Have you ever been deceived by someone? When I ask this question, I’m not talking about a used car salesman, or a one time event. I’m talking about someone who deceived you over a long course of time and led you to believe that you could trust them, because you thought they cared about you. I’m sure you will answer yes if you’re part of the human race. We all have had someone like this in our lives. Now, let me ask you another question. What did you do, once you saw the truth? Did you look back and realize the signs were there all along, you just didn’t see them? Did you realize there were red flags, but you, for some reason chose to ignore them? I bet you answered yes to that as well. I know I did.
With these questions in mind, I find it fascinating that Jesus, during His earthly ministry, chose Judas to be one of His closest friends, one of His disciples. Judas was a part of the Lord’s inner circle of 12, someone so trusted, that he even took care of the money box. (John 12:3-8) Why would Jesus do that? Did He not know that Judas would betray Him?
If we look at the Scriptures, it becomes very clear that by choosing Judas to be one of His disciples, Jesus was in fact fulfilling prophecy. Psalm 41:9 gives us a foreshadow of the last supper, when Jesus hands Judas a piece of bread while telling the disciples that one of them would betray Him:
“Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me”.
Zechariah 11:13 tells us of Judas’ selling Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver and then in remorse, throwing it back into the temple:
And the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD for the potter”.
Judas hanged himself when he realized that he had betrayed innocent blood and the money was used by the priests to buy the potters field. (Matthew 27:6-7)
Scripture also tells us in Luke 6:12-16 that Jesus spent all night in prayer, before picking His twelve disciples. Even if you argue that Jesus didn’t know what Judas would do, which I don’t believe is true, the Father certainly did. Therefore, Judas was chosen very deliberately.
So why did Jesus, other than fulfilling prophecy and knowing that Judas would betray Him, still invite him into the inner circle? The Bible warns us in Matthew 7:15-23 that there would be many false teachers among us. Jesus calls them “wolves in sheep’s clothing” in verse 22 of this passage. In Matthew 24, Jesus tells His disciples that one of the greatest problems of the last days would be deception.
“And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you”. Matthew 24:3-4.
I do not believe that the 11 other disciples recognized who Judas really was and what was in his heart, until after he had betrayed Jesus and killed himself. We know that they had no idea at the last supper because they were confused when Jesus told them one of them would betray Him. John tells us in John 13:22 “Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke”.
Fast forward to many years later, and the Apostle John gives us the benefit of his own hindsight as he looks back to the events of those years and the ultimate crucifixion of his Lord. In 1 John 2:18-19 he tells us the following:
“Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us”!
I want you to read this passage slowly. John is telling us that the reason why these antichrists, (notice I’m not saying The Anti-Christ, but small antichrists,) went out from among us, is so that we would recognize that they were never one of us. Let me rephrase that. These deceivers, these wolves in sheep’s clothing, who were once among our inner circle of friends, perhaps even our pastors, or someone in leadership or ministry, became mature in their lies and deception so that it would be revealed to us who they really were. They were never one of us, because if they had been, they would “have continued with us”! They were never believers and sooner or later they will reveal their true colors to us, just as Judas did!
John also tells us, years later when he wrote his gospel, that Judas was a thief who always took what was in the money box. (John 12:3-8) Hindsight is 20/20!
So what can we learn from these events? What could the Lord possibly have taught the disciples and ultimately us, by allowing this man, Judas, into His inner circle, knowing full well, that he would deceive the disciples and eventually betray Jesus?
First and foremost, I think the lesson we can learn from this situation is that God is in control. He is not afraid of wolves in sheep’s clothing and He even uses them for His own purposes!
Jesus was in full control of when He would be crucified! He tells the disciples at the last supper who would betray Him: “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” (John 13:26-27)
I think another reason Jesus chose Judas to join them was to open the eyes of the disciples to the fine art of deception. Think about the parable of the wheat and tares that look alike until maturity (Matthew 13:24-40). Judas looked like one of them. He talked like one of them and he most definitely acted like one of them by doing the many miracles that they did. He was for all intents and purposes, a true believer. Did you know that tares have no fruit? They look identical to wheat, until maturity. Only then can you tell the difference.
Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 7:15-20 that the way to discern a wolf from a shepherd is through their fruit:
“You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them”.
Fruit is an interesting concept in the Bible. There are so many different explanations for what fruit could mean. However, I would suggest that we keep it simple in this case. No one would argue that what Judas did is “good fruit”. I’m sure the disciples looked back and saw the red flags, the little warning bells that they ignored about Judas. I guarantee you that they were much more careful in the future about who they trusted. Once you’ve been deceived by someone over a long period of time, it changes the way you look at people.
Let’s learn from the disciples and from Judas. When you see red flags, pay attention. When you catch people being deceptive, don’t dismiss it and make excuses for them. Keep watch, read the Word, spend time with the Lord and use discernment. Only the Lord will keep us safe in this evil generation!