How Could Judas Betray Jesus?
The difference between proximity to God and seeking God.
Growing up, I somehow got the idea that following Jesus should be easy. I believed that once I experienced true conversion, I would fall in love with God. From that moment on, maintaining that love relationship would be easy.
I believed once I experienced this miraculous event, I would naturally desire to pray and study my Bible, and implement what I learned.
But it never worked that way for me. I spent many years begging for, searching for, praying for this miraculous event that would “make me an all-out Christian.” Finally, I grew frustrated and angry.
I thought it was because I was doing something wrong.
Or, God didn’t love me as much as He did the other people in the church.
Or, I wasn’t good enough.
I came very close to leaving the church.
Thankfully, God did not leave me to mire in my misconceptions. He hung onto me until one day the light bulb finally came on. I finally understood it. It is simply a choice I make daily to seek God that makes the difference. Not a compelling feeling. Not a conversion event. Not a mountain top experience.
It’s a daily choice.
Recently, the Lord used the story of Judas to emphasize this truth to me in a whole new way. It started when I read the first two verses of John 13.
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.
And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him.
I think it was the juxtaposition of these two verses, with themes so diametrically opposed, that made me stop and ponder.
Verse one emphasizes the immense love of Jesus. It states that it has been constant from the very beginning, and continued equally strong to the very end for every one of his disciples.
In contrast, verse two states that one of those very disciples allowed the devil to plant it in his heart to betray Jesus.
The contrast between the love of Jesus and Judas’ lack of love is startling and I questioned:
How could Judas have been so closely connected with Jesus and still choose to betray Him?
Let’s think about this a minute:
- Judas was with Jesus from the beginning of His ministry.
- He listened to Jesus’ teachings, listened to His prayers, ate with Him, traveled with Him.
- Judas was there when Jesus calmed the storm and Peter walked on water.
- Judas was there when Jesus fed the 4,000 and then the 5,000.
- He was one of the 12 and then the 70 who were sent out to share everything that they had learned from Jesus.
- What’s more, Judas healed people in Jesus’ name because Jesus gave them the authority to do this. (See Matthew 10:6-10)
- He was there when Jesus raised the widow of Nain’s son.
- Judas was there when Jesus healed the man born blind.
- He was there when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.
And yet, Judas chose to betray Jesus. How is that possible?
I would have thought that all those experiences would have impacted Judas so strongly that he would always be faithful to Him. That his love for Jesus would have grown stronger with each experience. That there would be no way that Judas could heal people in Jesus name and then reject Him as the Messiah.
But then I thought about Lucifer.
Lucifer had the highest position any angel could have. He stood next to God…in the very throne room. Yet, sin originated in him through pride. ( See Ezekiel 14:14-15)
That is when the Holy Spirit hit me with this thought:
Proximity to God is not insurance against sin.
Lucifer was in the very throne room, standing next to the throne of God the Father, and he sinned.
Judas spent three years in Jesus company. He watched him perform miracles, ate food that was the direct result of a miracle, even taught and performed miracles in Jesus’ name.
And yet he betrayed Jesus.
So, of course, my next question was:
How can I ensure that I don’t do the same thing?
After all, Jeremiah 17:9 states: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?”
But Jeremiah 29:13-14 also says: And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD.
Why do we have to seek God?
It’s not because God is not near us. It is that we have to choose to focus our mind on Him. Make Him our top priority. We have to decide we want a relationship with Him above everything else. And then set out to get it.
Otherwise, as Matthew 13:22 says, “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word,” and we lose our grip on God.
That is why we have to intentionally seek God. We have to choose to turn our eyes from the world, its passions, its duties, its delights, its woes… We have to deliberately choose to look to God, to spend time with Him. Otherwise, we become too busy with life, too full of self for there to be any room for God.
The Choice to Seek Him
The Bible emphasizes that we need to seek God with all our heart and all our soul:
1 Chronicles 28:9-10 “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever.
I know I have to consciously choose to seek God because the “cares of this life” can absorb so much of my time that it’s easy to think I can’t spare the time to be with God. I can easily justify not taking the time for prayer and Bible study. That is why it has to become a driving force in my life.
Like treasure hunting. Obtaining the treasure becomes the driving force of the treasure hunter’s life. They are willing to research, study, travel, and risk everything in order to obtain the treasure.
The treasure I choose to sacrifice all to obtain is my relationship with God. It has to be my first choice each and every day, no matter what, to seek Him through Bible study and prayer.
Or, like Judas, like Lucifer, I will find myself betraying him.
Setting your Heart to Seek the Lord
The Bible calls this, “setting your heart to seek the Lord.”
- Now set your heart and your soul to seek the LORD your God. 1 Chronicles 22:19
- And after the Levites left, those from all the tribes of Israel, such as set their heart to seek the LORD God of Israel, came to Jerusalem to sacrifice to the LORD God of their fathers. 2 Chronicles 11:16
To set your heart is to make a firm decision to daily seek the Lord through Bible study and prayer.
- And he did evil, because he did not prepare his heart to seek the LORD. 2 Chronicles 12:14
- Nevertheless good things are found in you, in that you have removed the wooden images from the land, and have prepared your heart to seek God. 2 Chronicles 19:3
To prepare your heart is to be sure that nothing is standing in the way of seeking God.
- Then they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul. 2 Chronicles 15:12
To enter into a covenant to seek the Lord is to make a binding contract to seek the Lord.
Doing Christian things, living the Christian lifestyle, even preaching and teaching the Bible is not seeking the Lord.
Rather, it is the fruit of seeking the Lord.
The Pharisees were living a “Christian lifestyle”, but they killed Jesus.
Martha was busy doing things in the service of the Lord. Mary was seeking Him with all her heart by sitting at Jesus’ feet. And Jesus commended her for it.
Judas was busy “doing.” He was following Jesus. He was present for all His miracles. He took part in preaching and healing in Jesus’ name. He ate the bread and fish that Jesus miraculously supplied… twice. He was there when Jesus cast out the demons and raised the dead.
But he was not seeking Jesus with all his heart.
He was doing. He was present. He was saying all the right things.
Matthew 7:22-23 says: “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”
Another Disciple’s Choice
John, on the other hand, sought Jesus. John refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
Did Jesus love him more than He loved the other disciples?
Did Jesus love John more than He loved Judas?
What made the difference?
John’s choice to seek Him with all his heart.
John made the decision to not only be with Him and listen to Him, but to seek to get as close to Him as he could. To internalize it, to imitate Him, and even to lean on his chest at the last supper. And he received what he sought.
Judas chose to be present, to participate even in the lifestyle and teaching, but his relationship with Jesus was not his number one priority. What he sought most was money. And he received what he sought.
My dear friend, will you join me in choosing to make our relationship with Jesus our greatest treasure? Will you set your heart to seek the Lord today? Not tomorrow. Not next month. Not next year. TODAY. And every day there after?
It is up to us. It is our choice to be like John, or be like Judas.
(All Bible quotations are taken from the New King James Version.)
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Blogs to help seek the Lord through Bible study and prayer:
Why Bible Study and Prayer Are Key to a Living Relationship with God
Change the Focus of Your Bible Study and Prayer
5 Strategies for Staying Focused During Prayer
7 Benefits of Writing Your Prayers
Bible Reading: Removing the Yawn Factor
Biblical Meditation: What Is It?
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This was beautiful, Janet. YOur teaching style is very clear. Daily prayer has been a big blessing in my life, but I never thought to deliberately make a covenant. I will do so today.
Thanks for responding. Daily prayer and Bible study have been so pivotal for me. Glad the article inspired you to make a covenant to follow keep doing it.