Jesus always knew the truth about Judas.
We know that because Jesus told his disciples in John 6 that one of them was “a devil” or “the devil” or as J. B. Phillips renders it, has “the devil in his heart.” Two things are noteworthy about that revelation. First, it takes place six months before the cross, and second, when he says it, the other apostles have no idea he’s talking about Judas.
We don’t know everything we would like to know about Judas and his motives. We don’t know if he signed up with bad intentions. Or did he become disillusioned along the way? Did he expect Jesus to overthrow Rome and liberate the Jews? We don’t have to assume that Judas signed up with the intention of betraying Jesus. We only know that he never truly believed in Jesus the way the others did, and yet he managed to hide his true feelings for all those long weeks and months and years the apostles spent together.
On two separate occasions we read that Satan “entered” Judas. Luke 22:3 says that Satan entered Judas just before he approached the chief priests to offer to betray Jesus. John 13:27 says that Satan entered Judas just after he took the bread at the Last Supper and just before he left to lead the chief priests to find Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
What can we conclude from this? First, his heart was never right. He never truly believed. Whatever his original motives for following Jesus, his heart grew hard and dark and cold. Second, his unbelief made him a prime target for Satan. Unbelief opens the door to all manner of sin. First we question, then we doubt, then we choose not to believe, and then we find ourselves falling into deep sin. I heard Chuck Swindoll quote these words:
“Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”
On the day Judas signed up, he would have bristled at the suggestion that one day he would betray Jesus with a kiss. But that’s where he ended up, which makes his story all the more tragic.
It didn’t have to end that way. It never does.
Satan could not “enter” him unless Judas had left the door wide open. His anger, his greed, and his disillusionment all conspired to make him an easy target for the devil. It’s not like Satan is omnipotent. He’s not. He’s more like a burglar prowling through a neighborhood, trying one door after another until he finds one that the owner forgot to lock. Why break in the back door when you can stroll in through the front door?
I started by asking the question, When did Satan enter Judas? Certainly the devil entered him twice near the end to provoke him to betray the Lord. But in a deeper sense, Satan had his man all along.
Judas was the easiest target he ever had.
We should all take a solemn lesson from Judas. Don’t leave the door open for Satan to enter your heart. Please don’t say it could never happen to you. We all say that just before we fall.
Search me and try me, O Lord. Set my heart aflame with true love for you. I pray for your Spirit to burn away the smallest traces of unbelief. Amen.