Posted by: pmarkrobb | September 17, 2015

unchanged and unrepentant

Always appearing last whenever a list of apostles is noted in scripture, Judas Iscariot is also the last disciple whose story we will consider.  He is singularly remembered as the man who betrayed Jesus for a handful of coins and took his own life, consumed by the deep guilt and shame of what he did.  In considering the story and person of Judas Iscariot, it would be easy to judge and dismiss him — easy to see this as a one-dimensional cautionary tale.  But here’s the thing: Judas was a disciple (one of only twelve chosen by Jesus himself), and he was not the only disciple to betray his Master.  So what, then, is true of Judas’ life and has direct application in our own?  I believe there are two things which are true of Judas’ heart and life which can also be true of anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus.  We see evidence of the first in John chapter 12 and the story of Jesus being anointed by Mary.

Days before He travels to Jerusalem, is betrayed by Judas and crucified for our sins, Jesus is the guest of honor at a dinner party in the home of his good friend Lazarus.  At the end of the meal, Mary (Lazarus’ sister) spontaneously anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume.  Judas objects …

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
John 12:4-6 (NIV)

In the words of his objection, we are given evidence of the condition of Judas’ heart.  This is what Jesus was always concerned for and saw directly into … people’s hearts.  He was not partial to outward expressions of belief and conviction.  He was focused solely on the heart.  Judas’ act of ultimate betrayal may be what he is most remembered for, but I am more moved by this less familiar expression of his true heart.  It is strong evidence that although Judas was chosen and followed Jesus, his heart was unchanged.  And before we judge and dismiss Judas, let us be careful to acknowledge this can also be true of anyone who professes to follow Jesus.

These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
Matthew 15:8 (NLT)

On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Matthew 7:22-23 (ESV)

But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.
Jeremiah 17:10 (NLT)

The secret motives of Judas’ heart are clear in verse 6.  His life was exposed to divine power as he followed Jesus, but his heart was unchanged.

Apart from the story of Mary’s anointing and the betrayal in the garden, there is only one other mention in scripture of the events of Judas’ life.  It is a tragic story; a hopeless bit of final punctuation to his singular choice and act of betrayal.  There would be no restoration for Judas.  This stands in stark contrast to Peter’s story of denial.  Peter ran away in shame, but was lovingly, intentionally and fully restored by Jesus (John 21:15-19).  Judas, overcome with remorse and grief, threw the prize of his betrayal at the feet of the Pharisees and ran away to take his own life.  His confession was to the wrong authority.  His remorse was empty and powerless.  He was, in the end, unrepentant.  To repent is to feel remorse and confess, but it must be directed towards God and cannot be true absent a turning.  We must confess our sins, but we must also turn from them.  Judas could have been forgiven for his betrayal.  There is nothing we can do which God will not forgive if we truthfully confess it and repent.  Judas’ remorse was empty, powerless and misdirected.

I believe we should all take particular notice of this second truth of Judas’ heart and life.  Judas was unrepentant, which can also be true of anyone who professes to follow Jesus.  There is nothing that can separate us from the love of the Father, except unrepentant sin.  There is nothing which cannot be forgiven by God, except that from which we refuse to repent.

Unchanged and unrepentant are the truths of Judas’ heart and life as seen through the lens of scripture.  May his story not also be ours.  If you profess to follow Jesus, but do not possess a changed heart, cry out to Him today.  If there is a “compartment” of your heart which remains locked to His forgiveness, grace and mercy, confess and repent today.

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Responses

  1. You are so right, God always sees the heart. It’s a good reminder, so easy to fool oneself.

    Hebrews 4:12-13 For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart. No creature is hidden from Him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.


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