas was exceedingly sorry (Matthew 17:22-23). He desired to know the word of God (Mark 4:10, 34) and wanted Jesus to increase his faith (Luke 17:5). He rejoiced and praised God with a loud voice as he and others brought Jesus triumphantly through the eastern gate of Jerusalem (Luke 19:37-40; John 12:12-16), and during Jesus’ final meal with the twelve, Jesus greatly desired that this time would be spent with them, including Judas (Luke 22:15). Yet, now all that can be said is: “He was numbered with us…”
What happened? What caused Judas to end up this way? I believe the answer lies in John 6:53-71 and related passages. Jesus gave a series of messages after the feeding of the 5000 culminating in him saying that he is all we need. He is Life come down from heaven—our Bread, our Drink, that which gives us true or eternal life (John 6:52-54). Many of Jesus’ disciples could not believe this was true (John 6:60), so Jesus asked if it was offensive (John 6:61). He told his listeners that his words were spiritual words and gave life to the spirit within us—the flesh, that is what we say or think, profits nothing (John 6:63)! However, most of his disciples didn’t believe him (John 6:64) and walked away, following Jesus no longer (John 6:66).
When the crowd walked away, Jesus turned to his disciples and asked if they would leave also (John 6:67), but Peter announced that they believed he, Jesus, had the words of life and was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God (John 6:68). It was at this time that Jesus made a reference to Judas. He said he, Jesus, had chosen the twelve, but one of them was a “devil” or a slanderer (diabolos G1228 means slanderous, accusing falsely ). Slander is a lie which defames another. Slander is a false statement about someone else.
Jesus made a statement later to the Pharisees in John 8:44 saying they were of their father the “devil”, and this label described their behavior. The fruit of their hearts—or words—led to murder. Just as the “devil” was the father of lies, because he did not abide in the truth, so too—their words killed and had no life, because they did not abide in the truth.
It appears that Judas had a different agenda in preaching the Gospel than that of Jesus. His words did not abide in the teaching of Jesus, slandering him because Judas evidently believed that Jesus plus something else saved men, which was not what Jesus claimed in John 6:53-54. Jesus claimed he was Life come down from heaven—he alone is all men needed, and Jesus claimed it was this statement that was offensive and disbelieved by the crowd and the one who would betray him (John 6:64). When we partake of him and him alone, we partake of eternal life. When Judas preached the Gospel, he added his own words of wisdom (1Corinthians 1:17) and that defamed or slandered Jesus, because Judas’ words drained the Gospel of Christ of its power to save. Any time I preach that Jesus plus anything else gives life, I conclude that Jesus is not enough, and I take away the power of the Gospel to save others who listen to me (1Corinthians 1:17; 2John 1:9). God help me. May God give all of us eyes to see and ears to hear.