Before I became a preacher I used to be an antique dealer. And as such I sometimes spent a lot of time around auction houses. The typical situation was I would usually get there some time before the auction started to preview the material. And then at an appointed time, the auction would begin. Since I was a specialty antique dealer, there were usually only a few items in the sale that I was interested in. The items were numbered according to lots. And sometimes the item you wanted was maybe lot 150 or 250. That meant you had to wait for the auction house to go through 150 lots or more before they got to the item you wanted to buy.
When they finally got around to the items I was interested in, I was usually chomping at the bit. I had a number in my mind that I thought the item was worth. But chances are, by the time I had driven to the auction, and then hung around for 3 or 4 hours, I was determined to buy it at almost any price. And when the auctioneer started that singsong chant I usually didn’t even know for sure what price I was bidding at. I just kept lifting my bid card up until I got it. By that time, the adrenaline was pumping, the desire was as high as it could get, there was the competition of the bidding war driving me on and I was willing to pay any price to get what I wanted.
Perhaps in that respect, auction houses are a good analogy for our lives. Sometimes we are so conditioned to go for it all, to reach for the best, to be all that we can be that we can get so caught up in chasing our dreams in life, that we are willing to give everything to get it. But there was a downside to buying antiques in that kind of environment. And that was when you took the item home from the auction at the end of the day and gave it a really good looking over, oftentimes you discovered that it may not have been as good of a piece as you hoped for. Maybe in the excitement and confusion and heat of the moment, you paid way too much for it. I think that is where they came up with the term buyer’s remorse. And at that point, you are sorry that you bought it, but there is nothing you can do about it then.
I guess there is a point in which all of us have our price that we are willing to pay to get what we think is the best out of life. And oftentimes that comes with great sacrifice. But the million dollar question today though is what is your price for Christ? Jesus said in Matt. 16:26, “What will a man give in exchange for his soul? For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”
In the familiar passage we are looking at today, we see one such man that sold his soul for 30 pieces of silver. It was certainly a paltry price for Christ, and it was really a paltry price for one’s soul. Yet it is typical of the kind of deal that the devil makes with us. He gets us so pumped up, so excited, so focused on the singsong call of this world that we find ourselves paying far too much for far too little. And if not for the grace of God, we might find ourselves like Judas, examining what he got in that exchange after it’s all over and finding it wanting. Wishing desperately that he could undo the deal that he had made.
Judas’s betrayal of Christ is a well known story, both to Christians and non Christians alike. It is a tragic tale. And if we are not careful it is possible to so vilify Judas that it becomes impossible to identify with him. His is the most hated name in history. It becomes easy to see him as the archetypical villain that we think we are safely far removed from. However, I am afraid that there is much in Judas that we all can identify with. So rather than trying to just retell the story, I would like to focus on certain characteristics that we might find common to us and applicable to the church at large. There are three points that I would like us to consider; the person of Judas, the price for Christ, and the place for repentance.
First of all, let’s look at the person of Judas. Who was Judas really? Very little is actually said about him in the three years of Jesus ministry until we get to this last week of Jesus life before Calvary. Nothing is known of how he came to follow the Lord. But here is what we do know. It says in vs. 3 and in vs. 47 that Judas was one of the twelve. Twice Luke emphasizes that. It wasn’t simply to identify him from other people named Judas, because Judas has a last name, Iscariot, which would have better served that purpose. I believe it is to emphasize his relationship with Jesus.
This is someone hand picked by Jesus to be a part of His inner circle. He was a man who from all outward appearances seemed to be of impeccable character. He was not just one of the 70, that second tier of disciples that Jesus commissioned at a later point in His ministry. This was one of the original 12 apostles. He had been a part of Christ’s ministry from the beginning. Hand picked by Christ, called to be a part of His inner circle, to be taken into His confidence.
This was a man that had not only been called and commissioned by Christ, but he had been empowered to perform miracles in Christ’s name. He had preached the gospel in Christ’s name. He had taken a personal hand in the ministry. He had undoubtedly taken part in baptism’s of new disciples. When Jesus passed out the bread and the fish it multiplied in the basket that Judas carried as he handed it out to the waiting multitude.
Certainly, he had preached the gospel so that many had been enlightened by his testimony, and even miraculous powers had been given to him, so that at his word the sick had been healed, deaf ears had been opened; and the blind had been made to see. He had even cast out demons in Jesus name.
Judas was a man of great privilege. He had more than likely heard every message that Jesus had given. He had been privy to the explanations of the parables that Jesus gave to the disciples in private. He had slept out under the stars with Jesus and the disciples on many nights. He had eaten with them. He had suffered with them. He had gone through violent storms on the sea with the disciples in the boat when Jesus stilled the storms.
But even more disconcerting, Judas was a friend of Jesus. In Matt. 26:50 it says when Judas came to Jesus in the garden, Jesus said, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Some commentators have tried to make light of this salutation. But in Psalm 41:9 David reveals the deep nature of this friendship by saying, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me.” My close friend, in whom I have trusted! This was no casual acquaintance, but a trusted friend.
Psalm 55 adds even more pathos to this travesty of trust. Psalm 55:12-14 “For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, Then I could bear it; Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me, Then I could hide myself from him. But it is you, a man my equal, My companion and my familiar friend; We who had sweet fellowship together, walked in the house of God in the throng.”
Their closeness, their friendship was symbolized in a kiss. In vs. 47, it says that Judas approached Jesus at the head of the throng to kiss Him. This act may seem strange to us today, but in that day it was a common greeting among friends and acquaintances. There were many types of ways a man might approach another with a kiss. Inferiors would have kissed the back of the hand or the palm of a hand in the ancient world. Slaves kissed the foot. Kissing the hem of the garment expresses great reverence. But a customary kiss on the cheek, a full embrace was a sign of closeness, intimacy and warm affection between equals. Judas was considered a close, trusted friend of Christ.
I wonder how many of those attributes of Judas might be claimed by us. One thing that should have become clear as we considered Judas’s attributes; if someone like Judas could betray Christ then no one is exempt from that temptation. I wonder how many trusted people in the church, officers, ministers even, people of impeccable reputation, are yet betrayers of Christ. No one should take comfort in the fact that they are in some ministry, or in some great work of the church, even in positions such as pastors or missionaries. Jesus warned in Matt. 7:22-23 that “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ To have a great reputation in the community or even in the church, but have a false heart before the Lord, is to stand on the brink of hell.
How many of us have sung “what a friend we have in Jesus” on Sunday, and betrayed that trust on Monday in the office or on the jobsite. Jesus said in John 15:14 “You are My friends if you do what I command you.” And in 1 John, the Apostle tells us what that friendship demands. 1John 2:3-5, 15-16 “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him, the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. …”
The question that Judas should prompt in us is have we betrayed our love for Christ with a false kiss of affection while living a life of disobedience? Have we said we loved God but in fact sold out to the world? John continues in vs. 15 “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 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.”
James 4:4 says, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” I’m sure all of us recoil at the thought of betraying Christ for a few dollars like Judas did, yet I wonder how many of us have betrayed Christ for friendship with the world? Judas followed Christ for three long years, but he stopped short of following Him to Gethsemane. He stopped short of Christ’s prayer in the garden, “not my will, but Thy will be done.” He had betrayed the friendship and trust of Christ for the friendship and mammon of the world. So let us be very careful of ourselves, lest we crucify the Lord afresh and put him to an open shame by betraying him by our selfish conduct, by loving the world more than Him.
Secondly, let’s look at the price of Christ. Back at the beginning of the chapter in vs. 4 we read that Judas went to the high priests and offered to betray Jesus to them for a price. And in Matt. 26:15 we read, “Judas said, “What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?” And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him.” In Exodus 21:32 the law stated 30 pieces of silver to be the price of a slave. It’s inconceivable that the King of Heaven was worth no more to Judas than the price of a slave.
In Zech. 11:13 it says, “Then the LORD said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.’ So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the LORD.” What a price for the Lord. Someone once said, “This is not the way people generally trade; they should tell their own price.” But not Judas. He came to the high priests and said name your price. For three long years he had waited, anticipating a big payoff for following Christ. But the financial payoff never came. And now in the fever of temptation and the emotionally charged moment of treachery, he was willing to take whatever they would give him in exchange for his betrayal.
Judas’s sin was the love of money. He loved the money of this world more than he loved God. The love of money was evident in the fact that he carried the money bag. In John 12 we read that he reviled the woman named Mary who broke an expensive jar of ointment and lavished it on Jesus feet. He claimed that it would have been better used for the poor. But John said in John 12:6, “Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.” Her extravagant love was a dramatic contrast to the calculating, selfish love of Judas. Surely we think that is a betrayal that is beyond us today.
But I would simply remind you of what Malachi 3:8 says, “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.” Vs. 10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”
Sadly, I believe, that of all those who betray Christ, those persons for whom there is the least hope are those whose God is their money. You may reform a drunkard; and even a backslidden Christian who has abandoned his body to lust may repent from it; but the man who is enamored with money can hardly be saved. Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
It is not money, nor the lack of money, but the love of money which is the root of all evil. It is not getting it; it is not even keeping it; it is loving it; it is making it your god; it is living for it, and not forsaking it for the cause of Christ, but being ready to sacrifice what is godly for the sake of worldly mammon. Yet what a tragedy, to gain the whole world and lose your own soul.
I don’t care what people may tell me. I don’t care how much they claim to love Jesus. How much they may claim to have done for Christ at some time in the past. I need only to watch their present actions, to see what they put in front of Christ to know where their affections lie. And I know this to be the truth; that very few people are willing to sacrifice their job for the body of Christ. There is no more sacred cow in Christendom than a person’s livelihood. For far too many professing Christians today career comes first. Money is number one. Church is relegated to whenever it is convenient. God is put on a shelf until an emergency arises.
I’m afraid that some people’s religion is grounded on that one question which Judas asked of the high priests that night -“What will you give me?” That is the question of the modern evangelical. I could pack a church building by teaching a series on what financial benefits there are to Christianity. The concern of the church today is all about what does it benefit me here and now? That is the theme of almost every television preacher. How Christianity will enrich your life. How you can have your best life now. How you can reach your personal fulfillment right here.
Jesus said, If you are going to be my disciple you have to take up your cross and follow Me. He is talking about sacrificing your life here on earth for glory in the hereafter. But that was not the message Judas wanted to hear, and it is not a popular message today. It’s a good way to empty a church. But it’s the truth of the gospel. And when we sell our soul for a bloodless, no-sacrifice version of the gospel, then we betray the precious blood of Jesus Christ which was shed for us that we might die to the world and live for God. The late John Stott said; “It is a wonderfully liberating experience when the desire to please God overtakes our desire to please ourselves. True freedom is not the freedom to live life for myself, but freedom from myself in order to live for God and for others.”
Yet I’m afraid that there are some professing Christians who will sell out Christ for the smallest piece of silver in our currency. They are tempted to deny the Lord, tempted to act in an ungodly way, though what they might gain is so meaningless, so worthless it almost insignificant. How many have betrayed Christ for the price of just a single night’s fun. Just a one night stand. Things that have no lasting value. Just a fleeting, momentary thrill.
I am so fearful for our young people today who are being overwhelmingly tempted through the modern media to betray Christ, to sell out Christianity for the momentary pleasures of the world. I can only urge them to reconsider from my own experience; that after wasting years of chasing the lie of the devil I found that what I had sold everything for was not worth nearly what it cost me. When I found myself finally in a destitute condition and examined the life of sin that I had traded the peace of God for, I wished I could undo it. I wished I had not been so quick to barter Christ away for the momentary pleasures of sin that didn’t last.
Back in the eighties, in the big hair days of rock music, there was a group called Night Ranger which had a one hit wonder with a catchy tune I sometimes heard on the radio. The song was called ironically enough, “Sister Christian.” And the lyrics expressed concern for this young girl that wanted to give in to the siren call of the lust and the desires of the world. The chorus says, “you’re motoring, what’s your price for flight? In finding Mr. Right?” And whenever I heard that song, I was always struck by that question: Sister Christian, what’s your price for flight? What’s your price for freedom? What price are you willing to give for the life you want to live? The devil is selling freedom but it only ends up being captivity to sin that destroys the soul and the body. True freedom is only found in Christ. As John Stott said, True freedom is not the freedom to live life for myself, but freedom from myself in order to live for God and for others. We have to die to our selves in order to really live.
Well, I pray that no one here falls into the same temptation that Judas fell into. His desire to live his life his way ended up with his betrayal of the Son of God. But Matthew 27 tells us that when he realized what he had bartered away he found no joy in it, but rather found despair. Matt. 27:3-5 “Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ But they said, ‘What is that to us? See to that yourself!’ And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.”
And that brings us to the last point; the place for repentance. Listen, the real tragedy was that Judas could have repented of his sin. Jesus gave him ample opportunity to repent before the Passover, during the Passover meal, and even in the Garden of Gethsemane. But he didn’t repent. However afterwards he did feel sorrow. He felt remorse. But it wasn’t a godly sorrow, but it was a sorrow that leads to death. Rather than repentance he merely wanted to rid himself of the consequences of his sin. Folks, the man who repents of consequences does not truly repent. The murderer may have remorse in view of the electric chair but not of the crime of murder, but that is not repentance at all. Human law measures sin by it’s consequences, but God’s law does not. God measures by the heart’s intent.
The air traffic controller who failed to provide a safe line of approach to an airplane and caused an accident is criminally guilty of dereliction of duty and responsible for the lives that are lost. But the fact that he had often done something similar before and never had it result in an accident does not make him less guilty in the eyes of God. We do not measure sin by the consequences but repent of them as the sin they are in God’s eyes.
Unfortunately, lately I seem to have much experience dealing with people who are caught up in some crisis caused by the consequences of their sin. They come with tears and remorse and a desire to make things right. But the truth is that they really only want God to eliminate their consequences. They are not really repenting of their lying, or their stealing, or their drinking or their drugs, or their fornication. And that is evident because as soon as the tears are dry and the crisis is past, they go right back to the same vices that got them in trouble in the first place.
Listen, I purposefully painted a picture of Judas this morning that looks uncomfortably a lot like most of us. I would dare say that all of us have a price, something that is so important to us we will betray Christ for it. Many of us have betrayed Jesus for one thing or another at some point in our lives that had very little worth once we have seen it in the light of the truth. And I would hope that there is remorse for that betrayal. But I pray even more that there is repentance for that betrayal. And I will assure you of this, that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Satan will whisper in your ear that you are not worthy of forgiveness. That you are not worthy of Christ. And to that you say, “You’re right.” Because Christianity has never been about being worthy of forgiveness. Jesus came to seek and to save those that were lost. He came even to die for the Judas’s of the world. He came to restore and forgive those that repent of their sins. We are all sinners. And but for the grace of God we would all end up like Judas, despairing of hope. But there is hope in Christ and there is forgiveness of sins for those that are not just sorry for their circumstances, but sorry for their sin and willing to surrender to Christ as Lord of their life.