“Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.” (Luke 22: 1-6)
The passage goes through the banal bureaucracy of an evil conspiracy. They were “looking for some way to get rid of Jesus…” They were “afraid of the people.” Jealousy and cowardice. Judas “discussed” how to “betray” Jesus, made a deal and “watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.”
Was Judas responsible for what he did?
According to this passage, “Satan entered into Judas,” but Judas was no innocent who was beguiled. John 12:6 tells us that he was already a thief. When Judas complained that Mary had wasted money in anointing Jesus, John comments, “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.” That is to say, he already loved money and it had a hold on him.
Paul described how that hold works:
“You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:1–3)
Do you see the thread? Dead in our sins, walking in the passions of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of body and mind, and therefore following the prince of the power of the air (Satan).
Here’s the thing: Satan does not take innocent people captive.
How do I know? Because there are no innocent people. Satan has power where sinful passions hold sway. Judas was a lover of money, and he covered it with a fake relationship with Jesus. The Prince of this world came to Judas and found a place in him.
But where was God when this happened? How could God let the terrible events of the cross happen?
Every detail was forecast in chilling detail centuries before. And, of course, the Bible foretold that Jesus would be betrayed by a close friend for thirty pieces of silver. In John 13:18, Jesus cites Psalm 41:9 and says, “I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’” And in Matthew 26:24, Jesus says, “The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!” And in Matthew 27:9–10, it says, “Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, ‘And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me’” (Jeremiah 19:1–13; Zechariah 11:12–13).
And Jesus himself prophesied repeatedly how he would be killed.
In Mark 10:33–34, he says, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”
So God foresaw, and did not prevent what was about to happen. And all of this was sin. It is sin to mock …and spit… and flog… and kill.
But all this was in God’s purpose. In fact, in Acts 4:27–28, we read this “Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”
Here’s the paradox: Judas was responsible for his choices but God planned and purposed it. This explains Isaiah 53:10: “It was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief.” Or more literally, with the King James Version, “It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief.” Behind Herod and Pilate and the Gentiles and the people of Israel was Jesus’s own Father who loved him with an infinite love.
Why is this significant?
Because if God were not the main Actor in the death of Christ, then the death of Christ could not save us from our sins and we would perish in hell forever. The reason the death of Christ is the heart of gospel — the heart of the good news — is that God was doing it. Romans 5:8: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” If you break God’s activity from the death of Jesus, you lose the gospel. This was God’s doing. It is the highest and deepest point of his love for sinners. His love for you.
“He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities. “(Isaiah 53:5)
God wounded him. God crushed him. For you and me. And we go free.
Help me to understand it, Lord- or at least to trust you in this mystery! – that I am responsible for my choices, and yet you are sovereign, and never deflected from your purposes for a moment. And you mean it for good, and have good plans, and a future and a hope for me.
Thank you for saving me and for your painstaking work of redemption, taking my sin upon yourself and bearing it upon the cross, that I, the guilty one might go free, to live for you.