The spirit of Judas Iscariot
Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him (Matthew 26:14–16 ESV).
Before the notorious act of betrayal leveled upon our Lord as He exited the Garden of Gethsemane, the name Judas was a respected if not revered name. It was a common name meaning “celebrated” or “lauded,” that no parent would hesitate to call their child. Yet after selling out the innocent blood of the Son of God for thirty pieces of silver and identifying Him to the authorities with a kiss on the cheek, few parents have dared to risk identifying their sons with a man like Judas Iscariot.
After Judas Iscariot betrayed the innocent blood, the New Testament writers went to great lengths to clarify who they were writing about, lest we mistake that person for the betrayer. They attached a distinguishing epithet to the name to identify him to be another person. It is always either “Judas the brother of James” (Acts 1:13), or “Judas, not Iscariot” (John 14:22), or “Judas who was surnamed Barsabbas” (Acts 15:22), or “Judas the Galilean” (Acts 5:37).”
Understand that when I say “the spirit of Judas Iscariot,” I do not mean that his spirit is walking the earth or that there is necessarily a demon spirit after that name (as some preach). I’m defining “spirit” as those qualities regarded as forming the definitive or typical elements in a person’s character and attitude. Judas Iscariot was a thief and apparently served the god of Mammon under the guise of serving Jesus Christ. In the end, we discover that Judas would do anything for a buck and occasionally stole money from the purse that he and the disciples shared with our Lord meant to cover the cost of their necessities (John 12:6). In modern times we would call it embezzling funds. What a brazen thing to do. A person like Judas Iscariot routinely does unconscionable things and seemingly gets by with them — emboldening them to do worse things until they finally commit unfathomable evil.
Judas was called and commissioned by the Lord Jesus and would have preached the Gospel, healed the sick, and cast out devils with the rest. One could argue that there was great potential for him, but he made the critical error of disregarding the very message he heard and preached. He obviously didn’t believe it applied to him as if he was a privileged character or something. Jesus counseled the disciples about the trappings of material wealth and reserved some of His strongest warnings for selfish and greedy people. He told them plainly that they could not serve God and Mammon (materialism and money), but this never stopped Judas from attempting it over and over.
People who are of the spirit of Judas Iscariot are Gospel hardened. They read the words of Jesus and don’t apply them to themselves. For Judas, perhaps he believed that he was a good steward of the resources entrusted to him, so he fussed over wastefulness — such as when the sister of Lazarus poured the costly ointment on Jesus’ feet and wiped it with her hair. “It could have been sold,” exclaimed Judas. He elevated money over more precious things such as acts of worship. Judas could have invented the phrase “the almighty dollar” because he elevated money even above the Almighty.
What makes Judas particularly evil is that He stabbed Jesus in the back (as it were) after receiving so much good from the Lord’s hands. Again, he must have viewed himself as exceptional or privileged, so he disregarded the words of Jesus and ended up coming under the control of the Devil himself. The scripture says that Satan entered Judas and possessed him (Luke 22:3, John 13:27). Whoever heard of such evil? That would be the most frightful thing that ever happened to a human being. The man was the poster child for the saying,” sin will take you farther than you want to go and keep you longer than you plan to stay.” He wasn’t demon-possessed; he was Satan possessed.
Blind to His Condition
I must emphasize that Judas Iscariot and others like him are blind to their own condition. Pride, arrogance, rebellion, envy, jealousy, hatred, greed, and a host of other sinful personality traits sear the conscience. The sins that a person goes on committing deceives them into believing they are a privileged character and can get by with almost anything they do — while expecting others to like it. Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve and believed that his place in the inner-circle afforded him special privileges—when in reality it elevated his responsibility and accountability before God. To whom much is given much is required. Judas Iscariot didn’t get it.
If Judas had known that his secret sin would someday lead to the Lord saying, “good for that man had he not been born” (Matthew 26:24), he may have turned back long before the sin completely controlled his life. His remorse came too late—it came after he already accomplished the Devil’s will and betrayed the only innocent man to live and die in this world. Jesus did everything to see this man repent and even referred to him as “friend” (Matthew 26:50), but Judas kept playing with sin until it finally brought him to unprecedented disgrace, regret, and ruin.
People who are of Judas Iscariot’s spirit are risking their everlasting soul for some temporal pleasure—while rubbing elbows with people who are legitimate children of God. Most of the time, people around them know they are vile, but nobody ever confronts them. Even sinners knew what type of man Judas Iscariot was because they dealt with him in business and were probably put off regularly by his greedy ways. He justified his greed as if to say, “It’s required of a steward to be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2) or some other pious-sounding phrase. But only he was fooled. Everybody knew what kind of man he was. I suspect that the disciples overlooked a lot of bad behavior from Judas and he took their mercy as a green light to do even greater evil. So it is with those who are of the spirit of Judas Iscariot.
Is there any hope for the type of person who could kiss the Lord on the cheek while driving a knife deep into His back (so to speak)? If there is, it will begin with a recognition that God’s word applies to them like everyone else. Judas Iscariot was a thief who stole from the bag, while his type today steals time and goods from their employers, the grocery store, or even their own children if they get a chance. They could look a man in the eyes while stealing him blind or committing adultery with his wife, another form of theft (Proverbs 9:17). All the while, believing in their own heart that they are as blessed and protected of God as was Abraham, or some other highly-favored man or woman of God.
It will be too late once disaster strikes and the scales finally fall from the eyes. Judas Iscariot wept in what can only be described as a foretaste of his own personal hell, a place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Peter disregarded the Lord’s words, denied him, and went out and wept bitterly. Judas tried to return the measly thirty pieces of silver but found that the sale was final. Like Esau, he found no place of repentance though he sought it with tears.
Judas Iscariot committed an irreversible act so terrible that he couldn’t deal with it. There was nothing left but bitter weeping. Peter hung around and was soon restored by Jesus. Judas went out and hanged himself. Satan got what he wanted and used Judas Iscariot’s secret vices of filching and pilfering to pull it off. What sin, if any, is the enemy convincing us that God is overlooking or that He doesn’t see it? May we learn from his example and renounce that “spirit” lest we also share in his fate.