‘Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon.’
Who was Judas? He was one of the Twelve chosen to be with the Lord during His life on earth. When the twelve were sent out by two and two to preach, Judas went also. To Judas, as to the others, Christ gave the power against unclean spirits and to heal all manner of disease. He was one of that privileged band who followed our Blessed Lord, who witnessed His miracles, who enjoyed the closest intimacy with Him. What was his character during this time? Are we to suppose that, whilst he was preaching the doctrines of Christ, he did so without himself believing in them? That, whilst he cast out devils in the Name of Jesus, he had no faith in that Name? That, whilst at Christ’s bidding, he went forth, without scrip, without bread, without money, exposing himself to enmity and hardship, to want and suffering, he did so with hatred towards Christ settled in his heart? Oh! no. Judas was far more like many of us. He was a man of a weak and vacillating mind, capable of going right—sadly liable to go wrong; trembling and hesitating on the edge of faith, yet not yielding himself, heart and soul, to his Master’s will; believing, not really and savingly, but with a kind of belief; working for and obeying Christ in a measure; perhaps thinking himself all this time to be a faithful, hard-working, obedient disciple.
But a change came over him. Unbelief entered his heart, unsuspected by those around, known only to our Lord. Sin was then presented to his notice—he allowed his thoughts to dwell on it. To conceal it he framed a lie. Reproof was administered. The thought and deed of treachery was added to his former sins. Exposure followed. Then entered hatred and led him to that final act, which dragged down his soul to everlasting, irretrievable ruin. Notice:—
I. His lack of faith.—Our Lord, in His great Eucharistic discourse, spoke of feeding His people with His Body and His Blood, and many of His disciples, saying ‘This is an hard saying,” departed from Him. It was then that Christ spoke the words of the text. This discourse seems to be the event which first disclosed the character of Judas in its weakness. He had preached and worked miracles in Christ’s Name, but had not true, strong faith in Him—hence, when any doctrine beyond his reason was taught, his weak faith allowed him not to grasp it. By his lack of faith in doctrine he weakened, and eventually lost his faith in the person of Christ; for how is it possible to disbelieve a doctrine without disbelieving the teacher? It is the spirit of belief, or of unbelief, in us which determines whether we sit as humble learners of what Christ has taught, or as judges of what Christ should have taught. I have been told by some, who even professed themselves Christians, it does not matter much whether we ever receive the Sacrament or not. Does it not matter? It is impossible that Christ’s wishes, that Christ’s commands, should be of no consequence. If ever this spirit of unbelief assails any of you, put it quickly from you as a suggestion of the devil. And if the saying is too hard for you, pray earnestly to God to give you faith to grasp it. And even if your faith be feeble, do not therefore forsake this Heavenly Feast, but come and partake of it, praying for further grace and enlightenment. We are not to wait till we fancy our faith is matured to obey Christ’s commands. We are to obey, that our faith may be strengthened and made perfect.
II. His yielding to evil.—This history of Judas teaches us also to be constantly on our guard against the first suggestions of evil. Sin entered into his heart, at first, perhaps, but half-suspected by himself, and then, gradually increasing in strength, and adding to itself fresh sins, ended in the destruction both of his body and his soul. These first suggestions are very dangerous. They are so very subtle, so apparently unimportant and trivial, that we hardly deem it worth our while to notice them. Yet they are, as the saying is, ‘the thin edge of the wedge,’ which at first slightly gashes the heart and then opens a wide cleft which separates us from God and His Christ. Oh! mark well these first suggestions, these first thoughts, these first, trivial as they seem, words and deeds of sin. Satan is as cunning now as when he tempted Judas. All great sins have small beginnings. Judas commenced by doubting our Lord, and ended by betraying him.
Rev. C. Marriott.
‘The frequency of our Lord’s warnings and hints addressed to Judas Iscariot is very remarkable. Rollock observes what an awful proof it is of the hardness of the heart that a man so warned should not be conscience-stricken and repent.’