The Judas Heart
36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
As I write, it is Thursday, April 1st, 2021. A day that is known by many to be April Fools' Day. It’s a day often filled with surprise, laughter, and sometimes relief – gotcha moments. The brevity of the situation usually calms our hearts, knowing our reality hasn’t changed much after all. We know that deep down the world can turn on a dime, so we are thankful, perhaps more on this day, for the mundaneness of our life, the day-to-day decisions that seem more trivial than momentous.
Yet, on one historic Thursday, the joke didn’t end. Now, I recognize that April Fools' Day was far from becoming a reality when Jesus sat with his disciples to partake in the Passover meal before his death. Nonetheless, there was undoubtedly a momentous turn that would transpire during this Holy Week.
The Night It Came To Light
There Judas sat, partaking in the meal with the only Son of God. By every standard, Judas blended in. He was counted among the twelve, a friend of the Messiah, and a part of his kingdom. The supper begins. The conversation turns in an ironic twist that one of Jesus’ disciples will betray him. “Is it I?” John asked. “It’s not me, is it?” said Philip. “It can’t be me, right?” said Peter. As his hand joined with Judas, Jesus answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me.” (Matt. 26:23). Judas says, “Is it I, Rabbi?” “You have said so”, Jesus responds.
Perhaps Judas waited for the moment to turn for a needed sigh of relief. Maybe he merely sat silent until the supper ended. It is possible that he dismissed himself from the table prematurely. As much as one could wish this was just a bad night at any moment, and we would realize all is well with Jesus and his disciple again. Yet, it wasn’t a joke gone wrong. It was instead an enormous moment of earth-shaking gravity. This was reality. It was a dark moment for Jesus. One of his closest friends had betrayed him. Yet for Judas, his heart had finally been gripped and given over to his worldly passion and lust. It took time, but the subtle shift of each mundane day and decision furthered his heart, darkened his conscience and eventually forfeited his soul.
The Signs of A Gripped Heart
When we look at the gospel accounts, we can see it so clearly. Judas had a love for money that eventually gripped him so tightly it choked him of love for Christ. There was a telling moment during Jesus' ministry in which the disciples see Mary anointing Jesus' feet with expensive oil and perfume. This was worship. A beautiful and moving moment in which fragrance filled the entire house (John 12:1-3). Everyone stood in awe with what was taking place, except Judas. He was angry. He was resentful. His heart wasn't there. His treasure wasn't in Jesus. It was instead in his money bag he kept for the disciples. He traded worship of God for his own wants.
He had all he could stand before he finally spoke up. John 12:5 "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" We can fool a lot of people with our words. After all, what a noble thing for Judas to say. Jesus, how could you be so flippant with the budget? This is God's money, you know? We can fool a lot of people, but God knows our hearts. And now we know Judas' as well. John 12:6 "He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it."
The Heart Exposed
Judas was a fraud. He was a false brother. He was a thief and deceiver. He loved money more than his Lord. Yet, the cistern from which Judas drank eventually left him parched. And in his search for more, he sought out the chief priest, selfishly seeking profit for himself. The same thing he had likely done time and time again. So once again, we find Judas cashing in his heart to the tune of his own destruction. And the irony of this moment is that Judas has been played by his own sinful pursuit of the world. It was, no doubt, his – gotcha moment. He was willing, maybe even to his own surprise, to cash it all in for thirty pieces of silver.
You can likely buy a lot with thirty pieces of silver. You can perhaps buy a lot of worldly goods. You can potentially do a lot of things with thirty pieces of silver. There is a lot of gain here on this earth. Maybe even the whole world! Yet, the horror is not what you can gain but what you lose in pursuing your treasure on this earth. The profit of Judas’s evil left him bankrupt.
This world tempts us at every facet to find our satisfaction here. Use today for gain! That is the temptation. Judas traded his worship for his wants. Who has time for sitting in worship when I can get ahead? The sad reality is that he received it. He received exactly what he wanted, and it cost him everything! God gave him over to the idol of his heart! What a waste it turned out to be!
What About You?
Judas, the betrayer, is a reminder of our potentially betraying heart. The betrayer was betrayed by his own sin. Our hearts, too, are inclined towards gain. We want our own glory. We want the final say. We want control. We want to be right. If we are honest, our heart often yearns for everything this world can offer us. Money is just a small example of its “goods.” The list goes on; power, lusts, status, gain, success, love, attention, sense of need, etc. This is why John warns us, “do not love the world” (1 John 2:15). There is much within this world that calls for our hearts! Yet, the truth is they are all passing away. And how foolish it would be to set our heart on them.
Moreover, how frightening it may be for the Lord to grant the evil of our heart’s desire. Just like Judas, you can have it all! Imagine having the entire world. Everything you always wanted, right? But what a foolish way to live? What horror to think the final pursuit of all we longed for concluded with a resounding echo for all eternity – the jokes on you. Of course, this is no laughing matter. And the truth is, it won’t happen on a dimes worth of time. Life usually doesn’t turn on a dime, but over time. It happens day by day, moment by moment, in the mundaneness of life. We give ourselves away.
We can be played by the very things we pursue. It happens to nations and it also happens to people (Psalm 115:8, Isaiah 6, Romans 1:24, Matt 26:15-16). We are willing to pay the small cost initially, never seeing the final cost that is soon coming due. We rarely write a big check with our hearts treasure. Instead, we make deposits day by day. We like to think those moments and decisions are no big deal. No one likely notices either. Everyone just brushes it off as no big deal, including you. But what if more is at work.? What if what is actually taking place is a habitual revealing of your true heart and a gradual exposure of your true treasure? What if the very things for which your heart grabs will soon grip you instead?
What are you pursuing? What are you living for? What is the cistern from which you drink? How are you giving yourself to it? What is your temporal profit? The better pursuit is not of temporary gain but the enteral treasure! What a joke it would be to gain thirty pieces of silver but forfeit your soul in the process? What a lousy and damning return on investment? What is the yield of your coming treasure?
Be careful with pursuing gain in this world. It can leave you with nothing. Pursue Christ instead. It will mean the forfeiting of temporal things but know the treasure of Christ is richer than any riches the world offers to you here.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mk 8:36.