Every year a certain website publishes the most popular baby names. It’s interesting to see how that changes from year to year. One hundred years ago the most popular boy’s name was John, and the most popular girl’s name was Mary. Not all that exciting. In those days people tended to name their children from the Bible.
According to baby center dot com, in 2014, the most popular boy’s name is Liam, and the most popular girl’s name is Emma. You might imagine that Bible names might have fallen out of favor somewhat, but a surprising number are still in vogue. For instance, Noah is number two for boys. Other Bible names that made it into the top 40 include Elijah, Luke, Daniel, Isaac, Caleb and several others.
Girls names though not so much. Only Hannah, Grace and Elizabeth made the top 40. Anyhow, this website has records of the top baby names since 1880. But there is one name that is very well known and yet never made it into those lists. It’s a name that no parent would ever want to name their child. I can’t even imagine anyone naming your dog this name. That name is Judas. It’s a name synonymous with treachery, with being a traitor. It’s a name of infamy.
Today we find ourselves looking at a passage of scripture that introduces us to that infamous person. He is one of the most tragic characters presented in the Bible. But Luke does not give us a lot of information about Judas. Other than the information given in this chapter, Luke does not detail a lot of the events that pertained to Judas. We have to look in the other gospels to fill in the blanks.
But as I said, Judas is notorious as the quintessential traitor, as the one who betrayed Christ. Most people are somewhat familiar with his story. However, Luke presents a bigger story, the big picture, and Judas is just one of the players in it. Luke presents the plan to kill Jesus, and in this passage we will see that in some respects, Judas is but a minor player in the sovereign plan of God.
There are four elements to this plan to kill Jesus that are presented in these first six verses particularly that we will be looking at today which are an introduction to what is called sometimes the passion of Christ; the final hours leading to His arrest and crucifixion. I have titled today’s message the plan to kill Jesus. And the text will show four elements to that plan. First, the providence of God. Second the plot of the priests. Third the possession of Judas, and fourth the participation of wicked men.
Now even though in vs. 53 Jesus refers to this time as an hour belonging to the power of darkness, the text reveals that though these events are the results of the actions of evil, everything that happens is within the sovereign scope of God’s purpose and will.
So in that respect let’s look first at the providence of God. Providence in this case referring to the purpose of God, and the provision of God in and through all circumstances. And we see that principle indicated in vs. 1. “Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching.” What that verse indicates is that God’s plan called for Christ to be offered up as the Passover Lamb on this particular feast day.
Christ’s death was planned by God before the foundation of the world. That’s why He is in Scripture called the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. It was a divine plan on God’s part that Jesus would die even before the world was created. And that plan was foretold when God instituted the Passover Feast as the children of Israel were preparing to leave Egypt. God gave specific, detailed instructions to observe the Passover 1500 years before Christ was born which was intended to teach the purpose and plan of God to provide a Passover Lamb that would save His people from the fear of death. A Lamb that would provide escape from man’s enslavement to sin and from being held captive by the devil to do his will as illustrated by the Israelite’s captivity in Egypt.
A later prophecy in Isaiah 53 makes it even more clear that God would cause this Lamb of God to suffer for the sins of the world, that those who believe on Him could be saved. Isaiah 53:4-7 “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.”
So we see that God had appointed an hour, He had a purpose and a plan established before time began that He would provide a Lamb on a certain Passover Feast in 30 AD who would be the sacrifice for the sins of the world so that men might be saved. Satan, Judas, the high priests and scribes and the mob are just players in plan established and foreknown by the Sovereign God of the Universe. Satan had no power in that hour of darkness unless it had first been given to him. And yet even though their actions are in accordance with the providence of God, they still remain culpable in their actions. They will still bear the responsibility of their sin.
Today as we consider the advancement of evil in the world, we should take comfort in the sovereignty of God. That God has a plan. And nothing that is happening in the world is outside of the sovereign plan of God. Satan can do nothing against the church unless he first receives permission. It may be a difficult thing for us to learn, it’s a difficult doctrine to accept. It requires faith to believe that all things are working for the good of those who are called according to the purpose of God. But as we look back on the history of what God did in the life and death of Jesus according to His divine plan, then we ought to have confidence in the future. We know that greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
Then in vs. 2 we see the plot of the priests and the scribes as part of the overall plan to kill Jesus. Luke 22:2 “The chief priests and the scribes were seeking how they might put Him to death; for they were afraid of the people.” The animosity of the chief priests and religious leaders had been becoming ever more apparent as Christ conducted His three year ministry on Earth. At the beginning of His ministry they seemed to have a tacit acceptance for His ministry. Sometimes they even invited Him to dinner. They regularly attended His sermons. Some feigned discipleship. But as Jesus’ preaching revealed their hypocrisy, their animosity and resentment grows. By this time that animosity has grown to a hatred which will culminate in murder.
The only thing that seems to be holding back their desire to murder Jesus is that they feared the people. It’s interesting that they obviously don’t fear God. They are much more concerned about popular opinion than they are about God’s opinion. I believe the Bible indicates that they acted in full recognition that Jesus was the Messiah sent from God. No one had ever spoken with the wisdom that this man spoke with. No one had ever performed the miracles that this man had performed. But their hearts were hardened to the point that religion was merely a means to an end. And the end that they were concerned about was money, power and prestige. Their office provided those things. And Jesus threatened their privilege. Twice now He had cleansed the temple, exposing their corrupt religious practices. And they hated Him for it. They hated Him so much that they were willing to commit murder. They were willing to lie, to commit perjury, to buy witnesses, to hire a murderous mob.
But we mustn’t delude ourselves into thinking that this is just the isolated actions of some very evil men. We sometimes see evil expressed in some particular individuals or even in regimes such as Nazi Germany and we think that this type of evil is so much worse than what normal people are capable of. But that is not the case. Their murderous plan is simply the result of an animosity towards the truth. When a preacher preaches the truth of God’s word, there are only two possible outcomes; you either are convicted by the Spirit of Truth and confess and repent and accept it, or you reject the truth, reject the conviction of the Holy Spirit and harden your heart. But that rejection of the truth always breeds animosity towards the truth and the preacher, and if unchecked, animosity becomes hatred. And hatred is a dangerous thing. Jesus equated hatred with murder. It is a poison that pollutes the soul and causes corruption to spill out in evil actions which work contrary to the will of God. In my experience, when someone rejects the truth, and they rebel it eventually evolves into hatred, and in that hatred they begin to work against the church to try to destroy either the pastor or the church. We must be careful how we respond to the preaching of the truth. These priests rejected it and ended up killing the Son of God.
In vs. 3 we see the third aspect of the plan to murder Jesus, and that is the possession of Judas. Luke 22:3 “And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve.” I believe Luke summarizes here in this statement a progression in the life of Judas that has actually gone on for quite some time. I believe the Bible reveals that his possession by Satan was something that began small and grew to be all consuming. Luke just summarizes that process here.
But first of all, I want you to take special notice of the phrase, “one of the twelve.” What a tragedy. This man was part of Christ’s inner circle. He had participated in some of the most spectacular things that have ever been witnessed on earth. He had heard the greatest preacher of all time, had lived for three years with the perfect man, the Son of God. And yet after all that, Satan comes in to him.
I can’t help but ask myself how this came to be? What happened to cause this man to go from discipleship to being demon possessed? Judas was a man of great privilege. He had every opportunity. Jesus had been so gracious to Him and yet Judas had followed Him with ulterior motives. The Bible says that Judas held the bag. His motive was money, and he knew being treasurer in the new kingdom would pay off handsomely. After all, Judas used to steal from the disciples money bag. And you know what strikes me about that, is that Jesus obviously knew that Judas would betray Him, and He knew that Judas was stealing from them, but He never confronted Him.
Yet just as the sin of the priests and religious leaders brought about animosity which escalated to outright hatred which culminated in murder, so Judas’ sin of the love of money, the love of this world, as it went unconfessed, unrepented of, opened up the door for Satan to come in. It may have started small at first. Perhaps it started as an irritation at how Jesus constantly preached against the love of money being the root of all evil. A resentment towards Jesus’ preaching against the love of the world being at enmity with God. That you could not love the world and love God. And Judas’ resentment grew into hatred as well, because he dearly loved the world. His only real interest in Jesus was in what he thought he might gain from his association with Jesus. And when that prospect started to look dim, he decided to cash out. He had opened up his heart to Satan a long time before, when he refused to repent of his sin.
Judas represents those that have known the Lord, even followed the Lord, but with selfish motives. Their motivation was what they could get out of it, what’s in it for me. This evil motive is revealed by the willingness to sell Jesus out for money. But the 30 pieces of silver that Judas sold out Jesus for is also a metaphor for whatever your price is or my price. Unfortunately, all of us seem to have our price. Maybe it’s money, but it may be fame or popularity or prestige, or social standing, or simply a good time.
I think Judas is perhaps the most tragic personality in the Bible. Judas is a classic illustration of all examples of lost opportunity. No one ever had greater opportunity and lost it. He is the ultimate example of wasted privilege. He is the supreme example of a false disciple who passes on the opportunity of a lifetime, who wastes his great privilege, for the trinkets of world.
But lest we get on a high horse and think ourselves so much better than Judas, lest we say like Peter, “though everyone else denies you, I will never deny you Lord…” yet sadly many of us today are somewhat the same. We are false disciples, willing to sell out the Lord for a few coins, or for pleasure, or for whatever passion we lust after. If Christ had a Judas in His inner circle, then we should not be surprised when churches today are full of people like Judas. They feign loyalty to Christ. They sing about how much they love Jesus. They pretend to care but yet their actions reveal that they really don’t care because they regularly sell out Jesus for anything else that seems more valuable at any moment to them. And when they see that things aren’t going the way they thought it would and they’re not getting out of Jesus what they thought He would provide, they will go for something else. They betray Him with a kiss but there is no love there, just the emptiness of false affection.
Listen, Hollywood has deceived us into thinking of demon possession as something that looks hideous and frightening and that causes a person to act like some evil monster. But the truth is that Satan gains control of his victims one little piece at a time. And most often, he prefers to stay in disguise. The Bible says that he disguises himself as an angel of light. He disguises himself as spiritual, or religious. He doesn’t like to be revealed for who he really is. And so naïve people think that they are choosing a lesser form of the truth, a less restrictive version of the truth, and in reality they are embracing the false doctrines of Satan that takes root in their soul and starts to occupy their mind and control their will. And they soon find themselves completely under the control of Satan and they never really know it.
2Tim. 2:25-26 says “with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” See, the captivity of Satan comes from an opposition to the truth, which results in them being held captive to do his will. So the possession of Judas is not some special one time horrific event, but it is something that people everywhere even today must be on guard against.
Fourthly, though all the players are somehow participating in the sovereign plan of God, yet that does not excuse their participation in the plan to murder Christ. The participation of wicked men is expressed in vs. 4-6. “And he went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them. They were glad and agreed to give him money. So he consented, and began seeking a good opportunity to betray Him to them apart from the crowd.”
What these verses illustrate is Judas is not some sort of zombie now that Satan has entered him, and he is unable to think or act rationally. Look at his actions, they indicate a rational mind; they indicate a willing participation on his part. He went to the chief priests, he discussed a plan to betray Jesus, he agrees on a plan, he consents to a fee, and he begins to seek an opportunity to betray Him. Actually, his actions prove my point that he and the priests are fully culpable for their actions. They knew full well what they were doing.
See, the real fear is not some sort of possession that takes over and renders you senseless. But satanic control happens as a result of a man or woman consensually giving themselves over to evil desires, to evil thinking and then disobedience. And so their goals and ambitions reflect that of their master.
Listen, Satan doesn’t create anything. He just mimics what God does. But he does so deceitfully. The way you follow God and become a child of God is to believe God and obey God. In the same manner, the way you become a child of the devil is you believe his lies, and you obey him. The difference of course is that Satan is the father of lies; he offers you the world, offers you fame, fortune, happiness, but he can’t really provide any of it. He can’t create. He doesn’t have the power of life or death. All he can do is try to thwart the plan of God to give you life, by getting you to chose death, all the time thinking that you are getting a better life. He is a liar and a deceiver and a destroyer.
I think that the major thing we can learn from the life of Judas is that oftentimes the greatest danger to the church comes not from our external enemies, but from within the ranks of those seemingly chosen, our trusted friends. People who ate with us, experienced so much with us. People trusted by us. And yet their hearts have turned. Satan has found a willing accomplice that will willingly help him to try to take down believers and overthrow the church.
There are three major ways that the devil is working today to attack the church. And his schemes are not new, he’s been perfecting them since the beginning of time.
Number one: The devil destroys. The Bible says that the consequences of sin is death. Satan is working to destroy lives through addictions like drugs and alcohol, fornication, and every other type of sin that he knows has terrible consequences, in order to trap people in a vice that will lead to their death. 1Pe 5:8 “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Number two: The devil deceives. Satan is a deceiver. He is a liar, and the father of lies. Mat 24:11 “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.” He offers “a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. “ Prov. 14:12 You can’t trust your own wisdom. “Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” Prov. 3:6
Number three: The devil distracts. With Christians, this may be the most effective strategy of Satan against the church. They may not fall for an obvious temptation like adultery or drunkenness, but they don’t recognize the ploy of the devil to distract them from the task that God has called them to do. They think it just circumstances that compel them to make this choice, or even more dangerous, they think it God’s will. More Christians have turned aside to go down the wrong path because of misinterpreting Satan’s distraction for God’s will, when in fact, Satan has cleverly appealed to their pride. Gal 3:1 “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?” Gal 3:3 “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Beware of that which appeals to the flesh. 1Jo 2:16 “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”
I trust that no one here today has given themselves over to some sin, some rebellion that they are harboring in their heart. I hope that all of us will live in the spirit of repentance as we are being cleansed and confronted with the truth of God’s word on a daily basis. I pray that we will not just be hearers of the word, but doers of the word. Jesus said, if you love Me, you will keep My commandments. Let us commit to be obedient to the truth from the heart. And as we do so we resist the devil by not being obedient to him. As James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Let’s pray.