A Traitor at the Table of the Lord

07 Jun
Judas - 7

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We are told that in great houses there are not only vessels of honor, but also of dishonor (2Timothy 2:20). Judas is at the very least an enigmatic vessel in the hand of the Lord. He was one of the Twelve (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:14-19; Luke 6:13-16), and believed on Jesus (John 2:11). Moreover, he was not only gifted to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God (Luke 8:10), but he also preached the Gospel in the service of Christ (Luke 9:2) and cast out demons and healed people in Jesus’ name (Luke 9:1). One cannot help but believe it likely that any of us would change places with him in a moment, if that were possible, considering only these matters. Yet, from the very beginning Jesus knew Judas would be the traitor (John 6:64)! How did it happen that Judas should end this way, and why?

In Luke 22:3, for the first time in his Gospel, Luke informs us of the specific activity of Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was also one of the Twelve. Several attempts have been made to identify Judas by using his surname. Some scholars believe his name refers to the city, from which he came (Iskariotes, believed to be from Hebrew ishq’riyoth “man of Kerioth”), while others say it is derived from the group of Jewish rebels know as the Sicarii (from the Latin sica, meaning ‘dagger’). The truth is, however, no one really knows what Judas’ surname means. Nevertheless, if I may offer my own opinion, I believe the latter meaning has more credibility. Consider first the Greek Iscariot (Iskariotes – G2469), pronounced “is-kar-ee-o’-tace,” has a similar phonic sound to sicarii and means dagger man.

However, the Hebrew may be a more important source for its meaning. The Hebrew word for man is: ‘i^ysh (H376), pronounced ‘eesh’.[1] The Hebrew word used for dagger is ‘chereb’ (H2719), pronounced kheh’-reb. While it is usually translated ‘sword’ in the Old Testament, it is also translated dagger in Judges 3:16 and 3:21-22, which may add meaning to the length of the sword used. It is also translated knife or knives in Ezekiel 5:1-2, Joshua 5:2-3 and 1Kings 18:28. If the two words were combined, we would pronounce them eesh kheh’-reb, which is similar to Iscariot. I don’t know, whether or not the Hebrew ending of chereb (H2719) would be different when used in different sentence structures, but, if that were true, Iscariot may be a transliteration of the Hebrew i^ysh chereb (H376 and H2719), meaning “dagger man” which is also the meaning of Sicarii.

Judas went to see the chief priests and the captains of the Temple guard (Levites), offering to turn Jesus over to them (Luke 22:4). Until he came with his offer to betray Jesus, the Jewish authorities were in a great quandary. They wanted to arrest and execute Jesus, but they couldn’t devise a plan whereby they could do so without causing the people rise up against them, which would have been not only dangerous for them (Luke 22:2), but considering their number and the fact that Pilate would have used the Roman army to put down such a disturbance, it might be dangerous for the nation as well. After Judas presented his proposal, however, a way to arrest and execute Jesus without causing a riot was now possible. Judas’ offer was completely unexpected, and the authorities literally rejoiced in the prospect (Luke 22:5). For his part Judas agreed to hand Jesus over to them and sought an opportunity to do so without the general public knowing what was taking place (Luke 22:6).

Earlier Jesus made statements about a divided heart that could be applied to Judas. Judas loved and served Jesus because he believed Jesus was the Messiah. However, the person of the Messiah was secondary to the extent that he wanted political victory over Rome. Judas really didn’t care who the Messiah was, as long as he led Israel to victory over its enemies.

In Luke 8:14 Jesus spoke of what happened to the seed (Gospel) planted in the hearts of one who had greater care for the things of this world. The cares of this world would choke the life out of the Gospel, so that the Gospel of the Kingdom of God would have little or no meaning for that one, whose heart cared for other matters. Judas cared more for political victory over Rome, than he did for the Kingdom of God. Likewise, in Luke 16:13 Jesus explained that no man is able to serve two masters. In the context of the first century AD, being a servant required that one serve his master always, all day, every day. It would be impossible to do this for two masters. These things spoke of Judas’ heart, and the hearts of all who came afterward who would embrace Jesus, not for his own sake, but for the sake of fulfilling a personal desire pertaining to this world.


[1] The Hebrew word, H376, occurs 1714 times in the Old Testament and for over 1200 of those occurrences it is translated “man, men or man’s” (cf. Genesis 2:23-24).

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Posted by on June 7, 2018 in Gospel of Luke


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