“Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray [Jesus] to them. And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.”- Mark 14:10–11
So often, the best way to understand the nature of one thing is to examine it in contrast with something else. The brightness of light is best understood against the backdrop of utter darkness. The power of God’s work of salvation is best understood when contrasted with the complete inability of men and women to save themselves.
As we consider today’s passage in light of the verses that immediately precede it, we get a better understanding of just how wicked Judas’ premeditated betrayal of our Savior actually was. Mary showed her devotion to Christ publicly, pouring perfume on Jesus in front of many people. Judas, on the other hand, met with the “chief priests” in secret to plan the ultimate irreverent act. Mary gave away something of great value in order to show her great affection for the Lord. Judas was paid blood money to display His deep hatred of the Son of God (Mark 14:3–11). By juxtaposing Mary’s devotion and Judas’ betrayal, Mark helps us understand both the truly praiseworthy nature of what Mary did and the incomparable awfulness of Judas’ reprehensible act.
From a human perspective, Judas’ meeting with the chief priests set in motion the final course of events that would culminate in our Savior’s crucifixion. According to Acts 2:22–23, however, Judas did not act outside of the sovereignty of God. The Lord determined that these things would happen, but this did not eliminate Judas’ culpability for his betrayal. Lawless men—including Judas—put Jesus to death (v. 23), and they were responsible for the wicked inclinations of their hearts. Human beings are the morally blameworthy agents in their own acts of sin and even in making themselves willing to commit great evils in the first place.
John Calvin makes this essential point in his commentary on this account. Calvin writes, “Judas was in amed with the desire to steal; long practice had hardened him in wickedness; and now when he meets with no other prey, he does not scruple to betray basely to death the Son of God, the Author of life, and, though restrained by a holy admonition, rushes violently forward.” As we read in John 12:6, Judas was a lover of money who was willing to steal funds intended to help the poor in order to enrich himself. By entertaining such idolatry, Judas made his heart hard enough to betray God incarnate into the hands of wicked men.
Judas is an example of how dangerous it is for us to entertain sin. When we do not mortify our evil desires but indulge them, we make our hearts hard and willing to do things that are unspeakably wicked. Let us repent of our sin and resist the devil, for as we refuse to entertain our sinful desires, we are built up in holiness and are kept, by the grace of God, from great wickedness.
Passages for Further Study