What does the Bible say about betrayal? What are some biblical examples of betrayal? And how can we avoid becoming a betrayer?
When answering questions like these, the name Judas is unavoidable. Judas will be forever remembered as “the betrayer.” So here are 3 biblical lessons we can learn from Judas that will help us be faithful disciples. If we want to avoid betrayal with God, in our marriages, and in all of our relationships, the Bible gives us the truth we need.
1: The Bible Shows Us that Undealt with Frustrations Lead to Betrayal (John 12:3-6, Matthew 26:14-16):
Those who proclaim Christ for a period of time only to turn away later do so through a process. When we don’t deal with frustrations in our walk with God, our marriage, and other relationships, bitterness creeps in and sets the stage for a betrayal.
Judas did not like some of the things Jesus did, like how Jesus viewed and used money. As this frustration grew, Judas became more and more willing to betray Jesus.
Many people claim that Judas betrayed Jesus out of greed, as though he did it for the money. We will never fully know the true motives in Judas’ heart during those moments of betrayal. But what is interesting is that during that time period, 30 pieces of silver was not a vast sum of money. In the Old Testament, 30 pieces of silver was the price someone had to pay when they accidentally killed another man’s slave (Exodus 21:32).
So to me, it seems more likely that Judas did not betray Jesus out of greed but out of bitterness. Perhaps Judas grinned and let out a devious chuckle when the Pharisees suggested this price, the price of a common slave.
It seems Judas’ anger and frustration had grown over these three years of ministry together. He was fed up with his expectations of Jesus constantly not being unmet. Jesus had wasted one too many dollars, he rebuked Judas one too many times, Judas was tired of being listed last every time, he was tired of the religious leaders shaking their heads at him as he followed this crazy leader called Jesus. And so Judas betrayed Jesus.
Judas’ kiss doesn’t seem to be about dollars. It seems to be a cold, calculated slap in the face of Jesus. He could have just pointed at Jesus. He could have been more dignified in his betrayal. But he chose to betray Jesus with a sadistic kiss. How did Judas grow so bitter? How did he become so blinded by his disgust with Jesus?
Undealt with frustrations eventually always boil over. In any relationship, pretending there isn’t a problem is a prerequisite for a betrayal.
Affairs don’t just happen. A teenager leaving one day and never calling his parents again isn’t because of a singular event. Best friends don’t split because of one argument. People betray one another once the frustrations are too much to handle because they were never dealt with properly. As Ephesians 4:26-27 states, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
Like any man who eventually betrays someone, Judas couldn’t take it anymore. He had kept his mouth shut long enough. Since he never dealt with his frustrations and confusions properly, now he was going to do something about it, no matter how sinful it was. Judas let it get so bad that he eventually betrayed Jesus to death because Judas was in denial about his sin.
2. To Avoid Betrayal, We Must Realize There Are Only 3 Responses to Sin (Matthew 27:3-5):
The Bible says a lot about betrayal, but to understand how betrayal happens, it’s helpful to know the three general responses to sin: denial, despair, or repentance.
If someone has not repented and yet is not completely crushed by their sin, it means they are in denial and refuse to believe how bad sin really is. When repentance has not happened but someone can no longer deny how horrible their sinfulness is, despair occurs and they cannot live long under this weight of condemnation. The only good solution is to repent and receive God’s grace.
To avoid becoming a betrayer, we must regularly repent of our sins.
One extreme example of all this is Ariel Castro. Castro was a local man who abducted three girls between 2002 and 2004 and held them until 2013. He trapped them in his house by making it a dungeon of sorts. He abused them, raped them, intentionally caused them miscarriages, and completely violated them in every way possible.
Finally one of the girls was able to escape and brought the police to rescue the other two. Castro pled guilty to 937 criminal counts of rape, kidnapping, and aggravated murder (in relation to the miscarriages he intentionally caused). He was sentenced to a prison term of life plus 1,000 years without the chance of parole.
If anyone had reason to believe that his heart was wicked and in need of a Savior, this man was him. Once he was caught and finally confronted with his unbelievable sins, instead of really apologizing to his victims, in a rambling statement at his court hearing, he said this, “I am not a monster. I am just sick. I have an addiction, just like an alcoholic has an addiction. I am not a violent person, and I do have value for human life.”
When I found this quote in the news, I was currently preaching on Psalm 51. I shared Castro’s story as an extreme example of the progressive nature of sin and how once we are confronted with our sinfulness, the temptation is often to deny it. Castro was not asking for forgiveness because he was unwilling to admit his sinful heart. He was willing to admit that he had sinned, just like an alcoholic has sinned. But he was not willing to admit that at the core of who he was, he was a sinner.
I then moved on in my sermon from the Castro example to explain the next option in dealing with the sinful nature. If we don’t repent, we will either deny our sinfulness like Castro or commit suicide, physically or metaphorically, through an unending depression stemming from our realization of our wickedness. There is simply no other way to handle the weightiness of feeling your own fundamental, core flaws. If you finally stop your denial and are confronted with the truth of your depravity, but you don’t give it all to Jesus through repentance, the only coping mechanisms the human heart has is death.
One month later after I had preached this sermon, Ariel Castro took his bed sheets and hung himself to death in his prison cell. I’m not telling you this to celebrate his death or to boast about my foresight. Castro’s actions are simply a very, very extreme example of what happens when sin is left unchecked and you do not repent.
When we finally come face to face with the inner sinfulness that is the root of our sin, we really do only have three options. We can deny our sinfulness to escape its crushing effects. We can commit suicide like Judas to try and escape its crushing effects. And thankfully, to the glory of God, like Peter, we can also repent of our sinfulness through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The gospel is our only hope.
3. Embrace God’s Preordained Reality (Matthew 27:1-2, 6-10)
The Bible teaches us betrayal is always the result when we refuse to God’s will and fight for our own. To be a disciple who endures to the end, doesn’t betray God, doesn’t betray our spouses, and doesn’t betray those we love, we must be disciples who submit to the will of God.
If we were to expand our texts in our study about Judas, we would see another phrase that appears often. The Bible says that “the Scriptures had to be fulfilled.”
Matthew 26:53-54, 53 “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”
Acts 1:16, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus.”
So what does this mean? Does it mean that God caused Judas to sin? Absolutely not. James 1:13-15 says God is never responsible for our sin and we alone are. But throughout the Bible what you do see is God directing man’s sin to accomplish God’s will.
You will never find a Bible verse where God takes a righteous man, a person trying to please him, and then God uses that man to sin in a certain way to produce what God wanted. However, you will find many instances where someone was already living in sin and rebelling against God, and then God directed that man’s steps to sin in a certain way to accomplish a certain outcome that God wanted from the beginning.
There’s many examples of this in Scripture, but for the sake of time I’ll just point to one. Acts 2:23 states, “This man [Jesus] was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”
It says that Jesus was crucified “by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge.” “by” means that this was the means of these events happening. But notice the second part of this verse clearly states that Jesus was nailed to the cross by wicked men. God did not cause these men to sin, but he did direct their sin to accomplish his will.
Likewise when it states the Scriptures had to be fulfilled concerning Judas, it does not mean that God merely predicted the sins of Judas, and although he did not produce the sins of Judas either, by his great power and sovereignty he did direct Judas’ sin so that the end result was what God wanted.
And so what does this all mean for us in this Bible study on betrayal? It means that to fight against the sovereign God is pointless. None of this means that are actions are pointless, that man is a robot merely doing what God wants. It means that your actions are your own but God has a plan that he is going to accomplish, and you are either going to be a part of that plan one way or the other. Fighting against God’s preordained reality is pointless. No matter how hard you try, your will is not going to overcome God’s will. All you will accomplish in betraying God’s way for your own way is your own demise and condemnation.
In closing, the last point I would like to make is found in Matthew 27:6-10:
The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7 So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. 8 That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, 10 and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”
Imagine this scene. They pick up the thirty pieces of silver that was used as payment to arrange an assassination of an innocent man, but rather than be grief stricken by their murderous acts, all they are concerned about is following the letter of the law. Judas and these Pharisees were able to murder Jesus because they had allowed their relationship with God to turn into a fake religion rather than a true relationship with the living God. They just murdered someone, but now they won’t put blood money into the treasurer. If this isn’t a fake spirituality I don’t know what is.
Throughout all of these horrible actions of Judas and these Pharisees, I believe they forgot one thing. They forgot one thing which allowed them to feel like they could do whatever they wanted. They forgot one thing that made them feel they could kill an innocent man. They forgot one thing that caused them to forsake a genuine relationship with God for a fake, sinful religious, hypocritical lifestyle where the focus was on obeying the letter of the law rather than the Spirit behind the laws. They forgot three little words that can transform us into disciples who endure to the end.
God is real.
If you want to be disciples who doesn’t betray Jesus, if we want to be a spouse who doesn’t betray our your wife or husband, if want to be a parent who doesn’t betray your children, if you want to be a man or woman that when you fail, you always repent and turn back to Christ – then we have to remember this truth that Judas the betrayer clearly forgot.
God is real.
This isn’t a game. This isn’t about making money, being a prestigious religious figure, or about experiencing as much earthly pleasure while there’s time. Life is about glorifying God and enjoying him forever because he is real.