This Week's Focus Passage

Judas Iscariot

Focus Passage: Matthew 10:4

‘And Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.’

The leading pericope reads in the first four verses of this fourth chapter of the gospel according to Matthew, as it is commonly called:

And he called unto him his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of disease and all manner of sickness. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.

We are not given any particulars; any specific reasons for why these twelve men were chosen by the Christ to receive this position with its concomitant authority. The infinite Wisdom simply chose those whom He would, not without reason of course, but without indulging our curiosity about it. But what a cross-section of personalities there are to be found among the twelve! Of many we are told almost nothing, yet the few that are ‘high-lighted’ indicate the broad spectrum of distinct personal backgrounds. Of the ‘key three,’ that is, Peter, John, and James, we are given additional accounts as they were frequently the select few called by Christ to be with Him upon several specific—special—occasions, when the rest of the twelve were left behind, notably the healing of the daughter of Jairus, and more notably, upon that glorious manifestation of Christ in His transfiguration. Of course, Peter most conspicuously, was the usual spokesman for the twelve, while John came, we might say, out of Peter’s shadow when we see him leaning on the bosom of Christ at the Supper. Prior to that blessed occasion, John is largely to be remembered for his and James’ suggestion that the Lord would have them to call fire down from heaven upon that Samaritan village that refused to receive Jesus, as recorded in Luke 9:54. Other than his part with Peter and John, James seems to be quite obscure, and were it not for his surprising martyrdom at the hand of Herod, found in Acts 12:2, he would surely have remained even more obscure.

The callings of the brothers Peter and Andrew, along with the brothers James and John, are related in the Scriptures, and apart from Philip from under the fig tree, and Matthew from his toll-booth, we are given—if I mistake not—no insight into their individual calls. Considering the power and authority that these were to be subsequently given, it is interesting, to say the least, that we know so little about them. We might expect to receive more information about the brothers of Peter and John, but we do not. Andrew informed Christ of the lad with five barley loaves and two fishes, and along with Philip, he made known to Jesus those ‘certain Greeks’ that were desirous of seeing the Son of man.

It really goes without saying that, for many, the most interesting personage is ‘Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.’ Of this temporary follower of the Lamb we again, as with the other disciples, are told little or nothing of his background, in spite of the fact that an internet source boldly claims to possess a great deal of sure knowledge about the betrayer of Jesus, in the following words:

“Judas Iscariot was the only son of wealthy Jewish parents living in Jericho. He had become attached to John the Baptist, and his Sadducee parents had disowned him. He was looking for employment in these regions when Jesus’ apostles found him, and chiefly because of his experience with finances, Nathaniel invited him to join their ranks. Judas Iscariot was the only Judean among the twelve apostles.”

This fine information is provided in the Urantia Book; ‘The Urantia Book,’ we are told, ‘is a spiritual and philosophical book that originated in Chicago sometime between 1924 and 1955. The authorship remains a matter of speculation.’ Perhaps the author was the former mayor of Chicago, Richard J. Daley (d. 1976)—but that’s only speculation—if I may be permitted some sarcasm.

When Peter declared to his hearers on the day of Pentecost this blessed reality regarding the death of Christ, that He, ‘being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay,’ he was speaking not only of both, ‘Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,’ that, ‘were gathered together, to do whatsoever thy hand and thy council foreordained to come to pass,’ but the language referring to Christ’s being delivered powerfully suggests a referent to the wicked activity of Judas, who in fact, we are told, delivered Him unto them.

Most interesting is the language employed by the inspired writers as they speak of this Judas. Matthew and Mark, in listing the twelve, simply conclude ‘and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.’ Luke, on the other hand, in giving his list, says of this one, ‘and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.’ But John, in a different context—John 12:4—has said, ‘But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, that should betray him.’ We know that nothing happened but by the determinate counsel of God, yet how was it worked out among the guilty participants? Matthew and Mark are writing, after the fact; that among those chosen by Christ was Judas Iscariot, who we will later learn, also betrayed him. Christ, being the omniscient One, knew at the time of the appointment, that Judas would betray Him; Matthew and Mark only knew retrospectively. Is that also true of Luke when he speaks of the one who became a traitor? Yet, John’s choice of words seems odd to us, ‘Judas that should betray him.’ God knew, His Son knew, and yet gave him this awesome position. Who can fathom the mind of God? O the depths!

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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