While He was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With Him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest Him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for.”
– Matthew 26:47-50 (NIV)
In the movie “Jesus Christ Superstar,” we find the opening scene to the move slated from Judas’ narration. Judas is portrayed in a very specific light: as being one who, believing in the message of Jesus, was thoroughly afraid for himself and his own motives and interests. He was afraid that following Jesus would lead to uprising, further problems for the Israelites, and that, to put it bluntly…it would create more trouble than it was worth. Something in this portrayal of Judas clicked when I saw it: Judas wasn’t willing to pay the cost to go all the way if that was asked of him. He wanted to be around to benefit, but not to pay the price. He wanted to be a part of the Kingdom to advance, not to advance it, if advancing it meant too high of a cost to himself.
Seeing Judas through this perspective gave me new thought about Judas, who is a Biblical figure I have thought much about over the years. The endless debates have come and gone about Judas, his purpose, what he was to do, what would have happened had he done something different, and the like. A lot has been written about Judas over the course of history. Judas and his actions are so well-known, they have come to be used in casual society. We call someone, especially a close friend, who betrays us a “Judas.” Some people talk about a “Judas spirit.” Often we try to give a new perspective to Judas and slant the issue to try and focus on who we are with Judas and how what Judas does helps us…but the viewpoint is still all about us and where we are going in the long run. We aren’t identifying Judas and knowing how we respond to that kind of figure in our lives. As a result, we mistake Judas for something other than what he or she is and becomes in our lives. We are so busy trying to fight off people who seem to publically disagree with them AND note that they step up and do such that we let Judas slip in and among, right under our noses, until Judas does what he has come to do and then deal with that aftermath. In that aftermath, sometimes we allow Judas to destroy us in the immediate, rather than holding on to look at the long-term.
We live in a very emotionally-charged church that takes betrayal of any sort as a personal attack. We worry about so much in today’s church: we fear scandal (whether warranted or not), bad reputation, gossip, and the tarnishing of our image…whether or not that image is who we really are. We know that we do not fight flesh and blood, but the way Judas plays, it often feels like we start fighting people. It’s hard to see the bigger picture when dealing with Judas, but it is something we must do. We need to identify and know how Judas works so we can recognize what we are really dealing with behind the scenes. In the bigger picture, Judas is a particularly pathetic character. Judas was bound up by so many things in his life, he viewed Kingdom service as yet another way to advance himself. In that bondage, he betrayed the Lord Himself, only counting his own personal gain. This is the basic map and prototype of Judas: it is an individual who lives so caught up with themselves, everyone and everything is about them. In the case of a Judas, they operate their endless cycles of need, want, and narcissism by using the Kingdom. They walk among those rightly called. They look the part; they seem ample and able to handle important duties and responsibilities; they sound the part. On the surface, nobody would ever be able to tell the difference between a Judas and a rightly called leader. They are designed to compliment and blend in right up to the highest positions of Kingdom authority. It isn’t until the cost becomes greater than sought that a true Judas starts to come out…and then they begin to operate in the spirit of sabotage. Judas attempts to sabotage anything and everything that challenges, drives, or pushes them and reveals their true nature. And, on the surface…it seems as if they did it without cost, and without any sort of prompting.
It’s time we identify Judas…so we know how to handle Judas. We all have one. Many of us will have more than one during the course of our ministries, but all of us get at least one. We just aren’t handling Judas correctly because we haven’t been taught rightly on this topic…but we must alert ourselves as to what the right thing to do is so that when Judas arises, their betrayal leads our ministries to bring forth more redemptive work rather than killing us off.
Let’s start by identifying what Judas is not, so we can better see Judas in a better way: A Judas is not someone who falls out of favor with us or someone who we grow to disagree with over time. All of us have worked with people who were with us for a time and who supported us for a time. That individual may have grown to become a powerful force in our lives – maybe someone even with influence or a trusted support or companion – but something occurred toward the end that caused a parting of ways. This is just a human process, whether good or bad, and in the spiritual side of it, sometimes people aren’t designed to walk all the way with us. You may have words with this individual, they may talk about you behind your back, they may even seem to, in one form or another, “betray” you, but this doesn’t make them Judas; it just means that a time has come and it’s time to part ways because they aren’t prepared, nor equipped, to go with you to the next phase of the journey. Likewise, Judas is not someone who just sins against us or the work of God in our lives. Let’s never forget that the Apostle Peter also committed a sin against the Lord by denying Him three times, and that none of the Apostles were able to stay awake and watch and pray with the Lord (Matthew 26:31-46). They too wronged the Lord, but they were not Judas, and what they did against the Lord was not counted the same as what Judas did.
That having been said, let’s look at what and who Judas is.
Judas isn’t about you or the work of God within you or even assisting the Kingdom vision….Judas is about himself or herself. – We have no dialogue between Judas and the Pharisees in the Bible. In his self-centered state, I don’t think Judas gave much consideration about what would happen to Jesus. The same is true about any Judas. While they appear to be in the right place at the right time and offering the right help, they aren’t actually about the help: they are about how helping can advance themselves. It won’t look like it because the purpose is to blend in and look like a very helpful and eager version of everyone else.
Judas ‘tags along.’ – My Apostle pointed out to me once that we have a call for every Apostle in the Bible…except for Judas. We have no incident where Judas was called by Jesus to leave behind his life and follow Christ. This tells us something very important about Judas: he wasn’t called, but he started following and came along and was numbered as a part of the others (Matthew 10:1-4, Acts 1:15-26). He was self-appointed and gave himself his own anointing, because we have no indication that Christ ever gave it to him. As leaders, we need to be very wary of people who seem so eager to be a part of things but we can’t pinpoint a call upon them. Style can be mimicked; imitation can be apparent; but the anointing can’t be faked! All we seem to know about Judas is he looked like, walked like, talked like, behaved like, and seemed like everyone else. In other words, Judas knows how to mimic the call. Judas knows how to blend in and appear to be a part of…when he or she is only among. For this reason, we have to be extraordinarily careful about Judas’ operation. Judas can be anybody that attaches themselves to our lives and our call (they just have to know about the call and seem interested in it) – it can be someone who we know intimately, someone we desire to know intimately, someone who is under or over our ministry, or someone who seems to be a part of it. They seem interested on a level that speaks to a leader, especially a leader with need of assistance or following. Before we know it, they are setting themselves up in our lives and ministries.
Something “just doesn’t feel right” about Judas – Ever have those people who keep trying to tell us something about themselves or present themselves in a certain way…and we just have that little gnawing that is telling us something isn’t right about them? I’m not talking about judgment, I am talking about a genuine realization of something that we just can’t identify or put our finger on because we don’t know them well enough in the natural to know something just isn’t right about them. I knew of a woman who is a leader who I had that feeling about from the beginning. She claimed to want to be my friend, but something always stopped me from taking her into my confidence. Something just didn’t feel right with her, something felt uncomfortable about her and her claims, both in her own leadership and how she wanted to interact with me. Why? It turned out she was sent to be a Judas.
Judas wants to go beyond the pulpit – and you know it’s a bad idea – All of us have our support systems. We know and recognize there are different types of support. There are people I am on a first-name basis with, who I love dearly, and who I will continue to stand with through until the end. There are people who I cover in ministry who I also love dearly and know God will continue to work in their lives and raise them up for His purpose, and I am honored to be a part of that process. Then there are those I work with and respect in the ministry on a ministerial level, love them, support them, and stand with them. Then there is the rest of them: those who want to snuggle up to me…just enough to get close enough, but not be a part of…and I refuse to let them. We see these boundaries present within the Bible as well: the Twelve had a certain relationship the Seventy did not have, and that while they had it amongst themselves, they did not have it among the general church body. As the Twelve walked and worked together, their lives went beyond preaching and pulpit work. They travelled together, ate together, slept in close quarters together, prayed together, had their daily routines together, and worked together. We can see that interaction in their manners one to another: at times, they acted like children (John 21:20-23) and even had competitions and jealousies of one another (Matthew 20:20-27, Matthew 10:35-45). We don’t see Judas participating in this kind of interaction with the other eleven Apostles. When we do see Judas speaking up, it is usually in criticism (John 12:1-8). Judas wanted to be around just enough to get what would benefit him, without becoming a part of it. Why? At some point in time, Judas probably would have used what he saw against the others. Judas’ are always gathering up what they can in just enough proportion to use it to their benefit. For this reason, if there is only one thing I can say to the church that you will hear, hear this: be VERY careful of who you take into your confidence and, even then, what you say and how you word things…because Judas is very eager to get the dirt on you that you would never expose in the pulpit.
Judas appears to be your friend, at least by the standards of outsiders – Most of you know I am Italian, and that means my entire life I have had non-Italians joke with me about the “kiss of death.” The Mafia’s kiss of death (where one close to the other kisses them as a sign that is the person to be killed) is a play on Judas’ kiss to Jesus in the garden (Matthew 26:45-56) by which the enemy identified Jesus and was able to take him to death. Judas was one that nobody would have suspected because the kiss itself was disguised as a kiss among friends – a common greeting in ancient and some modern cultures. The kiss was a cultural sign of friendship and thus it made it most appropriate to be used as a weapon. To everyone but Judas, Jesus by His revelation, and the guards, Judas appeared to be Jesus’ friend because Judas’ action gave that impression. This is how Judas operates today as well: others may view you and your Judas as being close friends, close in ministry, or at the very least, respectable acquaintances. They may refer to you as a friend or in some other way, indicate a love or care for you, and even promote you as such before others…all the while trying to use you unto your demise.
Judas “conspires” with your enemies – We all just want to pretend that everything in the Kingdom is sunshine and roses, and that we don’t deal with people who are our enemies. The truth is that we do have enemies, even those who claim to be Kingdom. Yes, they are most likely operations of the enemy, and yes, we know that we love our enemies, but that doesn’t mean we trust them. When someone is close enough to know who your enemies are, and identify them, and still fraternize with them…it’s time to be careful. I know that we don’t always get along with others and that we shouldn’t expect people to just stop talking to other people because we don’t want to talk to them anymore (making allowances for revelation, understanding, perspective, and personality differences), but we need to beware the forming of exceedingly friendly alliances when someone knows how we were treated by someone else. I know of a woman who knew how I was treated by a former leader and created an alliance with her anyway – knowing fully well who she was and what she had done – and are we really surprised to discover this woman was a Judas to me? Yes, we have different experiences with people, yes, not everyone gets along…but yes, there is the call for loyalty in the Spiritual realm and we are called to beware those who are clearly aligning with those who come against God’s Kingdom leaders. If someone acknowledges you are of God and then aligns with someone they know is not of God…something is wrong.
Judas does not ascribe to the order which he is called – In re-echoing the fact that we have no call of Judas, coupling the fact that Judas likes to cozy up to people to extract information from them, we have the bottom line of both: Judas does not ascribe to order. Even though it may appear that he did, it is only an appearance because he was able to mimic style and manner to blend in with the others. Thus we can recognize a Judas does what everyone else does and may even seem to do it with the right attitude – but they aren’t really doing it because it is what God is asking of them. Within, they have an unspoken spirit of rebellion just waiting to come out. In those days when the Twelve were coming together and learning about ministry, they were learning about order and mutual submission of one to another. They were also learning about the headship of our Lord and about having a right relationship with Him. Both were important and both present an essential balance needed to be apostles in any time within the church. Judas was always on the outskirts of that: he wasn’t a real participant in the development…he was just always there, seeming to do his part. A Judas defies order in one form or another, often using the personal information they have either extracted or think they have extracted (they may in reality know nothing at all but think they know something and will run with it until it becomes some semblance of accurate). In modern times, Judas will use whatever means available to them to defy order: they will abuse the pulpit you so respectfully allow them to use, the conference you invited them to speak at, the internet, their blog, Facebook, Twitter, word of mouth, or their own venues. They usually have a darkened history that they slant and do not speak much about where they have done the same to others, especially those who have served as their leaders and have tried to instruct them. Their history is one of a defiance of order and a disgrace of other ministers.
Judas likes money – to the point of being good with it – and yet all about it – Many have questioned about Judas’ role as treasurer. If he wasn’t really an apostle – if he was just an imposter – why did Jesus allow him to be treasurer? Because he was good at it, and doing such was prophetic to his ultimate betrayal and demise. You don’t have to be a true leader of God to be good with money – in fact, we can see that many in the world are far better with money than those in the church. Judas’ love of money made him trustworthy with it….but it also made him greedy with it (John 12:1-8), thinking it was his and he got to have an opinion about the expense of things. A Judas is all about money in one form or another. They may give you large amounts of it for the “work” but then they start telling you what to do with it. You hear how much money “they” gave you and why they think “you” are mishandling it. Then they start to get stingy or withhold from the offering. Truth be told, they are most likely so good at handling money they have many things financially order in their own lives and it may even seem like we should imitate them…but their financial blessing eventually becomes their financial downfall. Judas betrayed Jesus because he loved money. The Pharisees and Sadducees waved the right amount of money under his nose and he threw his Lord over for the amount laid before him (Matthew 26:14-16). At some point we know Judas had his regrets because he tried to reverse the process and return the money, but this doesn’t change the fact that the leaders knew how to get to Judas. They knew because they had been watching and knew his embrace of money. The same is true with Judas today. They want to advance in ministry because they want the money. They see the Kingdom as the advance to their own materialism.
We know that Judas will betray in advance – Judas’ actions were not a surprise to Jesus. Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray him all along. That’s why Judas wasn’t ever privy to the very important counsel and spiritual revelations that Peter, James, and John were allowed to behold and witness. God always gives us a revelation about who Judas is among us somewhere along the way…and we are usually told to leave them to themselves. We watch and we know and we assess every move, every action, everything that seems to be coming to pass…and God requires us to let it happen…even though we know and feel the inevitable. God has us let our Judas’ do what they came to do and leave it at that. If someone surprises you with a betrayal, they aren’t your Judas.
Judas represents a specific type of betrayal – The greater purpose of Judas (which a Judas does not recognize) is to work to bring about a necessary sacrifice within a leader’s individual self, work, and ministry to bring forth a greater victory. Judas’ betrayal works with an intent to kill a spiritual vision that they, within their own disorder, perceive to be getting out of control or out of their own perspective of a boundary line. Judas’ mind operates by such that they may actually wish harm on us to stop the process, only to feel they went too far later. They seek to destroy what God has set forth. Yet in the process of their actions, they actually further our ministry because what they do brings about the necessary sacrifice to advance the work. Judas comes along with his or her own agenda, yet God uses Judas to bring about His agenda in our work and lives. That is the end of a Judas process with us…but not the end of Judas within and among himself or herself.
Judas moves themselves unto destruction – I’ve often said that the spirits of Judas and Jezebel operate very closely together. They both have a similar purpose. Judas and Jezebel both have issues with order, seek to usurp something that just isn’t theirs, seem to have the air of confidence and authority, operate with the goal of destroying the work of God unto death…but Judas and Jezebel have two very different endings. Jezebel must be cast out, while Judas destroys himself or herself (Matthew 27:3-5). I believe that Judas was so busy thinking of himself, he didn’t consider how his actions would affect Jesus. Because he couldn’t see the long-term picture, he felt a sense of loss and guilt unto death. Judas’ suicide speaks that he didn’t consider the real ramifications of his actions. Judas today does the same: they try to kill God’s leader, whether it’s through destroying the vision, the work, or the leader themselves in some way…but don’t consider the ramifications of such. Every Judas, in the end, commits a suicide of sorts: they wind up out of the ministry and without much of the things they might have sought after in their lives. Who they are comes back to them and they have to face that, in one form or the other, and they are unable to do so. Judas is, simply put, his or her own worst enemy because they bring about their own demise.
Those who are true ministers will deal with a Judas. Whether or not Judas kills us is up to us. When it comes to Judas, this is what I have to say: One of us will be left standing at the end of the day…and it’s NOT going to be you. To those of you who are true, I thank you and love you. To those who are Judas…you may think you won on Friday…but Sunday is only a few days away!
(c) 2011 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.