You, Me, and Judas (Acts 1: 12-26)
Rev. David French

Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus-- he was one of our number and shared in this ministry. (With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)

“You, me and Judas.” Perhaps you’re wondering what in the world do you and I have in common with Judas Iscariot? After-all, we all love Jesus and believe He is our Lord and our Savior. But Judas, he obviously doubted Jesus so much that he betrayed Him and turned Him over to the Romans. We’re the ones who thank God every day that Jesus paid for our sins so that we would never know the desperation and hopelessness of Judas. 

And while Judas certainly heard Jesus preach about grace and mercy and forgiveness, in the end, he didn’t think that he deserved or believe that Jesus would forgive a sin as horrible as his. And so to escape the weight of his guilt, he went out to the potter’s field and he hung himself. 

You and I, however, do by God’s grace believe all our sins have been covered by the blood of Jesus and washed away in the water of our baptisms. And so, we live with the promise and the hope of eternal life with our Lord in the joys of heaven.

Judas, even though loved and cherished by God, just like you, became “the son of perdition”; while we, again by God’s grace, have become children of the light. So, what could you and I possibly have in common with Judas Iscariot? 

In fact, I would guess that most of us cringe at even the thought that we might actually be like Judas. So much so that instead of turning to God’s Word, many have turned to their own reason and come up with their own ideas to quiet the fear that any of us could one day follow in Judas’s footsteps. They do that by putting him into a category of humanity completely distinct and separate from the rest of mankind.

By that I mean because of our own doubts and fears, we might also one day possibly fall from the faith as Judas did. We’re tempted to believe that Judas was different, that he was brought into the world by God specifically to do what he did. In other words, we are tempted to believe that he was destined to betray Jesus. After all, Luke does say in the Acts passage before us this morning, “the Scripture had to be fulfilled.” I mean, it was God’s plan that Jesus should die to pay for the sins of the world. And someone, we are told by the prophet Jeremiah, “was going to betray Him for 30 pieces of silver.”

The problem with that view is that it ultimately paints God as cruel and arbitrary. And if that’s the case, it also robs you and me of the certainty of God’s grace toward us in Christ. I mean, if there is even one person who Christ did not die for, one person who God brought into this world for the express purpose of damning, then Christ didn’t die for everyone; and if He didn’t die for all, no one can really be sure that He died for me. God’s grace is either universal, that is, for all people, or it’s selective and only for some. If it’s selective, we can certainly hope we’re one of the chosen ones, but we can never really be sure. 

So, let’s go back to the original question. What do we have in common with Judas? Well, apart from our having faith in Christ and Judas lacking that faith, we have everything in common! Judas came into this world the same way we all did, as a sinner in need of God’s grace. Judas sinned throughout his life, as we also find sin in our lives daily. 

Our sins may be different, but not in the fact that they separate us from God in this life, and if unrepentant of, will damn us for eternity. It’s been said that it’s foolishness to talk of people’s sins as being greater or lesser. A person who has his head one inch under water drowns the same as the person who has a millstone hung round his neck and is thrown into the deepest sea. So, as far as sin goes, we really are no different than Judas. And, of course as far as God’s grace in Christ for us goes, we are no different than Judas. You see, it is God’s will that “all men would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” That includes you, me, and Judas. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall have everlasting life.” God loved and cared for Judas as surely as He loves and cares for you.

For a reason unknown to any of us, Judas rejected God’s grace toward him in Christ. Oh, the external signs are evident, but the “why?”, the “what filled his heart?” remains a mystery. Judas chose earthly wealth over eternal wealth. He chose the favor of kings and governors over the favor of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He chose the praise of men over the praise of God. But why? Why did Judas choose the things of this world over the things of God to his own damnation? It’s a question that we try to ignore because we also face the same temptations that Judas, who walked and talked with Jesus for years, faced and he failed to over come that temptation. 

Matthias was chosen to replace Judas, in part, because we are all like Judas. We are all sinners who are susceptible to the temptations of this world. As Luther reminds us, “we can't believe in Christ or come to Him, unless we have been called by the Gospel, enlightened with His gifts and sanctified and kept in the one true faith.” That is, the first step to believing is being “called by the Gospel.” God’s Word must be proclaimed one way or another before it can be heard or believed. As Paul writes, “faith comes by hearing and hearing (comes) by the word of Christ.”

My friends, don’t burden yourselves with questions about what caused Judas to stop believing. There is no answer that will make you feel safe or show you the way to avoid that temptation. The only thing we can do is be in the Word of God, the Word preached by Peter, Paul, Matthias, and all the faithful pastors who have come after them. 

The Word that the Scriptures reveal “is living and active sharper than any double-edged sword, (the Word that) penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; (the Word that) judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” the Word that shows us both our sin and our Savior. 

The Word that saves you by the power of Christ resurrection, the Word that has declared you to be innocent before God the Father almighty, the Word who brings you peace through the forgiveness of your sins.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.