Every great story has one thing in common. To have a good story you have to have a bad guy. If you are going to have a hero you have to have a villain. It’s just the way it is.

As we get started let’s play a quick game. It’s called good guy/bad guy. I’ll tell you the good guy and you tell me the bad guy. Answers are below.

1. Luke Skywalker
2. John McClain in the original Die Hard
3. The 101 Dalmations
4. Mufasa
5. Harry Potter
6. Dora the Explorer
7. Jerry Seinfeld
8. Marty McFly
9. The Little Mermaid
10. Buzz and Woody in Toy Story Three

1. Luke Skywalker- Darth Vader
2. John McClain in the original Die Hard- Hans Gruber
3. The 101 Dalmations- Cruella De Ville
4. Mufasa- Scar
5. Harry Potter- Lord Voldemort
6. Dora the Explorer- Swiper the fox
7. Jerry Seinfeld- Newman
8. Marty McFly- Biff
9. The Little Mermaid- Ursula
10. Buzz and Woody in Toy Story Three- Lotso Hugging Bear

Here is an interesting fact.  For each villain listed here I found someone who was willing to tattoo that villain on their body.  This was my favorite.

I’m guessing that is either someone who works  for the post office or someone with impaired judgement.  Probably both.

Okay one last good guy, bad guy that seems relevant in this post Easter season.
Good guy- Jesus. Bad guy- Judas.

I want to answer this one question. What made Judas so bad? Actually, the question I want to get an answer to is

What was Judas biggest mistake?

Clearly this isn’t something we want to share, but I think it’s important for us to determine with Judas. As we determine Judas greatest sin we will get an understanding of the sin that can also be most dangerous to us.

To get a full understanding of Judas betrayal let’s look at a history of Judas life. We first meet him in Mark 3.

Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones he wanted to go with him. Mark 3:13

This is a line that I hadn’t really thought of when it comes to Judas. Jesus had lots of followers. He had literally thousands to chose from. He chose the 12 he wanted and Judas was on this list. There was something about him that Jesus wanted as part of his core team.

In Mark 4 Jesus tells a parable called the sower in which some seed is thrown on the hard soil, some in soil with weeds, some in good ground. To most people it was a bit of a mystery. But not to the 12.

Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked him what the parables meant. He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders.” Mark 4:10-11 NLT

To the throngs of people who followed Jesus, this story was a mystery. But not to Judas because he was an insider.

A couple of years back I got the opportunity to be an insider. My friend Aaron  worked for the New York Football Giants and so I arranged a trip to see him and take in a game. He took us on a tour of the facility and while we were there we walked past a refrigerator with all these specially mixed protein drinks.

One of them said “Eli Manning.”

When we asked Aaron about it he said “Well, I guess Eli forgot his protein shake.” So my buddy asked, “Can we have it?” So we drank Eli Manning’s protein shake. I felt kinda mopey the rest of the day. That’s what you get when you get to go behind the scenes. He also showed us the locker room, the weight room, the practice facility and told us what Odell Beckham was like. (Odell has been one of my favorites ever since.) It was like a sports fantasy camp.

That’s cool, but can you imagine 3 years of hanging with Jesus? He got a back stage pass to see the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk. He also got a front row seat to see what Jesus was really all about.

In Mark 6 we get another insight into Judas.

(Jesus) called his twelve disciples together and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority to cast out evil spirits. So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God. And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil. Mark 6:7, 12-13 NLT

Judas was given authority by Jesus. He preached from town to town. Judas did everything the other disciples did. There were no stories like “Well, Judas healed, but he charged people for it. $10 to heal the sick, $15 if you were deaf, $25 if you were blind.” John the baptist has no recorded miracles but Judas does. Judas was anointed by Jesus himself and was used to heal people and cast out demons.

But clearly he wasn’t perfect. When Mary poured perfume on Jesus feet, Judas complained about it.

But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself.  John 12:4-6 NLT

This is the first time we see the weakness in Judas character. Judas had a problem with the love of money. There were times when he stole from the money bag. I don’t know what he stole for but I have an idea. Each of the apostles gave up their lives for three years to follow Jesus. Judas gave up his life and his home and his friendships for and his ability to make money. My guess is there were times when Judas took some money from time to time to go to the marketplace and get something to eat. To remember what his life was like back in the day. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he took money to buy crack and sell it to kindergartners, we really don’t know. This is Judas greatest sin to this point but not for long.

Judas worst mistake again revolves around money. The perfume incident really bothered Judas so in that moment he made up his mind to do something about it.

”Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests to arrange to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted when they heard why he had come, and they promised to give him money. So he began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.“ Mark 14:10-11 NLT

A few hours and thirty verses later Judas would make the mistake that would insure him his place in history. After the last supper Jesus was speaking to his friends in the garden and this happened.

Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders. The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss. Mark 14:43-45 NLT

From this point on the name “Judas” became synonymous with treachery in various languages. Judas Iscariot would be portrayed in Western art and literature as the archetypal traitor and false friend. Dante’s Inferno famously doomed Judas to the lowest circle in Hell. He’s right there next to Hitler and the guy who invented those automatic phone systems that offer to renew your auto repair warranty. Painters immortalized the traitorous “Judas kiss” in their iconic works. No one names their child Judas anymore.

So what was Judas sin in this moment. He sold Jesus out for money. It sounds so terrible. In our own self righteousness we think, “I’d never do that. I’d never prioritize money over people.” I’m not sure I can say that. Feels like the kind of sin we are tempted with all the time.

It sounds like this.

“I know I need to be home, but if I just work a few more hours a week we’ll be so much better off.”
“It will probably cost me some time with my kids but If I can just make partner we will be set.”
“If I can make a few more sales, I will be in a position to take better care of my family.”

I know that’s not exactly betrayal, but is the reason we want more money for our family ?

Choosing money over people feels like a cultural norm.

It’s so easy to slip into. Perhaps Judas was not the only one tempted to choose money over people. Maybe we aren’t as pure as we thought.

This is Judas biggest mistake, right? Probably, but let me add this. Judas is not the only one to be disloyal to Jesus on the last night of his life. Jesus said they would all fall away and they would. Each of his disciples would be deserters in his time of greatest need and Peter would deny him three times. Judas wasn’t alone in his betrayal. He’s the only one who got money for it.

Let me give you one more nomination for biggest mistake. It’s found in Matthew 27

”When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.” “What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.” Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.“ Matthew 27:3-5 NLT

I don’t believe Judas’ biggest mistake was not betraying Jesus.  Judas biggest oversight was not understanding what Jesus was all about

Judas walked with Jesus for three years. He saw him heal. He listed to him speak. But he never understood one of the primary messages Jesus was trying to tell him and anyone who would listen. It can be put in three simple words. I forgive you.

When a paralyzed man is put in front of him he doesn’t say “I heal you” he says “I forgive you.”

When Mary pours perfume on him the last thing he says is “Your sins are forgiven”

He tells his followers to forgive as he’s forgiven.

Jesus tells a story about a boy who took his family inheritance and blew it on video games and Ruth’s Chris’ Steakhouse and jet ski’s and when he comes home broken to his dad, the father’s response is “I forgive you.”

During his last meal he reminds his friends that his blood will be shed for their forgiveness.

On the cross there is a thief who he forgives. Then he looks out onto all the people, who literally murdering him at that moment, and he forgives them.

Judas never heard this message in a way that he could understand. Somehow he thought you had to earn it. That he couldn’t make any big mistakes and his betrayal was too big for forgiveness.

Judas’ biggest mistake was not stealing money or selling out Jesus.

Judas biggest mistake was that he didn’t make it through Saturday.

If he had he would have seen the empty tomb and he would have touched the burial clothes and he would have realized that Jesus was alive and he could be forgiven.

So what does this have to do with you and me this Easter. I’m wondering if along the way you’ve missed the point. If somehow you’ve made knowing God all about doing the right thing. Making sure you sin less. Making sure you do more good than bad so you get in. I’m not doubting you do good, but let’s be real. You do bad too. Jesus came so you can be forgiven. Forgiven of your mistakes and the relationships you broke and your words said in anger and that destructive habit that hurt the people you love in ways you still regret.

The only thing you cannot be forgiven for is not accepting forgiveness. That’s it.

I am guessing that there is a mistake from your past or a deep seated regret, that you just can’t get over. Jesus spent his lifetime on earth, telling us that his greatest desire was that we would turn to him and receive the forgiveness that he bought and paid for. Perhaps the best gift you can get this Easter is realizing that when we place these old mistakes at the feet of Jesus, he forgives.

Don’t make the same mistake Judas made.