Last winter we had to call the roadside service for Bill’s 16-year-old car. It would not start since the battery was “dead as a doornail”. “Your Dictionary”, explains this phrase: “In early carpentry, you would pound a huge doornail into a door then bend the back of it so that it wouldn’t come out. This was called “cinching” in technical speak, but it was also called “dead” or “dead in the wood.” Therefore, that nail was never coming out! So, if something is as “dead as a dead doornail,” then it’s undoubtedly a goner.” Dead is dead. Our car’s battery was a goner.
It is difficult to comprehend how Judas’ heart remained dead as a doornail. Each day for close to three years Judas lived in the presence of Christ. He observed firsthand God living in the flesh. He saw God’s love when Jesus touched the lepers. He heard God’s Word preached from the mouth of God. His feet were washed by the hands of God. He had every opportunity, day after day, hour after hour, to accept the grace of God and to become a follower of Jesus, as the other disciples did. It wasn’t that God’s grace ran out and there was not enough for Judas. There was no shortage. Grace was not caught off the coast of California, waiting to be offloaded from a container ship. Grace was in full supply and offered, but Judas refused it. The doornail stayed dead; it was stuck permanently.
Reading the references to Judas, it appears that his problem with Jesus was that Jesus didn’t check off the boxes for Judas regarding what he wanted from the Messiah. Judas desired a Messiah who could do things for him such as freeing Israel of bondage to Rome. A great illustration of the darkness of Judas’ heart is in the account of Mary emptying an extremely expensive jar of perfume to wash Jesus’ feet. She did this out of great love for her Savior who also had resurrected her brother, Lazarus. This was a holy moment. However, note Judas’ reaction in John 12: “4 But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, 5 “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” 6 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.” Judas loved money and in his disillusionment with Jesus, he came up with his own solution for the Messiah who didn’t meet his expectations. He conspired with the religious leaders and sold Jesus for about $25, the price for a dinner at a Texas Longhorn Restaurant.
Regardless, Jesus kept reaching out to Judas. Jesus knew what was in Judas’ heart, yet He never once treated him without kindness in those years of ministry. Judas was never singled out during time on the road with Jesus as “the bad boy”, the disciple who had not made the grade. In that last meal, Jesus ate with the twelve (including Judas) and all twelve experienced Jesus kneeling down and washing their feet. The disciples were astonished when Jesus said that one of them would betray Him. Their eyes didn’t automatically go to Judas. The eleven had no idea that Judas was the one who was going to give Jesus the kiss of death.
The difference between Judas and the rest of the disciples was that while Jesus washed his feet, Judas would not let Jesus wash his heart. He refused to yield his heart to God and to let Jesus purify it. Romans 6: 23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Grace was offered to Judas’s day after day, but his heart remained as dead as a doornail.