VIII. Back to Judas: His Remorse, His End
In part 5, we left Judas at visiting the chief priests to strike a deal with them as to how he would hand over Jesus. At that point, according to the Gospels, Satan enters Judas (though one Gospel says that Satan enters Judas at The Last Supper). It makes sense as to why Satan entered Judas at this time (because he apostatized), but the consequences of Satan possession are quite tragic for Judas and show the reader what a Satan-possessed life looks like.
Let’s take a look at Judas’s role in the betrayal. Once Judas makes his decision to betray Jesus, and Satan enters him according to one Gospel we discussed earlier, we see Judas in the next scene at The Last Supper, where Jesus confronts Judas as the one who will betray Him:
21 When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.”22 The disciples began looking at one another, at a loss to know of which one He was speaking. 23 There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24 So Simon Peter *gestured to him, and *said to him, “Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking.” 25 He, leaning back thus on Jesus’ bosom, *said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus then *answered, “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He *took and *gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 After the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Therefore Jesus *said to him, “What you do, do quickly.”28 Now no one of those reclining at the table knew for what purpose He had said this to him. 29 For some were supposing, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus was saying to him, “Buy the things we have need of for the feast”; or else, that he should give something to the poor. 30 So after receiving the morsel he went out immediately; and it was night. (John 13:21-30)
Judas is highlighted as the one who will betray Jesus, and, at the time of his revelation as the betrayer, Satan enters into Judas. This is the hour in which Judas gives himself over because he’s decided to go through with it for the money.
20 Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples. 21 As they were eating, He said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.” 22 Being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23 And He answered, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me. 24 The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” 25 And Judas, who was betraying Him, said, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” Jesus *said to him, “You have said it yourself.” (Matthew 26:20-25)
Jesus’ words about “woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!” is a warning to Judas, since Jesus was aware that Judas was the one would would betray Him. It is here that we see Jesus give a warning and a message of gloom and doom to Judas, the betrayer. Jesus says something different (though similar) in Matthew 18 in the context of forbidding children from accepting Jesus:
4 Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. (Matthew 18:4-6)
Jesus says here that those who cause little children to fall away in their Christian walk or prevent them from accepting Jesus should have a millstone on their neck and drowned in the sea.
As for Jesus’ actual “Woe to Judas” statement, Jesus says it three times in the Gospels:
The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24)
For the Son of Man is to go just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” (Mark 14:21)
For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” (Luke 22:22)
Do you see the phrases “Just as it is written of Him” and “as it has been determined”? These phrases show us that the Scriptures prophesied that Jesus would be convicted of treason and die on the Cross. And yet, the one responsible for it, “that man by whom He is betrayed,” will suffer an even greater punishment than Jesus’s suffering as an innocent man. This warning to Judas should’ve been a deterrent to him to think for a little longer before proceeding with his plan. But, unfortunately, it didn’t. Judas responds next in a fashion akin to a true apostate, someone who gave up Christ for money and didn’t care to rethink it all.
Some use the Crucifixion of Jesus to argue that God foreordains everything that occurs , though He still holds man accountable for His actions. This is simply untrue and doesn’t make sense. God foreordained that Jesus would die because He would give His Son for the sins of the world (the divine intention was present in the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus), but not every act that occurs on earth occurs by way of divine intention. Are we going to say that God foreordained or predetermined divorce as a good thing? Those who think so haven’t read Jesus’ words where He says,
Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” 4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” 7 They *said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?” 8 He *said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:3-9)
Jesus says in Matthew 19 that the hardness of human hearts explains why Moses issued a writ of divorce, but “from the beginning it has not been this way” (Matt. 19:8). In other words, there’s no divine intention in divorce. The Lord did not foreordain or plan for divorce to exist in the world today, nor did He intend for husbands and wives to separate because “God joins man and woman together to make one flesh.” The Lord took a rib from Adam’s side and made the woman, then brought her to the man in the first wedding ceremony.
As a result, the Lord believes in making unions, not splitting them up. So divorce doesn’t fit into this; it’s a result of sin. Anything that is created out of sin lacks divine intention and does not come from God. Divorce, then, isn’t foreordained by God. Thus, the statement that comes from a theological system such as Molinism that says “we freely choose what God has predetermined” doesn’t take into account that we choose evil but God does not predetermine it: As James aptly says,
12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. (James 1:12-14)
When a person is tempted to commit adultery, he or she did not do it because God planned it beforehand; rather, that individual gives in to temptation because he or she is led by their own lusts.
Apart from divorce, there is another example, Hell. Heaven shows the divine intention in that the Lord has purposed to bring humanity home with Him and has even told us through the Lord Jesus that He went away to prepare a place for us that He would then take us to (John 14:2-3). As for Hell, it is a place that wasn’t prepared for humanity at all, but for the devil and his angels:
31 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.
41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44 Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 19: 31-33, 41-46)
Jesus said that Hell, the eternal fire, was prepared for “the devil and his angels.” By this statement, Jesus is referring to Satan and the one-third of the angelic host that rebelled against God with him. Hell was designed only for Satan and his fellow fallen angels, but never for human beings. This disqualifies certain theories about who Jesus died for, such as: “Jesus didn’t die for every person,” “Jesus only died for the elect,” and so on.
These examples go to show that not everything, not every event, not every occurrence, on the earth is foreordained, foreplanned, by God. If divorce is foreplanned by God, for example, then the Lord is contradicting Himself. And I trust Scripture over unjustified statements anyday.
Now, back to Judas’s deceitful question to Jesus and his response.
Judas tries to cover up his role as the betrayer, but it seems out of place for him to have asked the Lord this question in the first place because he clearly was aware that he had gone and made the deal with the chief priests to hand Jesus over; he’d even taken the money, so it wasn’t as if he suddenly developed amnesia.
What is more interesting than him asking the question to fake innocence is the way he addresses Jesus with the question: the other eleven disciples, upon hearing that one of the group would betray Christ, address Jesus as “Lord” (Greek, Kurie) while Judas calls Jesus “Rabbi” (Greek, rah-bi). The word “Kurios” (or its vocative or addressing form, Kurie) is the term “Lord,” a term that addresses Jesus as the head of their lives. Peter had already confessed his faith in Jesus earlier:
As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66-69)
Peter believed Jesus was Lord; in fact, he calls Jesus “Lord” here in John 6:68 as well as in Matthew 26. So, this term was more than endearment for him; it was a term of truth, his perception of Jesus, his belief that Jesus was who He said He was. Judas, on the other hand, calls him “Rabbi,” differing from the rest of the disciples because, at this point, he had already given Jesus up in his heart and mind. Jesus was no longer his Kurios, his Lord, his Savior. He no longer saw Jesus as anything more than a good teacher — this is what the word “rabbi” means. It was a Jewish term for “teacher.”
Why call Jesus “teacher” instead of Lord? Judas did this because at this point, Satan has entered into him. Judas has now divorced himself from Christ, thereby no longer feeling any need to address Him as the head of his life. Jesus was now “merely a teacher” to Judas, someone who had done good things but was no longer any greater than any Jewish teacher. Judas’s address of Jesus as “Rabbi” shows that he viewed him as so many others had, per an earlier conversation Jesus had with the disciples about what others believed Him to be:
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 16:13-17)
The others in the crowds saw Jesus “John the Baptist,” a good teacher, Elijah, a holy man who preached sermons and taught the people while also hearing from God about their spiritual condition, Jeremiah, the same, or one of the other prophets such as Amos, Habakkuk, etc. Most viewed Jesus as one of the prophets, implying that He was divine, but Judas viewed Jesus as nothing superior to the Pharisees: Jesus was “just a good teacher” in his eyes, a teacher of respect perhaps but certainly not a divine prophet, divine priest in touch with the Lord, nor the Divine King of kings and Lord of lords. Nope; in Judas’s mind, Jesus was a good teacher, a terribly misguided one, but a good teacher — no more, no less.
This isn’t to say that word “Rabbi” isn’t a term of great respect; it is. In John 1, Nathanael refers to Jesus as “Rabbi”:
47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and *said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”48 Nathanael *said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” (John 1:47-49)
Nathanael calls Jesus “Rabbi” because he’d heard so much about Jesus as a teacher. The difference between Nathanael and Judas, however, is that Judas had walked with Jesus, ate with Jesus, been taught by Jesus, was sent out to heal the sick and proclaim the gospel by Jesus, and so on, and yet, now, after renouncing his former life with Jesus, could only call him “Rabbi.” After all the time Judas had spent being handpicked to be a disciple and being taught of the kingdom of God, and seeing the miracles Jesus did that confirmed who He was, Judas could no longer see Jesus as God, as Christ (the anointed one), but as just a good teacher — no more special than any Jewish teacher in the history of Israel. The Pharisee Nicodemus also called Jesus a teacher, but Nicodemus says this because, though he respected Jesus, he could not understand that the Scriptures themselves proclaimed that He is God:
Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; 2 this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
4 Nicodemus *said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. 12 If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? (John 3:1-12)
Nicodemus is understandable; though he was a Pharisee, he sought Jesus because he believed that Jesus was from God. He calls Jesus “Rabbi” because he didn’t understand who Jesus really was; as a Pharisee, he should’ve known about Jesus from the Scriptures, but he didn’t. In contrast, Judas knew who Jesus was because he’d been with Jesus for 3 years; his calling Jesus “Rabbi” while all other disciples called Jesus “Lord” shows that Judas had put Jesus off once and for all. Jesus was no longer his Lord, just another great teacher in a long line of teachers. Whoever Jesus was, he wasn’t Judas’s Lord anymore. Judas’s response to Jesus is typical of apostates who have decided to finally shun Christ and neglect their salvation altogether:
26 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31)
Paul’s words about severe punishment in Hebrews 10 pertains to those who “sin willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth.” Those who have the knowledge of the truth are saved (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Timothy 2:25), so these individuals are not unbelievers. Paul says that those who continue to sin despite their knowledge of the truth are rejecting the only sacrifice for sin that they have: the atonement of Christ.
Again, this goes back to the “once for all” theme that has permeated Hebrews regarding the fact that Jesus died only once for all sins for all time (that He need not die a second time and offer His blood, unlike the constant shedding of blood for animal sacrifices that could never remove sin).
These apostates sin willfully, they choose to sin despite knowledge of a better way; why? Because they have rejected the only sacrifice for sin (Jesus) that is available. When Paul says that they have “trampled underfoot the Son of God,” this means that these individuals have metaphorically thrown Christ on the ground and stomped all over Jesus. They no longer cherish the blood of Christ that was shed for the remission of sins for themselves and the world; now, they regard the blood of Jesus as “unclean.” This is the same blood that sanctified them at one point. Notice that the text says “the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified.” This is a reference to the blood of the covenant, that which Jesus celebrated at His Last Supper with the disciples until we arrive in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 26:26-29). Paul mentions the blood of the covenant in his benediction in Hebrews 13:20-21.
The blood justifies us, but the blood also sanctifies us because, without it, the Lord judges us for our sin. With the blood applied, the Father looks as us and sees His Son, Jesus, because we’ve had the blood applied to our lives. Thus, when we sin, as John says, we have Jesus Christ as our Advocate (1 John 2:1).
Judas’s reference to Jesus as “Rabbi” while the other disciples called Him “Lord” shows the state of Judas’s heart and mind: He, once a disciple, walking with the Lord and hearing His teaching and preaching, has now decided to go his own way. He doesn’t see Jesus as divine, only as a great Jewish leader (perhaps not even that). And his deceptive question, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?”, only adds to the bad rap that Judas still receives today. Though he had decided to betray Jesus, he still wanted to camouflage his activities. Of course, expecting honesty from a man who always stole from the money box but never came clean about it is the equivalent of expecting a liar to tell the truth: there’s a slight chance it can happen, but it’s as impossible as the scientific Law of Gravity is real.
Judas has conspired to betray Jesus. We know this from his visit to the chief priests, where he has asked them “what will you give me to hand him over,” a sign that Judas was only concerned about the money and not concerned enough about Jesus or the moral and spiritual gravity of the situation. Well, Jesus goes into the Garden of Gethsemane (this garden was located near Jerusalem) to pray with three disciples that are said to have been the Lord’s “Inner Circle” (Peter and the sons of Zebedee, James and John).
The place where He prays is interesting indeed: remember that the first temptation in Scripture occurs in the “Garden” of Eden (Genesis 3) where the serpent (Satan) deceives Adam and Eve and helps inaugurate the entrance of sin into the world through “one man,” Adam (Rom. 5). Jesus, as the second Adam, faces his temptation to avoid the death that the Father had planned for him, but, whereas the first Adam rebels for the sake of Godhood, Jesus surrenders to the will of God though he wanted to avoid death altogether. God, like Adam, is tempted in the Garden but, unlike Adam, surrenders to God. Philippians 2, as I’ve quoted in my discussion of Genesis 3, is appropriate because the Lord humbles Himself in two ways: first, He takes on flesh and becomes a man; secondly, He humbles Himself even further by dying on the Cross. In both instances, the Lord is not concerned with taking advantage of “being equal with God,” but instead, surrenders to the Father and acknowledges His sovereignty. As Hebrews aptly puts it,
7 In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. 8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, 10 being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:7-10)
“In the days of His flesh” refers to His incarnation on earth, and it says that he “offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears,” showing us that the Lord did not want to die, despite His foreknowledge that His death had been planned. He had loud cryings and tears, a reference to his grief as a man over it. He prayed three times in the Garden, and Matthew 26 says that Jesus was grieved. Other passages in the Gospels match the words of Hebrews 5 about Jesus tears and crying:
32 They *came to a place named Gethsemane; and He *said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” 33 And He *took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. 34 And He *said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.” 35 And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. 36 And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” 37 And He *came and *found them sleeping, and *said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 Again He went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. 41 And He *came the third time, and *said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough; the hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!” (Mark 14:32-42)
The Lord Jesus prays to the Father that “all things are possible for You,” meaning, “Father, if you will it, you can take away this cup from Me. You can remove this death sentence, eliminate this Crucifixion, find some other way to bring about the redemption of humanity.” And yet, God the Father so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus (John 3:16), so Jesus’ Crucifixion was the answer to the redemption of humanity. Jesus “learned obedience through the things He suffered” because, in the case of His death, He learned how to surrender to the will of God. Hebrews says that He “learned obedience” despite being the Son of God. This is where we see that Jesus took on genuine humanity when He was born of the virgin Mary (Galatians ), that, as genuine humanity, Jesus had to learn obedience like we have to learn obedience (through the things we suffer).
There in the Garden, the Lord Jesus tells the disciples to watch and pray and remain with Him as He prays to avoid His Crucifixion. He prays three times in the Garden, His disciples sleeping the entire time. With that said, the Lord Jesus prays three prayers with an interesting theme among them:
36 Then Jesus *came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and *said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. 38 Then He *said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”
39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” 40 And He *came to the disciples and *found them sleeping, and *said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? 41 Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 43 Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. 45 Then He *came to the disciples and *said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!” (Matthew 26:36-46)
39 And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him. 40 When He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”41 And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, 42 saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” 43 Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground. 45 When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, 46 and said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:39-46)
Notice in Luke’s Gospel that Jesus prays until “His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.” He prays hard, tough, intensely, suggesting how great His grief was about His upcoming death. Jesus prays in Luke 22 “Father if You are willing, remove this cup from Me,” requesting that the Lord could will to take away Jesus’ death sentence if He wanted to. Of course, Jesus surrenders to the will of the Father, but He prays truth: if the Lord wanted to remove the death sentence, He could.
It’s interesting that Jesus prays three times that the cup of death would be removed from Him. At the very least, the Lord Jesus prays to avoid something over which He is grieving. Some would ask, “How do we know that Jesus is praying to avoid His coming Crucifixion?”, but this is easy to discover: the “cup” to which Jesus refers is one He’s already mentioned with the disciples before in the Gospels:
20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. 21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She *said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.”22 But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They *said to Him, “We are able.” 23 He *said to them, “My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.” (Matthew 20:20-23)
The “cup” that Jesus mentions here in Matthew 20:20-23 is what Jesus just told the twelve disciples in earlier verses, verses 18 and 19 of Matthew 20:
17 As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, 18 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, 19 and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.” (Matt. 20:17-19)
The cup that the disciples would drink would be that of death, perhaps even crucifixion. Jesus went on to prophesy this for Peter post-resurrection:
18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” 19 Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He *said to him, “Follow Me!” (John 21:18-19)
The word “cup,” then, refers to Jesus’ death, His crucifixion. So, when Jesus prays for the Father to “let this cup pass from Me,” He’s praying that the Father would take away the imminent death sentence, that He would be allowed to avoid the Crucifixion altogether. In other words, Jesus prayed to avoid death while still acknowledging the Father’s will that He die.
Here is where we see Jesus struggle with His imminent crucifixion. It’s easy to read the text and assume the following: since Jesus is God, and He’s known from the foundation of the world that He would die for the sins of humanity, He would be fine with dying and simply accept it. This passage in Matthew 26 comes as quite a shock to the reader, then, when he or she realizes that even Jesus wanted to avoid death. Sure, humans always want to avoid death (“all that a man has he will give for his life,” Satan says back in Job 1-2), but even I read this passage assuming that Jesus would not be grieved over His death. And yet, Jesus is grieved and praying to avoid it.
We can see from this text that Jesus understands the human condition. He understands that humans want to avoid death, that we pray when we get a bad medical diagnosis (such as cancer, as my mother experienced) because we don’t want to die. Those who pray to avoid death while acknowledging the will of God do no wrong in so doing; they’re simply exhibiting signs of the human condition while honoring the will of God. Jesus did the same.
My mother did the same thing when battling breast, lung, and brain cancer (yes, all three) before she passed away 8 years ago this week, February 3rd. She fought the breast cancer with flying colors, though lung cancer got to her somewhat. I remember the day the doctors came in and told her that the lung cancer had passed. We were jumping around, thanking God, praising Jesus, crying, weeping, with tears of joy.
And it was only a matter of months later when she fell outside our home and had trouble walking. We found out soon after that mom had brain cancer; the cancer that started in her breast had metastasized to her brain. And my sister recalls mom saying in one of her last visits to the doctor that she was sorry over her health diagnosis and that she knew she was leaving us. (“I’m sorry,” she said, crying). My sister waited some 3 years after mom died to tell me that, primarily because she knew that it would devastate me. Mom told us that she’d been praying, that the Lord told her “I don’t have long with you girls,” she said, referring to me and my twin sister as her daughters. Since the Lord had told her this, you’d assume that she would’ve accepted her end, but she hadn’t: her apology to my sister (“I’m sorry”) was her way of saying that she didn’t want to leave us, that she didn’t want to go from our lives so soon. Dad had been out of lives for most of them, having left mom when we were 5 years old (I saw Dad walk out the door when he decided to separate from mom; they divorced 4 years later in 1993).
I think that mom’s apology was her way of surrendering to the Lord’s will while understanding that she hated to leave us without her love and guidance. She wanted to be here to see us get older (we were 24 when mom died), come into our careers, and see her daughters get married and have children (I have yet to marry, but my sister is married with a daughter and son), share her life with them. That is what we wanted, too: we wanted mom here, working, in good health, able to live her life and enjoy it. She died at 52, and I think that is too young an age; I also realize that friends I know have lost their parents as young as 38 years old. That is also too young an age in which to die.
Well, Jesus shows us that it’s okay to want to avoid death, to avoid tribulation, to avoid sickness and suffering. But, where Jesus would correct us is that, no matter how great the desire to avoid these things, we must go through them if the Lord wills it. As believers, we must understand that our lives belong to the Lord, that He is not only the one who “saves us from the coming wrath” ( ), but that He is also the one who “orders our steps,” the one who directs us, the one who is sovereign over our lives, who decides what will be and what will not. As our Lord, Jesus gets the right to make decisions over our lives that don’t always agree with what we want for ourselves. Scripture declares that the godly have their steps ordered by the Lord:
“Does He not see my ways And number all my steps? (Job 31:4)
The steps of a man are established by the Lord, And He delights in his way. (Psalm 37:23)
The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
Our heart has not turned back, And our steps have not deviated from Your way, (Psalm 44:18)
The Lord is the one who orders the steps of believers, and when believers give their lives to Christ, this is what they are saying: “Jesus, you are now in control of my life. You determine where I go and what I do. Whenever I prepare to make a decision, I consult you and your will before I make it. I don’t want to do anything that goes against the plans and desires you have for me.” When we become Christians (“Christ” is the root word of “Christian”), our lives are the Lord’s, not our own. And, as a result, we have to learn how to yield and submit to His will, not our own. And this is where believers struggle: we can yield to His will when it brings blessing, but when it brings hardship, we’d rather get out of our trouble and be problem-free. Sadly, this “lordship cherrypicking” falls short of what Jesus did in submitting to the Father: Jesus submitted to His Father’s will, even when it meant going to the cross and dying for the sake of sinful humanity. The question for us is, “can we surrender and submit to His will, even if it means that we’ll experience sickness, suffering, and hardship?”
After Jesus prays in the Garden and comes back to the disciples for the third time, finding them asleep, He tells them to get up and come with Him because He is now being betrayed by Judas. And this is where we see more premeditation from Judas, according to the text:
47 While He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs, who came from the chief priests and elders of the people. 48 Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him.” 49 Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. 50 And Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him. (Matthew 26:47-50)
The chief priests paid Judas for handing over Jesus, and the time had come for Judas to play his role in Jesus’ betrayal. The text above says that “he gave them a sign, saying, ‘whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him,” showing that when Judas agreed to betray Him, he wanted them to know who Jesus was.
Of course, the crowd came from the chief priests and elders. Isn’t it interesting that they wanted Jesus for themselves but sent a mob crowd to arrest Him instead of going themselves? Judas attempted to deceive Jesus at The Passover feast, and the chief priests and elders were doing this (sending a crowd rather than go themselves) to prevent their reputation from being sullied in the eyes of the people.
This mob didn’t know who Jesus was, and the chief priests and elders didn’t tell the crowd, just sent them to get him. Judas led the way, of course, seeing that he had been assembling with the disciples for the last 3 years and knew who He was. It took an inside mole to betray Jesus, and Judas was the voluntary fit.
Judas comes up to Jesus and says, “Hail Rabbi!” The words in the original language match ths, and Judas kisses Jesus. This kiss was not one of affection, though, but one of identification: Judas wanted the crowd to know who Jesus was (since they didn’t know), and a kiss would be the way Judas would help identify Jesus. Judas kisses Him, and Jesus tells Judas, “Friend, do what you have come for.” The Lord Jesus called Judas “friend,” despite the fact that Judas kissed Him
to betray Him. Judas’s own actions fulfill the words of Scripture in Psalm 41:
All who hate me whisper together against me;
Against me they devise my hurt, saying,
8 “A wicked thing is poured out upon him,
That when he lies down, he will not rise up again.”
9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
Who ate my bread,
Has lifted up his heel against me. (Psalm 41:7-9)
In Psalm 41, David wrote that his enemies were surrounding him, that even one of his friends who broke bread and dined with him had conspired against him. And yet, the Lord’s circumstances with Judas are a true fulfillment of Psalm 41 because Jesus’ friend, His handpicked disciple, Judas, conspired against Him. Judas was the friend who ate Jesus’s bread and then did this:
23 And He answered, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me. Matthew 26:23
21 When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.”22 The disciples began looking at one another, at a loss to know of which one He was speaking. 23 There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24 So Simon Peter *gestured to him, and *said to him, “Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking.” 25 He, leaning back thus on Jesus’ bosom, *said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus then *answered, “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He *took and *gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. (John 13:21-26)
The one that Jesus ate bread with is the one who conspired against Him. Judas fits this to perfection, unfortunately.
When Judas kisses Jesus, it’s a form of sealing the fate of Psalm 41’s fulfillment to have this happen. What it goes to show is that all of the Scriptures testify to Jesus, as Christ Himself said to the Pharisees during His ministry:
39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from men; 42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:39-47)
Once Jesus is arrested, He is tried, convicted, and found guilty. We don’t see Judas in all this, presumably because he was somewhere in hiding at this point. It’s likely that he didn’t want the disciples to know that it was he who had betrayed their Lord and Master, so he thought to remain out of the public eye. After all, he had gone and given Jesus up in secret, so it’s unlikely he wanted to be publicly popular so soon.
Jesus was convicted and sentenced to death by crucifixion. Then, we see Judas’s conscience come to light:
3 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, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” 5 And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:1-5)
The Greek word for “condemned” is katakrithe, meaning “judged against.” The preposition kata means “against, down,” while krithe is a form of the word krisis, meaning “judgment.” Jesus was condemned, as the trial teaches us, and Judas’s response was one of remorse. The word for remorse, metamelomai, means to change one’s mind or to regret something (a decision). In this case, Judas feels remorse or regret over what he’s done. Judas regrets his decision, but his regret is more than feeling sorry over it. He feels awful, his conscience kicks in when he visits the chief priests and says, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4).
First, Judas says he has “sinned” (Greek hemarton), which is shocking that Judas would make such a statement. This is a man who sinned every chance possible by taking money from the money box, but somehow, he wasn’t convicted of that sin. And yet, here he is, now convicted of his sin against handing over Jesus.
Judas has been possessed by Satan, but he can recognize this terrible wrong against “innocent blood,” he says. Remember that Judas has called Jesus “Rabbi” while all other disciples called Jesus “Lord” at their last supper, so Judas recognizes here that Jesus is an innocent man. And yet, despite the fact that he doesn’t see Jesus as the divine Son of God, the Lord Himself, Judas does see that this “teacher” is innocent. That alone pricks his conscience, but he doesn’t respond correctly because he doesn’t see Jesus correctly. There’s also another reason that I’ll get into shortly.
Judas’s confession that “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” shows that Judas, despite what many deem to be his lack of moral conscience, shows that he was well aware of Jewish law. After all, the Law of God in the Old Testament made it very clear that taking bribes to kill innocent humans was a sin against which the Lord would not let sinners off scot-free:
6 “You shall not pervert the justice due to your needy brother in his dispute. 7 Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty.
8 “You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just. (Exodus 23:6-8)
The Lord God says “I will not acquit the guilty,” meaning that judgment will befall the one who kills the innocent. Judas killed Jesus, an innocent man, by taking a bribe and then taking the mob to Jesus to arrest Him. In essence, he nailed Jesus on the Cross and whipped Him across His back, even though he wasn’t there to do any of those things.
So innocent blood will not be shed in the midst of your land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance, and bloodguiltiness be on you. (Deuteronomy 19:10)
‘Cursed is he who accepts a bribe to strike down an innocent person.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ (Deuteronomy 27:25)
Deuteronomy 27:25 declares a curse on the person who accepts a bribe to kill an innocent person. Sure, Judas did not strike Jesus down himself, but he did lead the authorities to Jesus (they would never have found Jesus without Judas’s greedy assistance), so, in a sense, he did strike down Jesus himself. This is why he says “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood”: he realizes that he has served as the murderer of Jesus, since he’s the one who negotiated the money and time and place to bring them to Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:3-6).
4 Then Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Do not let the king sin against his servant David, since he has not sinned against you, and since his deeds have been very beneficial to you. 5 For he took his life in his hand and struck the Philistine, and the Lord brought about a great deliverance for all Israel; you saw it and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood by putting David to death without a cause?”6 Saul listened to the voice of Jonathan, and Saul vowed, “As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.” (1 Samuel 19:4-6)
Notice in 1 Samuel 19 that Saul wants to put David to death, but Jonathan, Saul’s son and David’s closest friend, argues intelligently to convince Saul to spare David’s life. Jonathan’s reasoning was that David was innocent, that he had done nothing worthy of death. For Saul to kill him, then, would mean that Saul would “sin against innocent blood.” Again, it was understood among the people of God that to kill an innocent person was an act that would only bring someone under the curse and wrath of God. Judas had acted in killing Jesus and had “sinned against innocent blood,” and this verse is yet more proof of how lawless and sinful it was to kill the innocent.
For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire,
And the greedy man curses and spurns the Lord.
4 The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him.
All his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
His ways prosper at all times;
Your judgments are on high, out of his sight;
As for all his adversaries, he snorts at them.
6 He says to himself, “I will not be moved;
Throughout all generations I will not be in adversity.”
7 His mouth is full of curses and deceit and oppression;
Under his tongue is mischief and wickedness.
8 He sits in the lurking places of the villages;
In the hiding places he kills the innocent;
His eyes stealthily watch for the unfortunate. (Psalm 10: 3-8)
The wicked and greedy man “kills the innocent,” so clearly, shedding innocent blood is a sign of wickedness and evil character.
O Lord, who may abide in Your tent?
Who may dwell on Your holy hill?
2 He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness,
And speaks truth in his heart.
3 He does not slander with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbor,
Nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
4 In whose eyes a reprobate is despised,
But who honors those who fear the Lord;
He swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 He does not put out his money at interest,
Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things will never be shaken. (Psalm 15:1-5)
The person that can stand in the place of the Lord, his sanctuary, and stand on His holy hill is a person who is righteous. Among the qualifications, we see that the righteous person that pleases the Lord “does [not] take a bribe against the innocent” (Psalm 15:5). Again, the Mosaic Law is clear about taking bribes against the innocent and killing the innocent and how it’s a cursed thing that is abominable before God.
My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent.
11 If they say, “Come with us,
Let us lie in wait for blood,
Let us ambush the innocent without cause;
12 Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,
Even whole, as those who go down to the pit;
13 We will find all kinds of precious wealth,
We will fill our houses with spoil;
14 Throw in your lot with us,
We shall all have one purse,”
15 My son, do not walk in the way with them.
Keep your feet from their path,
16 For their feet run to evil
And they hasten to shed blood.
17 Indeed, it is useless to spread the baited net
In the sight of any bird;
18 But they lie in wait for their own blood;
They ambush their own lives.
19 So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence;
It takes away the life of its possessors. (Proverbs 1:10-19)
Proverbs 1 says that those who gain by violence, by killing the innocent without cause, are those who “ambush their own lives” (v.18) and violence “takes away the life of its possessors.” In other words, killing the innocent, shedding innocent blood, leads to the loss of the murderer’s life. We can clearly see this happened with Judas: taking away Jesus’ life for 30 pieces of silver, Judas eventually tosses the money and gives his own life due to his overwhelming guilt and his sense of deceit. Satan deceives him into doing something that would forever weigh on his conscience.
There are six things which the Lord hates,
Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:
17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
And hands that shed innocent blood,
18 A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that run rapidly to evil,
19 A false witness who utters lies,
And one who spreads strife among brothers. (Proverbs 6:16-19)
The Lord considers 7 things to be abominations, among which are “hands that shed innocent blood.” The Lord hates those who put innocent men and women to death. Judas committed an abomination before the Lord when he put Jesus, the holy, innocent one, to death over money.
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, 2 “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house and proclaim there this word and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah, who enter by these gates to worship the Lord!’” 3 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. 4 Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’ 5 For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, 6 if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, 7 then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever. (Jeremiah 7:1-7)
The Lord vows to let Israel stay in the land He had given to His people, provided that they refrain from doing wickedness. Among the wickedness He tells them to put off, the Lord includes “do not shed innocent blood in this place,” referring to the killing of innocent individuals. Here is where we see that doing this act is evil in the sight of the Lord and comes with dire consequences.
4 Because they have forsaken Me and have made this an alien place and have burned sacrifices in it to other gods, that neither they nor their forefathers nor the kings of Judah had ever known, and because they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent 5 and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind; 6 therefore, behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when this place will no longer be called Topheth or the valley of Ben-hinnom, but rather the valley of Slaughter.7 I will make void the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem in this place, and I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies and by the hand of those who seek their life; and I will give over their carcasses as food for the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth. 8 I will also make this city a desolation and an object of hissing; everyone who passes by it will be astonished and hiss because of all its disasters. (Jeremiah 19:4-8)
The Lord says that He will kill off the nation by way of their enemies, who will invade them and overtake them because of their sins, shedding innocent blood among them.
Thus says the Lord, “Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and there speak this word 2 and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, O king of Judah, who sits on David’s throne, you and your servants and your people who enter these gates. 3 Thus says the Lord, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place. 4 For if you men will indeed perform this thing, then kings will enter the gates of this house, sitting in David’s place on his throne, riding in chariots and on horses, even the king himself and his servants and his people.5 But if you will not obey these words, I swear by Myself,” declares the Lord, “that this house will become a desolation.”’” (Jeremiah 22:1-5)
The Lord God tells Israel, “do not shed innocent blood in this place,” once again warning them that this is an abomination to the Lord.
10 When the officials of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king’s house to the house of the Lord and sat in the entrance of the New Gate of the Lord’s house. 11 Then the priests and the prophets spoke to the officials and to all the people, saying, “A death sentence for this man! For he has prophesied against this city as you have heard in your hearing.”
12 Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and to all the people, saying, “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that you have heard. 13 Now therefore amend your ways and your deeds and obey the voice of the Lord your God; and the Lord will change His mind about the misfortune which He has pronounced against you. 14 But as for me, behold, I am in your hands; do with me as is good and right in your sight. 15 Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood on yourselves, and on this city and on its inhabitants; for truly the Lord has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing.” (Jeremiah 26:10-15)
Jeremiah was prophesying and giving what the Lord had given him, and the people decided to threaten his life because they didn’t like what they were hearing. Jeremiah responds with God’s law against shedding innocent blood. Interestingly enough, it is his cry that “if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood on yourselves” (Jer. 26:15) that saves his life (Jer. 26:18).
Even in the New Testament, during Jesus’ trial before Pilate, Pilate acknowledges that he is not guilty of shedding innocent blood:
15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the people any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 At that time they were holding a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. 17 So when the people gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that because of envy they had handed Him over.
19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.” 20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death. 21 But the governor said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate *said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all *said, “Crucify Him!” 23 And he said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they kept shouting all the more, saying, “Crucify Him!”
24 When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.” 25 And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released Barabbas for them; but after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified. (Matthew 27:15-26)
When Jesus stands before Pilate, even Pilate knew that He was innocent. But what sealed the deal in Pilate’s mind was that his wife had been warned in a dream about Jesus being righteous: the wife called Jesus “righteous” and said “I suffered greatly in a dream because of him” (Matt. 27:19). In other words, the Lord sent Pilate’s wife a dream to warn him about Jesus. Pilate asked the crowd what Jesus had done wrong, but the crowd just said “Crucify Him!” as if the crowd didn’t need reasons to put Jesus on the Cross. And yet, Pilate believed Jesus was innocent, so much so that he says “I am innocent of this Man’s blood.” Pilate declares that he has not shed innocent blood, but the crowd has because it wanted Jesus put to death without a cause. The crowd’s response? “His blood shall be on us and on our children!,” not a response that I’d want to give at a time when to crucify Jesus meant to come under judgment for putting an innocent man to death.
13 Pilate summoned the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. 15 No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him. 16 Therefore I will punish Him and release Him.” 17 Now he was obliged to release to them at the feast one prisoner.]
18 But they cried out all together, saying, “Away with this man, and release for us Barabbas!” 19 (He was one who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection made in the city, and for murder.) 20 Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again, 21 but they kept on calling out, saying, “Crucify, crucify Him!” 22 And he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has this man done? I have found in Him no guilt demanding death; therefore I will punish Him and release Him.”23 But they were insistent, with loud voices asking that He be crucified. And their voices began to prevail. 24 And Pilate pronounced sentence that their demand be granted. 25 And he released the man they were asking for who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, but he delivered Jesus to their will. (Luke 23:13-25)
Jesus was considered to be an innocent man before Pilate and Herod, as Pilate notes in Luke 23 that he “found no guilt” in Jesus and that He had done “nothing deserving of death,” statements that testify to the Lord’s innocence.
In other words, Pilate’s statement that he found Jesus innocent is important to note: neither he nor Herod could find Jesus guilty, which explains why Jesus went from one to another. Jesus was examined and found guilty not because He had done anything wrong, not because of His own transgressions, but because of the will of the people. Yes, even under the rule of the Romans, the Jews still got some of what they wanted (in this case, they wanted the wrong thing). Pilate didn’t want to kill Jesus, neither did Herod, because they both realized it was wrong to shed innocent blood. The same law that Judas knew in his heart and mind was a law for the entire nation of Israel, a law that everyone was commanded to follow. Even the Romans lived under the idea that the guilty should suffer and the innocent go free. It was a crime to shed innocent blood, and the conscience of rulers such as Herod and Pilate (though Herod was evil) highlights the law of God.
One additional Old Testament case could come from the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4. Abel offers a sacrifice to God that is accepted, but Cain’s offering is not. Cain was the older brother, so his rejection by God was a matter of reputation and living up to his place in the family. In his jealousy of his brother Abel, Cain meets Abel out in the woods and kills him. Here’s the account:
3 So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. 4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; 5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. 6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” 8 Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.11 Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is too great to bear! 14 Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 So the Lord said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him. (Genesis 4:3-15)
Cain kills his brother Abel out of jealousy, despite the Lord’s warning that “sin is crouching at the door” and that “you must master it.” And yet, even after he murders his brother, he knows that there’s a death sentence on his head for murdering his innocent sibling: “whoever finds me will kill me.” Of course, the Lord cursed anyone who killed another human being:
3 Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. 4 Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man.
6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood,
By man his blood shall be shed,
For in the image of God
He made man. (Genesis 9:3-6)
The Lord God says that, should a man shed the blood of another man, “by man his blood shall be shed” in Genesis 9:6. This is different from the response the Lord gave Cain after he killed his brother and shed innocent blood. The Lord God told Cain that “the voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground” in Genesis 4:10, showing that the blood of Abel was screaming out for justice because Cain murdered an innocent man because of jealousy turned to envy.
In Genesis 9, after the Flood, the Lord sets the rule that man is not to kill man because, if he does, then he too will be killed. The Lord does not smile on homicide because man is made in His image. In other words, man is not to kill other men because men bear the divine image. Whereas the Lord gave the animals to men for food (but told man not to drink the blood thereof), the Lord did not approve of humans killing humans. Judas’s actions against Jesus were wrong, especially because 1) he turned Jesus over to be killed, knowing what would happen to Jesus (He would be killed), but he also 2) took a bribe and 3) had an innocent man killed.
David is another example that, like Cain, realizes that he is worthy and deserving of death when he commits adultery with Uriah’s wife – then kills Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, in war in order to get rid of any wrongdoing on his part. The Lord sends the prophet Nathan to David to alert him that the Lord is aware of David’s sin. In 2 Samuel 12, Nathan relays the word of the Lord to David regarding his sin and its consequences:
7 Nathan then said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I also gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your care, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these! 9 Why have you despised the word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon. 10 Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight.12 Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun.’” 13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. 14 However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die.” (2 Samuel 12:7-14)
David took the wife of his soldier, Uriah, and committed adultery with her, then put Uriah on the front lines of war to be killed so as to cover up his sin and Bathsheba’s pregnancy. While he did things in secret to hide it from the kingdom, he couldn’t hide it from the King of kings and Lord of lords. Since David murdered an innocent man and shed innocent blood, he deserved to die, which explains why Nathan had to tell David “The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.” In exchange for murder, the murderer had to offer his or her own life. In David’s case, though, his life is spared — but “the sword would never leave his house,” Nathan says, meaning that his family would be plagued with death. Death would start with the sin child conceived between he and Bathsheba, and would stretch to his own children. Absalom, having been told by his sister Tamar that she had been raped by their brother Amnon, waited 2 years before having his servants kill Amnon out of rage for the injustice done to his sister (2 Samuel 13). Absalom is killed by David’s servant Joab in a war between the forces of David and those of Absalom (2 Samuel 18).
Joab, formerly David’s army commander, dies under Solomon’s reign after the death of David because he murdered two innocent men:
28 Now the news came to Joab, for Joab had followed Adonijah, although he had not followed Absalom. And Joab fled to the tent of the Lord and took hold of the horns of the altar. 29 It was told King Solomon that Joab had fled to the tent of the Lord, and behold, he is beside the altar. Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, “Go, fall upon him.”30 So Benaiah came to the tent of the Lord and said to him, “Thus the king has said, ‘Come out.’” But he said, “No, for I will die here.” And Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, “Thus spoke Joab, and thus he answered me.” 31 The king said to him, “Do as he has spoken and fall upon him and bury him, that you may remove from me and from my father’s house the blood which Joab shed without cause. 32 The Lord will return his blood on his own head, because he fell upon two men more righteous and better than he and killed them with the sword, while my father David did not know it: Abner the son of Ner, commander of the army of Israel, and Amasa the son of Jether, commander of the army of Judah. 33 So shall their blood return on the head of Joab and on the head of his descendants forever; but to David and his descendants and his house and his throne, may there be peace from the Lord forever.” 34 Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up and fell upon him and put him to death, and he was buried at his own house in the wilderness. 35 The king appointed Benaiah the son of Jehoiada over the army in his place, and the king appointed Zadok the priest in the place of Abiathar. (1 Kings 2:28-35)
Here we see that Joab meets his end because he murders two innocent individuals. Solomon tells Benaiah the son of Jehoiada to “fall upon him and bury him, that you may remove from me and from my father’s house the blood which Joab shed without cause” (1 Kings 2:31) in order to remove the blood that was upon the house of David and Solomon. Having innocent blood upon one’s hands was never a good sign, and it was usually met with wrath from the Lord, as in the case of Joab. He killed those two men “without cause,” shedding innocent blood. Despite the fact that David did not die for killing the innocent soldier Uriah the Hittite, he was not allowed to build the temple of the Lord because his hands had shed innocent blood (Uriah).
All of these examples are conclusive proof that Jewish Law frowned upon the death of innocent men without cause. So, it’s not surprising that Judas was so pricked in his conscience by violating the law. He knew that he could be killed for violating it by taking bribes against Jesus, who was innocent.
Once he realizes he’s sinned by giving up an innocent man and shedding his blood, he tries to give back the money. Matthew 27 says that Judas “returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders” (v.3), which was the way Judas responded to make things right. He’d always taken the money out of the money box with no remorse or conviction of wrongdoing, so it seems interesting that he no longer wants the money because it’s tied to the death of an innocent man. Morality made him ditch the money for the first time, but it’s now too late: he can’t just return the money and “undo” his sin or erase it from human history.
The chief priests and elders, though, don’t care about the money; they only offered the money to Judas to get him to hand over Jesus. They told Judas, “what is that to us? See to it yourself,” which means, “it’s your money, you deal with it.” Judas responded by throwing the money into the temple sanctuary and then hung himself. The Greek word for “hung himself” is apegxato, which means to choke or strangle oneself. That is what happens when the suicidal choose to hang themselves.
Judas and Suicide
Judas’s suicide brings up so many questions about suicide, particularly because it’s an issue that affects us all. Most of us know someone or more than one person who’s taken his or her life and left loved ones to grieve their passing and wonder why they made such a decision.
Scripture gives us examples of those who committed suicide within biblical history, of which Judas is but one. The others are as follows: 2) Abimelech (Judges 9:46-57), 3) Samson (Judges 16), 4) Saul (1 Samuel 31), 5) Saul’s armorbearer (1 Samuel 31:5), 6) Zimri (1 Kings 16:8-20), and 7) Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17).
In some of these cases, the individuals requested their death so as to not die in dishonor. In the case of Abimelech, he requested his armorbearer kill him so that it wouldn’t be said that that the woman who threw the millstone at him and crushed his skull did it (Judges 9:53-54). Samson killed himself by pulling down the pillars of the house where he was a prisoner of the Philistines. And when Samson died, he requested that he die: “Let me die with the Philistines!” (Judges 16:30) Why Samson wanted to die with them is anyone’s guess (perhaps it’s because he couldn’t see due to the Philistines gouging his eyes out) and his supernatural strength was gone from him. The text says that after he told Delilah about shaving his head and how his strength would leave him, he thought he would escape once she said “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!”- “But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him” (Judges 16:20b). The Greek word “aphistemi” means “to depart from,” and this is the parent word of the Greek apeste, found in the text.
The text doesn’t say here that “the Spirit of the Lord departed,” but rather, “the Lord had departed from him,” leading the reader to think that Samson hadn’t just given up his long hair when he told Delilah his secret; he had also given up his vow to the Lord for a woman: he betrayed his godly vow for a woman, who received a bribe payment (1100 pieces of silver from each Philistine lord, see Judges 16:5) once Samson told her and she called up the Philistines. The text says that Delilah “called up the lords of the Philistines saying, ‘Come up once more, for he has told me all that is in his heart.’ Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hands” (Judges 16:18). She did it for the sake of bribe money, but he violated the Nazirite Law because she was beautiful. He gave up his relationship with the Lord for a beautiful woman. Not only did Samson sacrifice his vow with the Lord, he also violated the Nazirite Law when he killed the young lion and gathered the honey out of the dead lion carcass, ate some, and gave some to his parents without telling either of them where it had come from (Judges 14:5-9). There was no crime in eating honey, but there was a crime eating honey when it came out of a dead carcass. Samson wasn’t to touch dead carcasses as a Nazirite because the Lord declared dead human bodies and dead carcasses from animals to be unclean.
In the case of Saul’s armorbearer, he chooses to commit suicide by falling on his sword because Saul had died. He was overcome with grief for his leader and dies out of grief. Zimri ends his life once the city is overtaken because he had conspired to kill King Elah the son of Baasha, then killed all of Baasha’s family and friends when he became king. His 7-day reign ended (that’s right: he only ruled for 7 days) was over when Israel decided to attack the city. He burned himself up in the king’s house, which is how he died. He likely did this to preserve his dignity and to prevent himself from being killed at the hands of the enemy.
Ahithophel is another interesting case. He was the adviser to both King David and Absalom, David’s son, and his word was extremely influential:
23 The advice of Ahithophel, which he gave in those days, was as if one inquired of the word of God; so was all the advice of Ahithophel regarded by both David and Absalom. (2 Samuel 16:23)
Getting advice from Ahithophel was as close as one got to getting advice from God Himself. This is how highly regarded Ahithophel was in his day. Suddenly, though, Ahithophel’s counsel was disregarded by Absalom and Israel for Hushai the Archite’s (2 Sam. 17:14). In response to his advice no longer being regarded so highly, Ahithophel does the most unexpected thing:
23 Now when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey and arose and went to his home, to his city, and set his house in order, and strangled himself; thus he died and was buried in the grave of his father.
Why does Ahithophel commit suicide? Because “his counsel was not followed,” the text says. In other words, Absalom and Israel stopped paying attention to Ahithophel, and he was so upset about it that he took his life. It was a hasty decision that brought a tragic end. Did it make sense for Ahithophel to take his life because Absalom and Israel preferred the advice of someone else? Of course not. But, then and again, we all know of situations where someone has committed suicide for reasons that we either never know or don’t make sense in hindsight.
As we consider these cases, plus Judas, we see that not every case is easy to determine. Sure, we know where Judas goes because 1) he was possessed by Satan and 2) sold his Lord for money. Scripture tells us also that Jesus tried to warn Judas with a “woe” message, telling him that “it would have been better if that one (the betrayer) had never been born,” a message that doesn’t sound as if Judas ended up in Jesus’ embrace.
As for Saul, we can know that Saul didn’t end up in the Lord’s embrace, either: after all, if Saul was really God-fearing, why did the Lord reject him and send him an evil spirit? It’s rare in Scripture to read of someone receiving an evil spirit from the Lord, nevertheless to read of a King chosen by the Lord who is later rejected by the Lord. But, the Lord doesn’t just depart from Saul: he leaves an evil spirit (Greek pneuma poneron; pronounced p-neuma po-nA-ron) in His place. Clearly, the Lord doesn’t send evil spirits to those who are his. When the Lord rejects Saul in 1 Samuel 15:26, Samuel the prophet uses a word that is more intensified than just “reject”: the Greek word for reject here, ἐξουδενώσει (ex-ou-den-Osei), also means to “despise” and “treat with contempt”. And the Lord treated Saul with utter contempt and despised him. Saul incurred the anger and wrath of God because he disobeyed the Lord repeatedly for the sake of looking good in the eyes of the people. His reputation and popularity were more important to him than heeding the word of the Lord.
As for Samson, he was one who gave up his vow and his God-given supernatural power for Delilah, a woman who only did what she did for the sake of bribes from the Philistine lords. What is surprising about Samson, though, is that, in the end, he calls upon God to let him have vengeance on the Philistines, an odd request for a man from whom the Lord has departed. We see that the Lord has departed from him in the text, which doesn’t bode well for his eternal resting place, but some theologians and believers have pointed out to me in the course of this study that Samson is one of those maybe/maybe not cases because he does call on the Lord at the end of his life — even if it’s for the purposes of getting revenge on the Philistines. And yet, some say that the fact that Samson calls on the Lord for merely the purpose of getting vengeance on the Philistines shows that he’s aware that his power, his vow, the Lord, have all departed from him. He doesn’t ask the Lord to return to life as he knew it; he asks the Lord to let him die with the Philistines. It seems as though Samson’s life ended on a tragic note, the kind of note that makes one shake their head over the thought that a man who had been born a Nazirite from birth, one that had been consecrated to the Lord, could give it up in the end for a beautiful woman and experience the Lord’s departure from his life. For many of these individuals in Scripture that commit suicide, notice how the Lord departs first, or the Lord departs and Satan enters, then they decide to end it all.
Ahithophel and Zimri end their lives rather abruptly, but Zimri is guilty of shedding innocent blood – so his end brings him to evil judgment. Ahithophel can’t be determined from the text, unless one presumes that he had a self-esteem or ego problem of some kind that resulted in his ending his life out of it. Saul’s armorbearer ends his life out of loyalty to Saul, but no one should end their life for another. Anyone that asks that of you or someone you know isn’t a friend; if anything, I’m inclined to believe that the person(s) that ask you to take your life out of devotion to him or her is none other than Satan himself masquerading as someone you love or care for. We’ll return to this when we cover Satan, Jesus, and Temptation in another section.
In ending this section on Judas and suicide, we can see that those who commit suicide (or complete suicide, as my friend Nicole says) are those who do so for various reasons. For some, though, who do it, suicide is a tragic end to a life that was plagued with transgression and rebellion against the Lord. For others, there are reasons that we can’t see behind why they take their lives, and we are simply left to trust the Lord’s sovereignty in ruling on them.
And yet, there is good theology behind why some believe that suicide is apostasy and the ultimate human act of rebellion, a crime against God for which some believe Hell to be the only means of divine vengeance.
Next part teaches you about the Theology of Life and Death
An Introduction to the History of Satan
1. Satan as Dragon and Angel
2. Satan as Serpent and Tempter
3. Satan in Zechariah and Isaiah
4. Satan and Judas
5. Judas and the Doctrine of Apostasy
6. Judas and Suicide
7. Theology of Life and Death
8. Satan, Jesus, and Temptation
9. Peter and Judas, A Comparison
10. Satan in Jesus’ Ministry