“What if I’m like Judas?!” a sweet, middle-aged woman exclaimed. “What if I’m beyond hope? I’ve sinned so many times, maybe I’ve finally sealed myself in perdition.” Like other anxious minds, she was fixating on the worst possible characters–the real “Bible bad guys.”
For Christians struggling with religious anxiety, the list is relatively short. And predictable.
Esau, Saul, Judas, Lucifer, the antichrist…
I once spoke with a lovely missionary lady who had spent many years working for the Lord overseas, secretly crippled by the fear that she was actually the antichrist.
Others, struggling to overcome sin, are convinced that they’re like Esau, Saul, or Lucifer.
But probably one of the most common Bible bad guys in the world of scrupulosity is Judas.
Ah, Judas. The betrayer of our Lord.
Today’s blog post is dedicated to anyone who has read about Scripture’s antagonists and overly personalized these stories, seeing a false parallel between their daily struggles and the the lives of these men.
Was Judas Beyond Hope?
Jesus, ever our great Encourager, looks upon us with hope.
He believes in us, and thereby inspires us with the idea that we can succeed in our spiritual journey. He speaks to us in a way that expresses His confidence that we will do well, despite all our stumbling.
This confidence was expressed to Peter before he betrayed Christ.
And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”Luke 22:31-32
Looking forward to the night of His betrayal, arrest, abandonment, and death, Jesus spoke words that looked beyond the immediate tragedy. He saw Peter’s betrayal–the curse words spoken, the downcast eyes, the red flush of shame on his face. But Jesus looked beyond that.
“You’re going to return to Me, Peter,” Jesus said, “And when you’re back on track, I have an important job for you to do in My Kingdom.”
We know and love this story of Peter’s failure and restoration.
But what about Judas?
Judas did far more than run away at the critical hour. He sold our Lord for 30 measly pieces of silver, the equivalent of $200.
Wasn’t that the ultimate spiritual failure?
Jesus’ Hope for Judas
Before the crisis at Calvary, Jesus sat with His disciples, discussing important matters.
They had just watched the rich young ruler turn away from a call to discipleship, and they were confused. Jesus was talking about how difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven, and this went against the grain of their worldview. In Jewish thought, the rich were rich because they were particularly devoted to God. “Who, then, can be saved?” They asked.
He turned their eyes away from themselves, as we must do. “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
Peter, always quick to speak, said, “Look, we’ve left all to follow you. Therefore, what shall we have?”
Sounds like a selfish question if you ask me, but hey, we need the Peters in life to ask the questions everyone else is too modest to mention. And Jesus responds with a promise.
A promise that included Judas.
Remember the scene–Jesus is with His disciples. How many disciples? Twelve. Now catch this:
So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.Matthew 19:28-29
Here’s the logic: there are twelve disciples. Jesus tells them they will sit on twelve thrones in His kingdom. It’s not really feasible for one person to sit on two thrones, so clearly, Jesus expected all twelve disciples to be there.
But Wait…Judas Was One of the Bible Bad Guys!
It might seem surprising to think that Judas could be redeemed after betraying Christ. But if we are so surprised, doesn’t that limit the power of God’s grace?
We often have small views of God’s grace, like a few pattering raindrops. But grace is more like the rushing, unstoppable waters of Niagara. Christ’s urge to save sinners is so intense, so passionate, so personal that He will stop at nothing to rescue us. He even longed to rescue the Bible bad guys.
Many people with scrupulosity, particularly those who struggle with blasphemous thoughts, feel that God is a tit-for-tat kind of God. If you have a bad thought about Me, I’m going to sulk in the corner and withhold salvation from you. If you get angry at Me, I’ll release some of My wrath on you!
In this vein of thought, it’s automatic to think that Judas’ betrayal must have meant his chances at salvation evaporated instantly. And we think the same about the other Bible bad guys.
Now, I agree that betraying Jesus was a really horrible thing to do. I’m not here to lessen our sense of sin. If you scroll back up to the quote about the twelve thrones, Jesus specifies that those thrones are for “you who have followed Me.”
I’m not saying that Judas’ actions were excusable. What I’m suggesting is that his horrible sin didn’t put him in a permanent place.
Judas’ One Critical Mistake
There was really only one mistake that Judas made which put him in a permanent pickle.
This final act of taking his own life put him forever beyond the reach of God’s loving invitations.
As someone who has, in my darkest moments, seriously contemplated suicide, I can empathize with you if that’s where you are right now. I know that death can seem so much more peaceful and manageable than life. And I know the overwhelming despair that makes us think, “well, I’m probably lost anyways, so why should I keep trying?”
Please don’t think this way.
Suicide is perhaps the most tragic of all mistakes because it symbolizes the last page of our story. There can be no more wooing voice of mercy, no more conviction, no more spirit-filled comfort. It’s the end, a manmade end that violently interrupts God’s work in our lives.
Jesus spoke to the twelve disciples and told them there were twelve thrones for them. He was planning on Judas making it. Certainly, in His divine foreknowledge, He could foresee all things from beginning to end. He knew precisely what lay in store when He told Judas in the upper room, “What you do, do quickly.”
But Christ’s foreknowledge didn’t mean His own ceaseless tides of mercy had run dry. Judas could have returned, repented, and been restored like Peter.
This is why I want to encourage those of you who have struggled with suicidal thoughts.
Don’t entertain thoughts of ending your life. You may feel like a reprobate, a lost and hopeless sinner. You might feel like the worst of the worst, with a hard heart and sorry motives. But as long as you have breath in your lungs, you’re never beyond hope.
Jesus had a throne for Judas. Imagine the beautiful story of restoration that could have been if Judas hadn’t prematurely ended the story in his despair and guilt.
What could have been…
Don’t end your story. Even if you’ve despised the riches of His goodness, betrayed His name, blasphemed His Spirit, and spit in His face, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). There’s still hope for the Judases among us.
Conclusion: Hope for the Bible’s Bad Guys
In this article, we’ve only looked at Judas. There are a few other Bible bad guys that I mentioned earlier. If you’re hung up on Esau, Saul, Lucifer, the antichrist, or someone else, leave a comment below and I’ll try to put out further articles (I definitely have opinions on all the ones listed here, it just takes me time to write them out.)
In all cases, though, I believe there is hope.
And that’s something we need, those of us struggling with anxiety. We need hope that no, we haven’t gone too far for God’s mercy to reach us. No, we aren’t so sinful that He would turn away with revilement.
I think the case of Judas was tragic because of his suicide. Otherwise, his sin was just as forgivable as any other, had he allowed himself to live and to be drawn to repentance. Note that phrase, “drawn to repentance.” We often think we have to self-analyze and self-flagellate until we feel we’ve repented “properly.” This is very human-centered. Romans 2:4 tells us that “the goodness of God leads you to repentance.” This is the God-centered view of repentance. He works a work in our lives that we are incapable of doing on our own.
So please, don’t buckle down and try to “behave better” and “work harder” to make sure you’re not like Judas. Let’s keep it simple. Here are three actionable points:
- Don’t commit suicide. Ever. Bad idea in every way. (Plus, it’s extremely hard to get it done right. Here’s the actual article I read years ago that deterred me from attempting. Pardon the curse words, I didn’t care much about them at that point.)
- Rely on God to draw you to repentance. Don’t pressure yourself. Pressure and force are not from God (see Daniel 3 and Revelation 13).
- Try to stop seeing certain Bible bad guys (and yourself) in such black and white terms. If your anxiety tells you, “you’re like Judas,” instead of freaking out, shrug your shoulders and say, “Yes, I’m definitely a sinner like Judas–but the difference is that I’m sticking around long enough for God’s plans to be perfected in my imperfect life.”
I hope this article has been encouraging to anyone who feels disturbed by Judas’ story. Again, if you have other Bible bad guys you’d like to discuss, please feel free to leave a comment below (just don’t go into detail as to why they bother you, because if another reader hasn’t thought of it yet, we don’t want to “share” our obsessions!)
May God grant you the eyes to see Him in His glory and love, and to feel His healing touch. Even on those days when you feel like a Judas.
Best wishes on the journey,