He was admired by leaders of the revolutionary war. Twice wounded for courageous fighting. Regarded as a hero. Celebrated for his courage. Admired for his patriotism. After almost losing a leg fighting for America he expected more.
It is said that he grew disillusioned with the war’s progress. Distrustful of its leaders. Doubtful of its cause.
So the name Benedict Arnold has become synonymous with “traitor.” Guilty of treason, his name is scorned. Sneered. Disdained.
He reminds me of another traitor. Judas Iscariot. He betrayed Jesus with a kiss for 30 pieces of silver. Like Benedict Arnold, he wasn’t always a traitor.
Consider some simple facts about Judas.
(1) Judas wasn’t born a traitor. Some seek to vilify Judas as “bad seed.” The “devil incarnate.” Evil slime. Not so! He was a man. Just like the other apostles. Luke says he became a traitor (Lk. 6:16). He wasn’t born bad. In fact, it is safe to assume that he began his walk with Jesus just like the others.
(2) He was, at one time, a loyal friend of Jesus. He heard the Master say, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself.” Judas did. He left his business and became a disciple.
(3) Judas was trusted by the Disciples. At least enough to be their treasurer. They were not suspicious of him. Or leery of his loyalty. In fact, when Jesus indicated one would betray him, none looked at Judas and said, “It must be him.” They all asked, “Is it I?”
So what happened? How do we explain his fall? Understand his treachery? We don’t know for sure. But consider these thoughts.
It’s easy to say it was sheer greed. And, it is obvious that he was covetous. He had been stealing from the treasury. He was a thief. A robber. A transgressor of the eighth commandment. But, 30 pieces of silver was a trifling amount. It was the price of a slave.
Maybe it was jealousy that he wasn’t a part of the inner circle like Peter, James and John. Or maybe resentment, as the only non-Galilean in the group. Possibility he was disappointed in the lack of his own advancement, or the failure to see success in the establishment of an earthly kingdom. Maybe it was all of this combined.
But this we do know. Satan entered into his heart (Jn. 13:2). He allowed the devil to get a foothold. He made a choice to listen to the Tempter’s alluring lies. His judgment was clouded. His mind corrupted. His emotions defiled.
And so Judas betrayed Jesus. He became a traitor. A turncoat. A treasonist.
But almost immediately regret set in. With remorse he returned the money. And cried, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood. But it was too late. He was scoffed and dismissed by the Jewish leaders.
As Judas threw the money at their feet, he turned in despair and headed down the path of regret. Ironically Jesus was heading up the hill to Calvary. Judas would die a sinner’s shameful death. Jesus would vicariously die for sinners to be saved.
It’s easy to condemn men like Benecict Arnold and Judas Iscarot. Cowards. Traitors. Losers. Sure glad I’m not like those shameless scum bags!
Whoaa! Wait a minute! “Is it I Lord?” Have I ever sold him for money? Or pleasure? Or power? Or position? Have I ever betrayed him with a kiss? An immoral kiss? A lustful kiss? A selfish kiss? Have I allowed Satan to enter my heart? Rule my emotions? Impact my mind?
How many “Friday’s” have I felt guilt? Regret? Shame? Sorrow? That aching, nagging hurt that I have “betrayed innocent blood”?
Fortunately, I don’t have to end it like Judas. There is a way of escape. I don’t have to die a traitor’s death. I can be set free from my sins and my conscience cleansed by the Savior’s blood. My regret and remorse can find reprieve and remission.
Sadly Judas missed Sunday. Thank God that I don’t have to.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman