Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve. – Luke 22:3
One of the scariest portions of scripture is the account of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. Judas was one of the twelve. He sat by the side of Jesus at the Last Supper. He was entrusted with the ministry funds by Jesus. He was present for three years of Jesus intensive and hands on ministry instruction. And yet, Judas chose to let Satan come into his heart. Can that happen today? Does it happen in our day?
Luke 22 provides the account of the night before Jesus went to the cross. It is a chapter filled with dangerous distractions of the devil (cf. also Matthew 26:1-5, 14-16; Mark 14:1, 2, 10, and 11). Indeed, we see in the life of Judas just how destructive distractions can be. As we observe the narrative about these devilish distractions, they should be instructive to us, for the devil has used the same tactics throughout history, and he is still using them today.
2 And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill Him, for they feared the people.
That these chief priests and scribes were planning the death of Jesus during arguably the holiest time of the year for them, exposes the darkness within them. The other Gospels state the religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus after Passover. This was because if they killed Jesus during the Feast that the people might riot (the people loved Jesus), and rioting risked the heavy fist of the Romans who dealt swiftly and decisively with any threat to their order and control.
The Romans were well aware that Passover and its message had a political message. Passover commemorated the liberation of God’s people from oppression. The Romans were viewed as oppressors by the Jews. Therefore it was a time of great tension in Jerusalem and throughout the land during this time.
3 Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve.
Satan the devil, is the one behind the distractions that seek to divert us off the straight and narrow plans of God for us. Satan “entered” (Greek eiselthen – Aorist/Active/Indicative of the verb eiserchomai meaning or came into, entered, go into) Judas. The form of the word “entered” here conveys the idea of a decisive definite event. That Satan “entered” Judas is evidence that he was not a true follower of Jesus.
Satan himself entered Judas. It’s interesting that it is only in Luke that it states, “Satan entered Judas.” This is the only place where Satan himself enters a person. All other possessions by an evil entity involve demons. This was a critical time in salvation history. Satan would not delegate this task to anyone else. So important was this time that Satan himself “entered Judas.”
Judas faltered in his wilderness testing. The devil came to Jesus in the wilderness and tempted Him with various things. Satan tempted Jesus with physical need (Luke 4:3-4), with fame and glory and a plan that avoided sacrifice, pain and suffering (Luke 4:5-8), and with a call to put God to the test by misusing scripture (Luke 4:9-12). And it further states that the devil didn’t give up tempting Jesus but continued to tempt Him at “an opportune time” (Luke 4:13).
If Jesus wilderness encounter with Satan himself is any indication of the tactics he uses, then we gain insight into the way this Serpent of old weaved his way into Judas. Perhaps this temptation was ongoing and Luke 22:3 is the culmination of a series of tempting tactics. Perhaps Satan tempted Judas with offering ot meet some physical need, or to take a shortcut that would be less personally costly than the plan of Jesus and His Heavenly Father. Perhaps Satan used and twisted scripture to convince Judas to let him into his heart. We aren’t given any information on what happened other than the words, “Then Satan entered Judas.” What we do know is that Judas failed his wilderness testing.
It’s also likely that Satan tested the other disciples during this time as well. We will see Jesus warn Peter about the Satan’s targeting him. Jesus even speaks prophetically about Peter’s fall. The difference is the way Judas and Peter deal with their fall. That is important for us to consider.
Satan actively entered Judas, but Judas had to open the door for him to come in. While Satan is the initiator of entering Judas, he could not have done so unless Judas had opened the door of his heart for him to do so. Judas was culpable here. There is little indication that Judas resisted Satan’s entering him. We see no mention of the Spirit having filled Judas or empowered him. There is no mention of the Spirit working in or through Judas at any time in this passage. Sometimes the absence of something is just as telling as if something is mentioned. Here the Holy Spirit is conspicuous by His absence in being mentioned in relation to Judas.
Judas does not call on the Holy Spirit. There’s no indication Judas calls out to God. It simply says, Then Satan entered Judas.” Judas apparently relied on himself. Whenever we rely on ourselves and not God, it never turns out well for us. And that is what we will see here. And what we see therefore, the betrayal of Jesus and destruction of his own life, is all on Judas. Judas chose to not call on God. Judas chose to not call on Jesus. Judas, by his actions, invited Satan into himself.
Don’t be a Judas. Are you being tempted by the devil to betray Jesus in some way? Are you relying on yourself to resist his temptations? Are you practicing sinful activities that give the devil a foothold (cf. Ephesians 4:27 in context)? Have you been filled with the Spirit, empowered by Him, or are you trying to tuff it out on your own? Learn from the disaster of Judas. Don’t follow in his steps. For if you do, if you try to live without the Spirit, your destiny will be doom.
We need the Spirit to deal with the devil. If we further look at Jesus’ wilderness testing by the devil, we see that the context is that Jesus has just been baptized and the Holy Spirit has just descended upon Him anointing Him for life and ministry. And then it was the Holy Spirit who led Jesus into the wilderness to be tested. “Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Luke 4:1). Like Jesus we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit if we are to resist the lying temptations of the devil.
Resisting the temptations of the devil makes us stronger. Notice too that at the end of Jesus victorious resistance of the temptations of the devil it states, “then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14). A faith untested cannot be trusted. In this sense, Satan the tester actually serves a purpose of God. Satan’s tests, when resisted in the Spirit, serve to strengthen our faith. A faith tested true can be trusted. And the result of resisting Satan’s temptations is “the power of the Holy Spirit” in our life.
4 So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6 So he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude.
The Bedikat Chametz. Leaven was not only a symbol of haste, but it was also a symbol of sin. And so, at the beginning of the Feast Passover/Unleavened Bread there was a ceremony, a ritual where the children were sent to search out the home to assure there was no leaven. This was called the Bedikat Chametz. Here, Judas is the leaven. He has not truly accepted or believed in Jesus. Instead, Jesus to him was only a means to an end. And this is why Judas opened himself up to be entered by Satan. To Judas, opening himself up to Satan was simply a way to further his own agenda, political or otherwise.
Don’t go through that door. Judas acted in concert with the devil within him. The devil will provide those who will help you divert from God’s redemptive plans. And there is an important lesson here to learn. Just because a door is opened before you, doesn’t necessarily mean it was opened by God. Judas was able to find someone to confer with about betraying Jesus. These religious people were even glad that he would betray Jesus. They even paid him to do it! All of these things were likely viewed as an open door by Judas. Maybe, since Judas was working with religious leaders, he thought in some convoluted way that what he was doing was actually God’s will! Regardless of what Judas thought, it says “he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude.” Judas entered into a contract with the enemies of Jesus. In effect, Judas made a deal with the devil. His destiny was sealed.
The devil opens some doors. Not every “door” opened is necessarily from the Lord. Sometimes we think that opportunity is God’s destiny for us. Not so! Jonah was told by God to go to Nineveh and call them to repentance. Jonah hated the Ninevites. So he went down to the harbor, bought a ticket and boarded a boat and sailed away in the opposite direction to where God had called him. Jonah had opportunity. Jonah had an open door before him. But Jonah, in boarding that boat, in taking advantage of that opportunity, by walking through that door, was going in the exact opposite direction of God’s will for his life. Open doors of opportunity are not necessarily God’s destiny for us. Sometimes the devil puts an open door before us. The way we discern the difference and what door to take, is to scrutinize our circumstances with scripture and seek the Lord’s direction.
Discerning if a door is from the Lord, or the devil. How can we discern which door of opportunity is from the Lord or from the devil? I suggest we ask the following questions.
First, does the door lead me to sin? Judas betrayed Jesus in order to walk through the door of monetary opportunity. The word “betray” (Luke 22:4 and 6; Greek paradounai – Aorist/ Active/Indicative of the verb paradidomi) means to hand over, deliver up, to hand someone over to, hand over to death, give over, betray. Betrayal is a sin (e.g. Psalm 41:9; Psalm 55; Isaiah 1; Jeremiah 3; Romans 1:29; Luke 21:16; Matthew 24:10; John 13:21). Betrayal involves breaking a trust. Judas had evidently agreed to follow Jesus. Now he was betraying the covenant he had entered into. His calling by Jesus and his agreement to follow should have been enough to keep him loyal and committed to Jesus. But we know it wasn’t. Whenever we are tempted with an opportunity, and “open door” to betray someone or a commitment we’ve made, we can be sure the devil, not God, is the one who has set it before us.
Second, does the door feed my impatience? We know that Satan entered Judas, but what precipitated Judas’ decision to betray Jesus? Many have speculated on why Judas betrayed Jesus. We can’t know for sure what he was thinking or how the devil was twisting and tempting him. Perhaps judas was impatient. Perhaps like the other disciples, he was eager for the kingdom to come and for Jesus to become king so that Judas could reign with him (Luke 22:24-30). But Jesus spoke of positions in his kingdom for “those who have continued with Me in My trials” (Luke 22:28). To continue with Jesus in His trails, was something Judas was unwilling to do. And so, the devil opened a door to discard Jesus and the necessary path through the cross, and Judas took that shortcut. When an open door feeds an impatient desire, we can be sure the devil is likely involved.
Third, does the door feed my greed? Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 26:15). The betrayers agreed to pay Judas for his betrayal (Luke 22:5). Just because you profit from an open door doesn’t mean it is from the Lord. If ever there was proof of that, this is it!. Judas sold out Jesus for profit. There’s nothing wrong with walking through a door of opportunity because it will lead to higher pay, but if money is the only reason you’re going through that door, then watch out, it just may be the devil who’s opening the door. There’s nothing wrong with money, but the love of it is the root of all kinds of evil (cf. 1 Timothy 6:6-10). Does the door of opportunity feed my greed? If so, it’s likely a door from the devil.
Fourth, does the door lead me to work with the enemies of Jesus? Some people would say, “The end justifies the means.” They would say that it’s okay to work with the enemies of God in order to achieve your goals. But to God, the means are just as important as the ends; the way you do something for Him is just as important as the end product. It is the way we do something for the Lord that He sculps us and matures us and prepares us. It is along the way to our destination that God prepares us for what lays ahead at our destination. The devil wants to corrupt us. The devil wants us to follow his nature of lying, deceiving and murderously destroying. The devil will put a shortcut before us to achieve the good destiny of God. But God would rather have us stay on the straight and narrow (Matthew 7:13-14; Luke 13:24) and resist the devil’s shortcuts (Matthew 4:1-10; Luke 4;1-13). The chief priests and captains were the ones planning Jesus’ murder (Luke 22:2 and 4). When an open door leads you to deal with those who want the destruction of Jesus or His mission plans, it’s an open door of the devil.
Fifth, does the door lead me to act in the darkness of deception and secrecy or in the light of honesty? A surefire giveaway for a door opened by the devil is whether or not you have to go through in the dark or in the light, secrecy or in openness, deceptively or honestly. Judas waited to act “in the absence of the multitude” (Luke 22:6). There was shame involved. What Judas was doing had to be done in secret for it would have been obvious to the followers of Jesus that what he was doing was terribly wrong. And there is no doubt that what Judas did was sinfully wrong. If you have to go through a door on the sly, if you can’t talk openly about it, or be honest, then you can be sure it is a door the devil has opened.
Sixth, does the door lead me to satisfy myself at the expense of others? Probably the clearest sign that an open door is form the devil, is if it satisfies you at the expense of someone else. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves (Luke 9:23-26). When we are the only ones to profit, and that profit is at the expense of others, it’s a door from the devil. Our flesh is so deceptive here. It will twist in rationalizing circles. But the bottom line is, “Does the door profit me at the expense of others?” Judas profited thirty pieces of silver, but he sent Jesus to the cross as a cost. That door was from the devil.
Seventh, does the door jive with God’s given means of discerning His will? A door from the devil usually crops up in haste or impulse. It may too present itself after we’ve been stewing over some felt unfairness or felt deprivation. The devil will misapply scripture (as he did with Jesus in the wilderness temptations – Luke 4; Matthew 4). But the devil will not drive you to your knees in prayer (1 John 5:14-17; Philippians 4:6-7). Martin Luther was right when he said, “Satan Trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon their knees.” That’s because when we declare our dependence on God in prayer and seek His direction in His word and are led by the Holy Spirit into God’s holy ways, we won’t walk through the devils’ doors.
A prerequisite to discovering the will of God (which is what we all should be seeking to live by) is to present ourselves as a living sacrifice to Him, fully surrendered to Him and His will (Romans 12:1-2). If we don’t do this first, we will be inclined to go our own way and twist directions from God for our own devices. First we must surrender to God. This is done in prayer. Then we go to God’s word for direction (Psalm 119:105; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17). Then we might seek godly counsel (Proverbs 11:14; 12:15; 15:22; 19:20-21; 24:6). Then, when we have a sense of what God’s calling is, we return to God’s word for confirmation. In all of this we should be listening closely to the voice of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will always lead us along a holy path (John 16:13).
When we pray and seek scriptural guidance, as well as godly counsel and the Spirit’s leading, the devil’s doors will be exposed and shut. When we present ourselves to God as living sacrifices with no preconceived agendas or preferences, when we simply surrender to His will in faith, we will find the doors God opens for us and avoid the ones He shuts (e.g. Revelation 3:8).
Don’t ignore the Lord. Mercifully, God has a way of getting our attention. Jonah took one of the devil’s open doors. He stepped through a door that led him in the exact opposite direction of the Lord’s will for him. But Jonah was swallowed by a big fish. For three days and three nights he was in the smelly darkness of the belly of that fish. The darkness and discomfort got the prophet’s attention so that he was willing to listen to the Lord. Jonah was put back on track in God’s plan for him. God has a way of getting our attention. And God will do that with Judas too.
When the time comes Judas will have his own fish-belly experience. When he comes to betray Jesus, I’m sure the question of Jesus struck to whatever was left of his heart. “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48). Right there, at that moment, even though Jesus’ betrayal was pretty much complete, Judas could have repented. But he did not. And later, when he commits suicide, he will seal his own fate. Whenever we ignore the Lord, we end in darkness.