Judas the Faithful Apostle
Judas, some time after being selected to be an apostle, was called (with the rest of the twelve) by Jesus. They were all probably surprised at what Jesus did: He gave them miraculous power like He had. They had power over evil spirits (demons) and power to heal every kind of sickness and disease. Then Judas listened as Jesus gave him instructions.
Don’t go into the road of the Gentiles; and don’t enter into a city of the Samaritans. But instead, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. You have received this freely, give it freely. Don’t you get gold, or silver, or brass in your belt-bag; nor a bag for your journey, nor two coats, nor shoes, nor staffs; because the workman is worthy of his food.
And into whatever city or town you enter, ask who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. And as you come into a house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it isn’t worthy, let your peace return to you. And whoever won’t receive you, nor hear your words, when you depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Truly I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.
Behold, I am sending you out like sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, you be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.1
Judas was given miraculous power, and told to go use it. He was told to proclaim that the hope of Israel—God’s new kingdom—was close to being realized. He was told not to tell the Samaritans or the Gentiles—at that point, this was something for the Jews only. He was told that whoever rejected him and his message would be eternally condemned before God.
If Judas was a nationalistically-minded Jew,2 then these words of Jesus would have excited him greatly, because he was being given a place of power in bringing in the new kingdom—which to most Jews meant the overthrow of the Roman oppressors and the establishment of a new physical Israelite kingdom that would never be overthrown again. Judas must have been incredibly excited by this prospect.
Simon the Zealot, a Jewish patriot who despised the Romans, was Judas’ preaching partner in the “limited commission.”3 You can imagine the discussions these two men had. They went into different Jewish cities, and Judas proclaimed the gospel. Judas had sick people and diseased people brought to him, and he healed them. Judas saw some people who were possessed by demons, and he rescued them from their torment, casting the demons out.4
When their mission was finished, Judas and Simon (along with the other apostles) returned to Galilee where Jesus was, and told Him all the things that they had done.5 Then they accompanied Him to an uninhabited place around Bethsaida. But the crowd heard about it, and Judas was no longer in a small group with Jesus, but was now surrounded by thousands of people, all wanting to get in close to the Lord. Judas heard Jesus welcome them, preach the kingdom to them, and saw Him heal the ones who needed it.6 But as the day stretched onward, Judas came to Jesus and tried to convince Him to send the crowds away to find lodging and food.7 Instead, Jesus told Judas and the other eleven to divide the crowd up in groups of fifty and tell them to sit down. Then He miraculously made five loaves and two fishes turn into enough food to feed five thousand man.8
Sometime after this event, Jesus was alone with the twelve, and He asked the twelve “Who do people say that I am?” They all answered with different answers: Elijah, John the Baptist, one of the old prophets risen from the dead.9 But when they were asked “Who do you say that I am?” only Peter spoke up, and said “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”10 Nathanael (Bartholomew) had already made this declaration to Jesus before being chosen as an apostle,11 but here it was said in front of the whole group of apostles. Some of them certainly had wondered whether Jesus was the Christ, but when Jesus told them to keep it quiet, the suspicions were confirmed.12
If Judas is like most Jews, this news would have been absolutely exhilarating. The Messiah, the one that the Jews had been waiting on for hundreds of years, was standing right in front of him. And the kingdom, which all the Jews longed for, was almost there! But a bit of confusion and doubt must have entered Judas’ mind when the next thing Jesus said was:
The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be murdered, and be raised the third day. If any man desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it; but whoever desires to lose his life for my sake, the same will save it. For what is a man benefitted, if he gains the entire world, and loses himself or is cast away? For whoever will be ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of man will be ashamed of him, when He shall come in His own glory, and His Father’s and of holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here, who will not taste of death until they see the kingdom of God.13
When Jesus said to the disciples14 that some standing there wouldn’t taste death, the implication is that at least one of them would die before the kingdom came. Judas almost certainly didn’t think it could be him.
Getting closer to the time of Jesus’ resurrection, Judas was with Jesus when Peter told the Lord, “Behold, we’ve forsaken everything and followed you. Therefore, wheat will we receive?” The Lord’s response was incredible to the ears of the twelve:
Truly, I say to you, that you who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man will sit in the throne of His glory, you also will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that has forsaken houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name’s sake will receive a hundred-fold, and will inherit eternal life.15
Judas heard a promise of power and authority. He was a man who struggled with covetousness and selfishness (as seen in the fact that he stole from the money bag), and so the promise of this place of prominence must have really appealed to him. So, it’s no surprise when he got very upset with James and John when their mother requested the two best places in Jesus’ kingdom for them.16
But then came the final trip of Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem…
-Bradley S. Cobb
1 Matthew 10:5-16.
2 This author believes that this is part of Judas’ character. Reasons for that will be given later in this chapter.
3 Compare Mark’s statement that the apostles were sent out “two by two” (Mark 6:7) with Matthew’s list of the apostles during this time, dividing them up into groups of two (Matthew 10:1-4).
4 This is proven by the powers that Jesus gave them (Matthew 10:1) and the command He gave them (10:8); along with the express statement “they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them” (Mark 6:13).
5 Luke 9:10. It is perhaps significant that the apostles reported all the things they had done, as though it was about them. Certainly they were excited, and wanted to share their new miraculous experiences with Jesus, but their focus, it seems, was more on their actions than on the response of the people to the message.
6 Luke 9:11. If, as was conjectured in the previous footnote, Judas thought things would be more about him, this would have been a blow to his ego, as everyone wanted to see Jesus, not the twelve apostles.
7 Luke 9:12. Judas wasn’t the only one, but he was one of the “twelve” who said it.
8 Luke 9:13-17.
9 Luke 9:18-19. Compare also Matthew 16:13-14.
10 Matthew 16:15-16.
11 See chapter on Bartholomew for specific details surrounding this event.
12 See Luke 9:20-21.
13 Luke 9:22-27.
14 While Luke says that Jesus said this to “all” (Luke 9:23), it means all the disciples (see Matthew 16:24-28).
15 Matthew 19:27-29.
16 Matthew 20:20-24, but especially verse 24.