For you will certainly carry out God’s purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John. C.S. Lewis
“It was at this time that He went off the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also names as apostles: Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James and John, and Philip and Bartholomew; and Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who called the Zealot; Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.” Luke 6:12-16
Jesus had many followers or pupils at this time, but after praying made a decision to choose twelve of those followers who were to be special messengers sent out to spread His teachings. Since Jesus was fully submitted to His Father’s will, then these twelve were chosen by God. Why would God choose Judas? God knew Judas’ nature, but even uses the dark force of Satan for His purpose. This is the creative force of God’s Spirit at work weaving the dark with the light. If Jesus were not in full submission to God He would have chosen an entirely different group of men based upon His HUMAN understanding, and not on God’s omniscient. That is why it is important for those whom God has called to be shaped into an instrument in full submission so that person may be used by God. Even if it means stepping into the darkness of evil as the only light.
Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. It is difficult for us to understand how an apostle of Jesus could sit at his feet listening to his spirit filled teachings, observe his miraculous healings, and still not really be a follower. Judas was OF the twelve, but not really a part of the twelve. He observed, manipulated, and I’m sure presented himself as a true follower. What stands out is his deceptive nature and his extreme self-centeredness driven by his ego.
Judas’ dark nature rears its evil head in various ways throughout the gospel stories. In John 12:3-8, Mary of Bethany purchases a jar of expensive perfume to anoint Jesus, but Judas becomes enraged by pointing out the money she used to purchase the perfume could have been used for the poor. “He said this, not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, an having charge of the money bag he used to help himself to what was put into it.” The pre-translation in the original Greek of the word “thief” is “kleptes” which means “secret thief.” I’m guessing Judas volunteered for the position of treasurer so he had access to their funds. Judas appeared to be motivated by status and power. He attached himself to Jesus because he thought Jesus would become a great leader and overtake the Romans. When he realized that Jesus wasn’t going in the direction that would provide him with what he wanted he bailed out by betraying Jesus to feed his greed.
What becomes apparent is that those who do not listen to Jesus and follow his teachings can be easily used by Satan. In Luke 22:3, “Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the twelve.” and in John 13:27, “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.”
In Luke 6:46-49, Jesus exhorts his disciples, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who build a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of the house was great.”
Judas’ ruin was great as he purchased a field with the money and hung himself after trying to return the money to the Chief Priests. Why did Judas suddenly show remorse? He was forced to look in the mirror at himself, and because he truly didn’t acknowledge God’s grace, couldn’t stand the image of his monstrous, dirty, filthy persona. Thomas Watson, 1600’s Puritan Preacher and Author, states, “The bare knowledge of God’s will is inefficacious, it doth not better the heart. Knowledge alone is like a winter sun, which hath no heat or influence; it doth not warm the affections, or purify the conscience. Judas was a great luminary, he knew God’s will, but he was a traitor.”
When Jesus is about to be arrested he calls Judas “friend.” Judas’ personality was split into being a “friend” and “apostle” of Jesus but really that of an enemy. Walter Brueggemann when discussing Cain states, “In a simple way, the narrative [of Cain] articulates the two-sidedness of human life, in jeopardy for disobedience of guilt and the reality of grace come together.” One must wonder why Jesus continued to allow Judas to be an apostle. Jesus accurately revealed human weaknesses with the intent to spiritually heal and disclose the darkness, and yet there is still the hope of grace in Jesus’ patient behavior towards Judas.
“And it chanced that the direction of my scientific studies, which led wholly toward the mystic and the transcendental, re-acted and shed a strong light on this consciousness of the perennial war among my members. With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to that truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two.” The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson
There is a duality in human nature that can hold both a demon and an angel together all at once. However, God gives us free will, and that means choosing whether we dwell in the darkness of our souls or move towards the light. Richard Rohr in discussing the higher consciousness of non-dualistic thinking :
“The lowest level of consciousness is entirely dualistic (win/lose)—me versus the world and basic survival. Many, I am afraid, never move beyond this. The higher levels of consciousness are more and more able to deal with contradictions, paradoxes, and all Mystery (win/win). This is spiritual maturity. At the higher levels, we can teach things like compassion, mercy, forgiveness, selflessness, even love of enemies. Any good contemplative practice quickly greases the wheels of the mind toward non-dual consciousness. This is exactly why saints can overlook offenses and love enemies! (Contemplation and Action).
Judas characterizes the dualistic nature by his self-serving need to make his agenda compete against Jesus’ purpose. Inversely, Jesus obviously exemplifies the love found in the higher level of non-dualistic thinking. Also, dualistic behavior was evident in the behavior of the Israelites in the Old Testament. The Hebrews were chosen by God not to hold themselves in a superior position, but to be the loving bearers of God’s will to those who were not chosen. God continually punishes the Israelites and through exhortations from the Prophets attempts to teach this to His chosen people. The Prophet Isaiah (56:6-7), “And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who fast to my covenant-these I will bring to my holy mountain and give the joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
There is a dysfunctional psychological dynamic that characterizes a split in our minds. This is motivated by defense mechanisms which according to psychoanalytic theory changes a person’s awareness of the initial impulse to make it more tolerable. In compartmentalization, a person separates parts of the self from awareness from other parts while acting as if they had entirely different values. In Judas’ case he acted as though he were an apostle while stealing and pursuing his own agenda. This was a man who sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to His teachings on grace and forgiveness of sins, but because of the cognitive dissonance in his personality couldn’t integrate grace into his disintegrated personality and subsequently committed suicide. Michael Shreiner writing in Existential Psychology on Emotional Detachment and Compartmentalization states, “…compartmentalization is bad and only through integrating those disparate ways of thinking to decide upon a set of values that will guide behaviors regardless of change in environmental scenery will these symptoms of mental illness disappear” (June 21, 2016).
In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, is a man who intuits the internal struggle between wanting to pursue sinful desires and yet be morally upright. Dr. Jekyll creates a chemical concoction that allows him to become Mr. Hyde, a man who is entirely evil so that he can fulfill a sense of “freedom” from moral restrictions. Jekyll can change himself back by taking another dose of the chemical but finds he begins changing into Hyde without the chemical dose, and subtly begins intentionally choosing the immoral Hyde over Jekyll. Stevenson’s story characterizes the battle between evil and goodness within that requires a conscious decision and action oriented intention to move towards righteousness out of sin.
Shlomo Carlebach, Rebbe and Musician (1925-1994), stated, “If I had two hearts maybe I could use one to love and one for hate. But since God gave me only one heart, I will use it for love.” Shlomo was very loved and had a charismatic personality. However, after his death numerous reports of sexual misconduct even with girls as young as 12 yrs of age surfaced. He was an important personage in Orthodox Judaism that created positive changes, but his actions belied his external piety. He definitely had two conflicting desires in his heart, and instead of choosing the path of self control, gave into sexual immorality and selfishness. The incredible, horrifying damage a spiritual leader inflicts on those he abuses causes ongoing pain and suffering in his victim’s lives, as well as a possible turning away from God. Jesus strongly warns (Matthew 18:6),
The Apostle Paul anguishes, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15). However, Paul is aware of his struggle with sin, and is unhappy, but Judas, on the other hand, refuses to acknowledge his sin, and represents himself as a follower of Jesus, while being full of deception.
“With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to the truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two.” “I learned to recognise the thorough and primitive duality of man; I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both.” Stevenson
Jesus was the complete, integrated, perfect, spiritually mature personality while Judas’ personality displayed disintegration, selfishness indicative of a spiritually immature person, greed, envy, and cowardice. There are many Judas’ among us within our places of worship, attempting to push their agenda, which has nothing to do with sincerely following Christ. They betray Christ with their actions; by putting monetary gain, status, power and sin before Christ. It appears that not only the struggle with sin is an individual personal battle, but can happen utilizing group dynamics and a sin-filled leader. The struggle is making the conscious or not so conscious decision to follow a leader even when their leadership is not Christ centered.
Pulling the Mask Off
The Book of Jude is a one chapter exhortation to watch out for false teachers. Jude was the half-brother of Jesus, and brother of James. These false teachers are not Spirit led, but will use a congregation or a person for their own advantage. Jude states, “These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, double dead, uprooted, wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever” (12-13).
They are the increasing number of spiritual leaders who use deceptive practices to obtain money, commit adultery, use psychological harassment for control purposes so they can sin, while increasing their status and power among the congregation. Dr. Allen Ross, Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Beeson Divinity School (2006) writes, “In the final analysis spiritual leadership can become a religious dictatorship. So the servant of God does have the greater opportunity for sin, for he can make the cause serve him. What is so often lost in the struggle for importance and authority is the pattern of Jesus Christ, our High Priest. He came not to be served, but to serve.”
These are also the sex addicts who pick victims from among the congregation. I personally had a church friend whose husband attended the same Bible study group I attended, who sent scriptural verses every day from where he was stationed (military man) to his wife, and who was an active sex addict who put his wife’s name on orgy sites, and began preparing his 12 year old daughter for sexual incest by telling his wife to spend the night with a friend with their young son so he could spend time with their daughter. In fact, research has shown that the most legalistic followers of a religion are the most likely to engage in illicit or immoral activity. Why? Because the legalistic, rigid person uses the religion’s “laws” to present themselves as “religious” to cover up the underlying sin. This just doesn’t happen in Christianity, but Judaism and Islam as well. Almost everyone has heard that an abusing husband will present himself to the community of believers as upright, and a pillar of the faith. Again, utilizing a “cloaking device” (I love Sci-fi, and like to use this in describing the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” mentioned in the Bible) to hide their sin.
Dr. Allen Ross, Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Beeson Divinity School (2006) writes, “In the final analysis spiritual leadership can become a religious dictatorship. So the servant of God does have the greater opportunity for sin, for he can make the cause serve him. What is so often lost in the struggle for importance and authority is the pattern of Jesus Christ, our High Priest. He came not to be served, but to serve.”
It is important to unmask the Judas like John did in his gospel by pointing out Judas was a secret thief. Every place of worship has an important responsibility to monitor the leader’s behavior and respond accordingly. This is why churches have governing boards, such as deacons or elders. However, some leaders are so effective at deception and manipulation, they carry many of their followers on the sin bus to hell with them. As Jude mentions by calling them “hidden reefs,” they shipwreck the faith, and set about to destroy the flock.
For the individual believer, you must be grounded in your faith and not be charmed by charismatic leaders who like the serpent in Genesis, will lead you to believe by their behavior, “you surely will not die.” Be aware of the slow, subtle creeping of sin, and other acceptance of immorality that does not align itself with the teachings of Jesus within your own behavior. Be aware of the wolves around you because they are manipulated by Satan to destroy what God is attempting to build up for His glory and to cause the path to the Kingdom of God to become indistinguishable from the world which surrounds the Way.