THE END OF JUDAS ISCARIOT
By Wayne S. Walker
In Matthew 27:1-10 there is described the delivery of our Lord Jesus Christ into the hands of the Gentiles, which He Himself had earlier predicted, as the chief priests and elders of the Jews led Him away to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. We see in Jesus’s suffering and death the hand of God. It was provided by His grace so that all men, both Jews and Gentiles, might obtain salvation from sin. Following this incident, the principal subject of the text is the end of Judas Iscariot. Let’s see what this passage teaches us.
I. We see in the tragic end of Judas plain proof of our Lord’s innocence from every charge against Him. In verse 4, Judas declared that he had betrayed “innocent blood.” If there was any living witness who could give evidence against Jesus Christ, Judas was the one. A chosen apostle of Jesus, a constant companion of His followers, and a disciple of all His teachings, both in public and in private, Judas would have known if Christ had done any wrong, either in word or in deed. And as a deserter and betrayer, it would have been in Judas’s own interest to prove Jesus guilty because it would, to some extent, excuse his own conduct if he could show that his Master was an offender or an impostor.
So why did not Judas then come forward? Why did he not stand before the Jewish council and specify his charges, if he had any? Why did he not go to Pilate and prove to the Romans that Jesus was an evildoer? There is but one answer. Judas did not step up as a witness because his conscience would not let him do so. Bad as he was, he realized that he could not prove anything against Christ. Wicked as he was, he knew full well that his Master was holy, harmless, innocent, blameless, and true.
The innocence of Jesus is corroborating evidence of His deity (John 8:46). Furthermore, His sinlessness qualified Him to be our sacrifice for sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). His purity also serves as an example to us (1 Peter 2:21). Because “all have sinned,” some have developed the idea that we are born to sin, that we have to sin, that we cannot help sinning. But Jesus is our example of how to overcome sin since He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). The absence of Judas at the Lord’s trial is one among many proofs that the Lamb of God was without blemish, the sinless One.
II. We see in the melancholy end of Judas that there is such a thing as repentance which is too late. Verse three tells us plainly that Judas “repented himself” [or “was remorseful,” NKJV], and verse 4 even says that he went to the priests and confessed, “I have sinned.” Yet it is clear that he did not repent unto salvation. There are two kinds of repentance which Paul identified in 2 Corinthians 7:9-10—true repentance which is brought about by godly sorrow, and false repentance which is caused by the sorrow of this world.
This is a point which deserves special attention. It is a common saying that “it is never too late to repent.” This is true, no doubt, if the repentance is genuine. But, unhappily, late repentance is often not genuine. It is possible for a man to feel his sins, to be sorry for them, to be under strong condemnation of guilt, to express deep remorse, to be pricked in conscience, and to exhibit much distress of mind, and yet, for all this, not repent with his heart and not be willing to change his ways. Present danger, unwanted consequences, or fear of death may account for any and all such indications of sorrow without genuine conviction. I am convinced that this was the case with Esau as mentioned in Hebrews 12:16-17.
Let us always beware of trusting in too late a repentance. Wisdom is depicted in Proverbs 1:24-30 as saying, “Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me” (verse 28). May we not presume on the uncertain future but learn that “now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
III. We see in the unhappy end of Judas how little comfort ungodliness brings to a man at last. In verse 5, we are told that he cast down in the temple the thirty pieces of silver for which he had sold his Master and went away in remorse. That money was dearly earned, at the price of his soul, but it brought him no pleasure even when he had it, let alone when the end came. Moses had learned that the pleasures of sin are but “for a season” (Hebrews 11:25).
In truth, sin is the hardest and cruellest of all masters. In its service are plenty of fair promises, but there is never any satisfactory fulfillment. Its end is sorrow, regret, self-accusation, and bitterness. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Galatians 6:7-8).
Are we tempted to commit sin? Let us be aware and remember that sooner or later—in this life or in the one to come, in this world or the next—the sinner will come face to face with his sin and have a bitter day of reckoning. “…And be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). Achan, Gehazi, Ananias, and Sapphira—and, of course, Judas, all found it so, and to their eternal loss. Indeed, as Paul said, “What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed?…For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:21-23).
IV. We see in the sad end of Judas to what a miserable conclusion a man may come if he has great privileges and does not use them properly. Verse 5 tells us that his unhappy man “went out and hanged himself.” What an awful death to die. An apostle of Christ, a preacher of the gospel, and a companion of Peter and John, Judas committed suicide and rushed into God’s presence unprepared. Truly, “For everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have in abundance; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath” (Matthew 25:29-30).
Let us not forget that no sinners are so sinful as those who sin against better light and judgment. Search the Scriptures and think about Lot’s wife, Pharaoh, Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and King Saul of Israel. John Bunyan truly said, “None fall so deep into the pit as those who fall backward.” More solemnly did Jesus say, “And that servant which knew his Lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes….For unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask much” (Luke 12:47-48).
May we all strive to live up to our light. And may we all endeavor to increase that light. We are encouraged to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). As Christians, children of God, followers of Christ, let us seek to fulfill the responsibilities which the great blessings we have received from the Lord have placed upon us.
In conclusion, what is the state of our hearts? Are we ever tempted to rest upon our past knowledge and present profession of religion? Are we disposed to cling to this world and seek our comfort in material things? Are we trifling with sin and deceiving ourselves with the thought that we can repent later? If so, let us remember Judas and beware! He is set up as a warning beacon before us. May we consider his end well, lest we also make a shipwreck of our souls.
—taken from Gospel Anchor; Oct., 1986 (Vol. XIII, No. 2), pp. 11-12, 14