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5-13 Satan Entered Judas

Luke 22:3: “Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve”.

See Section 2-4, “The Jewish Satan”.

Note in passing how “enter” is used in a non-physical sense in Mt. 25:21 “enter into the joy of your Lord”, entering in at the narrow gate (Mt. 7:13), entering into another’s labours (Jn. 4:38). ‘Satan’ enters a man’s heart in the sense that “the lusts of other things enter in” (Mk. 4:19); in this sense we can “enter into temptation” (Lk. 22:46).

The link between Judas and the ‘devil’ is brought out by a consideration of Luke’s comment that Judas “sought an opportune time [eukairan] to betray Jesus” (Lk. 22:6). But Luke earlier used this word in Lk. 4:13 to describe how the “devil” in the wilderness departed from the Lord “until an opportune time” [achri kairou]. The Lord’s victory in the wilderness prepared Him for the victory over the ‘devil’ which He achieved in His final passion. Just as the temptation to ‘come down from the cross’ was a repetition of the temptation to throw Himself down from the temple. John’s Gospel often repeats the history of the other Gospels, but in different language. In Mt. 26:46, the Lord comments upon the arrival of Judas: “Rise, let us be going; my betrayer is coming”. But Jn. 14:30,31 puts it like this: “The prince of this world [a phrase understood as meaning ‘the evil one’, the Devil] is coming… Rise, let us be going”. John is picking up the mythological language of the ‘satan’ figure, and applying it to a real person with real attitudes and sinful intentions- i.e. Judas, who is presented as a personification of the 'Satan' / 'Devil' / 'Prince of this world' principle.

We can easily overlook the huge significance of Mk. 14:21 recording the Lord’s words that Judas personally was guilty for betraying Him, and would suffer accordingly- even though Lk. 22:22 says that Judas did this because the Satan [i.e. the Jews] ‘entered him’. Whatever that means, it doesn’t mean that Judas nor anyone is thereby not personally responsible for their actions.

The translation of the Greek text in Jn. 13:2 has been problematic. “The devil having put into the heart of Judas” doesn’t quite do justice to what the Greek is really saying. The respected expositor and Greek student C.K.Barratt insists that strictly, the Greek means ‘the devil had put into his own [i.e. the devil’s] heart, that Judas should betray Jesus’(1). This translation is almost impossible to make any sense of given the orthodox understanding of the ‘devil’. And so most popular translations ignore the obvious difficulty by glossing over the strict meaning of the Greek. Understanding the ‘devil’ as the innate source of temptation within the human heart, the picture becomes clearer. The idea is surely that the thought of betraying Jesus began within the devil-mind of Judas; he ‘put the thought in his own mind’, as if to stress how Judas conceived this thought totally of himself and within his own mind, just as later Ananias and Sapphira [in an analogous incident] ‘conceived this thing within their heart’. So properly translated, Jn. 13:2 actually supports our general thesis about the devil- it is stressing that the heart of Judas was itself responsible, that heart put the idea of betraying Jesus into itself- and nobody else was responsible. Note how the Lord addresses Judas as if Judas had full responsibility for his actions and control over them- e.g. “What you are going to do, do quickly” (Jn. 13:27), and Mk. 14:21 “Woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! Good were it for that man if he had never been born”. Those two passages alone surely make it clear that Judas was no robot, no puppet on a satanic string. He had full responsibility and choice over his actions, hence these words of the Lord to him. Summing up, we are left with the question: Did Judas betray Jesus, or did Satan , working through Judas, betray Jesus? The answer, surely, is that it was Judas, and he must bear full responsibility for that.

A Typical Human, Internal Reaction

Judas went from the spiritual height of being present at the first "breaking of bread" meeting with the Lord Jesus, just prior to His death, directly into temptation from "the Devil" and then went out into the darkness of that night. This fits in with a Biblical theme- of people being confronted with acute spiritual temptation immediately after a highly spiritual experience. And this is true to life- so often, merely hours after a highly intense spiritual experience [e.g. at a breaking of bread meeting] we find ourselves assailed by temptation and spiritual depression. It's not that we are encountered by a physical person called 'Satan' immediately after our spiritual 'high'; rather it is a feature of human nature that the closer we come to God, the stronger is the tidal backwash of internal temptation immediately afterwards. Consider some examples:
- Noah walks off the ark, a superb triumph of faith, into a cleansed and pristine world, with the rainbow arch of God's grace above him- and gets dead drunk (Gen. 9:21-24).
- Moses renounced greatness, stood up for God's people and then left Egypt by faith, "not fearing the wrath of the king" (Heb. 11:27); and yet ended up fleeing in fear from Pharaoah (Ex. 2:14,15).
- Moses returned from the awesome meeting with God on Sinai and gave in to a flash of anger, during which he smashed the tables of the covenant- a covenant which had also been made with him personally.
- Israel were ecstatic with joy and confidence in God as they stood on the other side of the Red Sea- but very soon afterwards they were giving in to temptation in the wilderness, accusing God of intending to kill them and being careless for them.
- Jesus likewise returned from the mount of transfiguration to encounter human weakness and made an exasperated comment which seems to reflect some form of spiritual depression (although not sin): "Faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you?" (Mt. 17:17).
- Soon after his spiritual triumph on Carmel, Elijah is to be found suicidal and bitter with God, and considering that the other faithful in Israel are in fact also apostate (1 Kings 19:4-11).
- Samson's life was full of giving in to spiritual temptation immediately after he had been empowered by God to do some great miracle.
- Immediately after having been saved by God's grace from a huge invasion (2 Sam. 11), David sins with Bathsheba and murders Uriah (2 Sam. 12).
- After the wonder of having a terminal illness delayed by 15 years in response to prayer, Hezekiah gives in to the temptation to be proud and selfish in the events of Is. 39.
- Soon after the wonder of the miracles of the loaves and fishes, the disciples hardened their heart to it and accused Jesus of not caring for them (Mk. 4:38; 6:52).
- Paul straight after his wonderful vision of "the third heaven" finds himself struggling with a "thorn in the flesh", a term I have elsewhere suggested may refer to a spiritual weakness or temptation (2 Cor. 12:7).
- After the wonder of baptism and the confirming voice from Heaven, Jesus was immediately assaulted by major temptation in the wilderness.

This is all a feature of our human nature. It is true to our own experience of life. But in our context, the point to note is that it is an experience which occurs within us; we are assailed by our own negative thoughts within us, our internal lusts, unspirituality, temptations- and not by an external being.


(1). C.K. Barratt, The Gospel According To St. John (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978) p. 365. Barratt’s view of the Greek is confirmed in D.A. Carson, Divine Sovereignty And Human Responsibility (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1981) p. 131.