What does the life and discipleship of Judas Iscariot tell the modern Christian about his own life and discipleship? The several topics discussed below will help to answer this question. These topics include: (1) why does Jesus call Judas to be His disciple? ; (2) How does Judas’ life as a disciple of Jesus mirror the life of the modern Christian? ; And (3) how and why do the gospels portray Judas as being greedy, loving money and stealing? The discussion of these topics may lead the modern Christian to the unpleasant realization that he has more in common with Judas Iscariot than he would like to admit.
(1) Why does Jesus call Judas Iscariot to be His disciple? The answer to this question may be complicated. Perhaps this question can begin to be answered by asking another question: why does Jesus call any of His disciples, including modern ones? The answer: because He finds them useful. Adam Fahling, in The Life of Christ (1936), says that it “cannot be doubted that Judas was sincere when he entered the ranks of the apostles, and he must have possessed special qualities which made him desirable as a disciple. In choosing His apostles, Jesus considered the special gifts and qualities of the men whom He desired to associate with Him.”
The reason why this question (“Why does Jesus call Judas Iscariot to be His disciple?”) may be complicated is because Jesus calls Judas anyway, even though Jesus knows beforehand that he will betray Him (see John 6:64 and 13:18) and, thus, fulfill Old Testament prophecy (see Psalm 41:9 and 109:5-8). This sometimes leads to the belief that Jesus preordains Judas to be “the son of perdition” or “the doomed to destruction” (depending on the biblical translation) from John 17:12. God does not predestine anyone to eternal damnation. This is true because anyone can repent and turn back to God. This should also be true for Judas: he is lost only because he rejects Jesus.
(2) How does Judas Iscariot’s life as a disciple of Jesus mirror the life of the modern Christian? Judas appears to be like the other eleven disciples until Satan enters him (see Luke 22:3-5 and John 13:26-27). Before this, he participates with the other eleven disciples on various tasks that Jesus assigns to them. For examples, see the following: “The Missionary Journey of the Twelve” (from Matthew, chapter 10, Mark, chapter six and Luke, chapter nine); and “the Miracle of the Feeding of the Five Thousand” (from Matthew, chapter 14, Mark, chapter 6, Luke, chapter nine and John, chapter six). Concerning “the Missionary Journey of the Twelve”, all three gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) specifically mention Jesus calling and sending “the Twelve”. Matthew’s Gospel even names “the twelve apostles”, including “Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him” (10:2-4). Concerning “the Miracle of the Feeding of the Five Thousand”, Luke’s Gospel specifically mentions “the Twelve” (9:12). All four gospels mention “twelve basketfuls” (Matthew, Mark and Luke) or “twelve baskets” (John): presumably, one basket for each of the twelve disciples.
The above examples show that Judas appears to be like the other eleven disciples until Satan enters him. Keep in mind: Satan can enter any of Jesus’ disciples. For example: see the story of Peter rebuking Jesus after He predicts His own death with Jesus, finally, saying to Peter, “Get behind me Satan!” (Matthew 16:21-28 and Mark 8:31-9:1). Satan can enter any of Jesus’ disciples, even modern ones.
(3) The gospels portray Judas as being greedy, loving money and stealing in the story of “the Anointment of Jesus at Bethany” by a woman (see Matthew, chapter 26, Mark, chapter 14 and John, chapter 12. In both Matthew and Mark, the woman is unnamed. In John, the woman is Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus). Notice this story’s location in the gospel narrative. Matthew’s Gospel places this story between the plot by the chief priests and elders against Jesus (26:1-5) and the story of Judas agreeing to betray Jesus for “thirty silver coins” (26:14-16). Mark’s Gospel does the same (between 14:1-2 and 14:10-11). Luke’s Gospel does not contain the story of “the Anointment of Jesus at Bethany” by a woman, but it does say that “Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus” at 22:1-6. John’s Gospel places this story after “The Plot to Kill Jesus” at 11:45-57. John’s Gospel does not contain the story of Judas agreeing to betray Jesus, but it does specifically call Judas “a thief”: “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” (12:6).
What does this story’s location in the gospel narrative attempt to say about Judas? Taking the four gospel accounts as a whole and taking into consideration their differences (as discussed directly above), the gospel accounts appear to be contrasting the woman’s generosity with Judas’ greed and love of money. How else can one explain the location of the story of “the Anointment of Jesus at Bethany” by a woman between the plot by the chief priests and elders against Jesus and the story of Judas agreeing to betray Jesus? Keep in mind: any of Jesus’ disciples are capable of being greedy, loving money or stealing. Matthew’s Gospel does not mention Judas by name in the story of “the Anointment of Jesus at Bethany” by a woman, but does mention the disciples as a group: “When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. ‘Why this waste?’ they asked” (26:8). Notice the word “they”. Mark’s Gospel does not mention Judas by name, either, and also mentions the disciples as a group (see 14:4-5). Any of Jesus’ disciples are capable of being greedy, loving money or stealing. Even modern ones.