I once met a man who talked like a new believer. I wanted to be certain about his conversion, so, learning that he never got baptized, I suggested he set a time for that. He immediately backtracked a few steps and said, “I'll think about it.” He hasn't done it yet. There is something final about baptism that the devil resists because there is something final about dying to ourselves that is irreversible. The thought of surrender is terrifying.
The Gospel of John describes Judas Iscariot as a “thief” who would steal pieces of the offerings given to Jesus and his follower’s ministry (John 12:6). Judas had a problem with money. Yet, I have often argued that Judas didn't betray Jesus for money directly. Thirty pieces of silver are hardly worth the risk of Peter’s wrath (that zealous disciple) when the betrayal occurred. If Judas believed he was risking his life, he would have asked for more money. I have argued elsewhere that Judas’ crime was trying to force Jesus into a position where He would have to defend Himself and instigate the violent conflict between Rome and the Jewish ruling class and the kingdom of God that many of the disciples believed had to happen. When the betrayal occurred, and the Temple guards prepared to arrest Jesus, Peter attacked the high priest’s servant, not Judas. Maybe the other disciples didn't agree with the gall of Judas to usurp the plans of Jesus, but they didn't altogether oppose what Judas tried to do. Judas betrayed Jesus to try to manipulate Him into actions He did not intend, which was the point of betrayal, not a measly thirty pieces of silver. However, ultimately, Judas did betray Jesus for the god of mammon. It was not the thirty pieces of silver that Judas coveted but the concept of a Kingdom built around himself for which he lusted. And it was the death of this self-made kingdom Judas resisted.
In Matthew 26, Judas’ betrayal immediately follows an expensive expression of worship by a woman named Mary. Mary took a flask of precious oil that would have been a great source of financial security, and she “wasted it” on the feet of Jesus (Matthew 26:6-13). The disciples were shocked and outraged by this extravagance, but Jesus affirmed and received this precious woman’s act of worship. Jesus implies that what Mary did, unbeknownst to her, was a prophetic act; anointing Jesus’ body for burial.
The entire scene with Mary and Jesus exposed the contrast between Jesus’ kingdom and the vision Judas held in his heart. Judas had no tolerance for the “wasted” wealth of Mary nor the “wasted” power Jesus obviously had but didn’t plan to use. Judas’ decision to fetch the chief priests was his attempt to gain control over the situation.
Derek Prince defined witchcraft as “manipulation or intimidation for the sake of domination.” Judas’ betrayal falls firmly into the category of witchcraft, which is why Jesus spoke soberly about it. When it came to the point of surrendering his will and his perception of power, Judas became Jesus’ enemy instead of His disciple.
There is one primary requirement for entrance into God’s eternal Kingdom, and it is that we die to ourselves. Our agenda, ambitions, desires, and identity must be submerged, buried, and completely surrendered to Jesus, even to the point of death. This death of self is the point of baptism: we die to ourselves and rise again to a new life that is one hundred percent “in Jesus.”
Every area of life in which we continue to struggle with sin after baptism is an area that is unaware and uninformed about what has happened to the body. “You are dead, and your life is hidden in Christ with God,” (Colossians 3:3) says the Apostle Paul. Paul says this because we must remind ourselves about what (if we are baptized) has already happened. We must apply the blood of Jesus and our baptism to the un-surrendered part of our life, and we will experience the freedom that is ours in Jesus.
If you haven't received baptism, that is where you must start to inherit the Kingdom of God. You will not inherit the Kingdom by admiring Jesus, being around the Church, talking about Jesus or the Bible, or listening to Christian music. Judas was in Jesus’ inner circle, but the problem was that Jesus was not in Judas. You must die to yourself and rise to a new life in Christ. There is no other way. You must receive baptism, which is the ritual and sometimes the means for dying to yourself, or you will fight against God instead of inheriting His Kingdom.
Judas, the disciple, chose war with Jesus’ kingdom instead of dying to himself because He was afraid of the cost. Judas was worried about losing wealth, power, and his life and so he accidentally sent Jesus to the cross. But in a short time, Judas was poor and dead while Jesus was alive and prosperous.
Don’t make the same mistake as Judas. Die to yourself today. Get baptized. Be made alive in Christ Jesus. The Gospel is the good news of God’s Kingdom arriving, not yours. Repent and believe the Gospel!