Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 6:71b (Holman) A. . . one of the Twelve, because he was going to betray Him.@
We tend to think of our Lord=s betrayer as some kind of monster. His crime was so atrocious that he seems completely forgotten in the halls of human sympathy. One Italian poet pictured him as being alone in hell, shunned even there as guilty beyond all others.
There can never be any doubt about the treachery of Judas, but Jesus loved him. The same gospels that record Judas= wickedness also draw a picture of a loving Lord who reached out repeatedly in love to Judas. This is a beautiful aspect of the tragic relationship between Jesus and Judas.
If ever a person might have been excluded from God=s love, it would be Judas. But as Judas became more and more a devil, Jesus remained Jesus, always displaying genuine love for Judas.
This can be shown by examining three critical junctures in their lives. One, Jesus loved Judas from the first. Chosen as one of the 12, Judas was a partaker in the apostolic ministry and evidently participated in displaying miracles.
He was never singled out or excluded in a negative way. In fact, the opposite was true. He was chosen to be treasurer of the group.
Also, he was the only non-Galilean among the 12 (Iscariot means Aman of Kerioth,@ a city of Judah). He was of Judah, the foremost tribe. He was meant for honor. Jesus showed partiality to him by choosing him alone from that tribe. Jesus and Judas were national kinsmen as Jews, and tribal kinsmen as Judeans.
Despite these initial expressions of love, Judas never was saved. He was a devil from the beginning (6:70) to the end. At the Last Supper Jesus prayed, Anot one of them (the 12) is lost, except the son of destruction@ (John 17:12b).
This raises a question. Since Jesus knew Judas was a devil, why did He choose Judas as a Disciple? We can never fully understand this, but there are possibilities. First, it had to be clear Judas was self-destroyed. No one could ever charge the betrayer was justified in the deed. There will be no acceptable reason for the betrayal.
Second, it showed Jesus would, if allowed to, save a person as evil as Judas. It serves as everlasting proof Jesus= love is strong enough to reach anyone.
Why did Jesus pick Judas? It=s a hard question. Another is also hard. Why did He choose us? Were we respectable? Did we have congenial personalities? Were we free of evil?
Jesus loved Judas from the first. Two, Jesus loved Judas at the Last Supper. When Jesus and the 12 gathered in the upper room, Judas had already contacted the religious leaders. Jesus knew this, but let Judas sit in a seat of honor (he had to be within reach of Jesus, who was able to place the morsel in Judas= plate).
Jesus stooped to wash Judas= feet along with the other disciples. This was one of Jesus= strongest acts of condescension and familiarity. He washed feet that had already sought out the chief priests, feet that would guide soldiers to Him. Within hours the deed would be accomplished, but Jesus continued to love Judas.
Jesus tried to save Judas by passing the morsel to him. A dipped morsel, passed by the host=s hand to a guest, was a sign of favor. Everyone, including Judas, would have seen it as a token of friendship. Only John and Jesus knew the full significance of this particular morsel dipped in the dish.
Matthew 26:25 relates the dialogue that accompanied the passed morsel. Judas asked, ASurely not I, Rabbi?@ Jesus replied, AYou have said it.@
The moment of decision had arrived. Judas knew two things: he was discovered, and Jesus still loved him. He hardened his heart against both those facts. As he shut his heart against Christ, he opened it to the devil. AAfter Judas ate the piece of bread, Satan entered him@ (John 13:27a).
At this moment a soul committed suicide. Only Jesus realized the tragedy unfolding before the Twelve.
Jesus knew the decision had been made, the die was cast. Seeing refusal in Judas, He said, AWhat you=re doing, do quickly@ (John 13:27b).
Jesus= words were a command. Judas thought he was in control, but suddenly the Victim asserted Himself as Lord and Commander. Judas was not thwarting or undoing Jesus= work, but merely carrying out the planned schedule of his fancied victim.
Even in the command itself there was pathos. It was the voice of despairing love beginning to abandon the conflict.
When we know God is aware of our sin yet loves us, but we decide to persist in sin, God has no choice but to say in pity, AVery well, go do what you want to do and see how you like it when it is done.@
Even after this rejection, Jesus continued to love. Jesus loved Judas from the first and at the Last Supper. Three, Jesus loved Judas in the Garden.
While Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, Judas gathered troops and formulated a plan. He would lead the soldiers to Jesus, but Judas made sure his own part in the fiasco would be brief. Maybe it would even be undetectable as treachery.
Judas possibly feared he would have a struggle with conscience. At the last moment, squelched affection might burst forth and block the crime. He wanted to do the deed, but it must be quick, soon over.
He would not clutch Jesus with a ruffian=s grasp, strike Him with disdain, or yell Athere he is.@ His role was only a kiss. The fondest of all endearing signs was prostituted. What should be a symbol of loyalty to the King became a badge of treachery. The token of affection became the instrument of destruction.
Even after the foul kiss, Jesus continued to try to reach Judas. AFriend,@ Jesus asked, Awhy have you come?@ (Matthew 26:49-50). Jesus= first word to the traitor after the moment of betrayal was AFriend.@ This is amazing. Note it forever. We would have used degrading words, but Jesus continued to love.
If there would ever be a moment when Christ=s open heart would shut itself against anyone, it was this one. But no, not even the act of betrayal itself changed the tenderness of Jesus. The hand of Jesus was beckoning to Judas still.
This was the last effort of Divine patience to win back the traitor, the last struggle between infinite love and a treacherous heart. If anything good was left in Judas, this would have brought it out. If he had not been incorrigible he would have at this moment fallen down and cried for mercy.
The man-devil made his work quick, and walked away from his treachery without a word. Treachery it was, but Jesus still loved him.
How long should we followers of Christ be loving, kind and gracious? Until they crucify us, and even then our prayer is to be AFather, forgive them.@
Judas= treachery teaches a solemn lesson B it is frighteningly easy to repel the pleading love of Christ. Jesus was pleading even after the kiss, but what did Judas do? Nothing. His inaction was enough. He merely held his peace and did no more. He did not have to curse or slap the Lord. Silence was sufficient.
Judas did not go to Hell because he betrayed Jesus. He went there because he never asked to be forgiven. It is very easy to ruin our soul when Christ pleads and draws. Delay is refusal, non-submission is rebellion.
We don=t have to attack God to go to Hell. Just stand still, close our eyes and mind, become engrossed with earthly matters, drift on B until the time of reckoning arrives.
Hell is entered by being passive, standing still. We don=t have to do anything overt to prove our insolence.
There is no need to lift a clenched hand in defiance. Just keep our hands folded and behind our back.
A closed hand remains an empty hand. AAnyone who does not believe is already condemned@ (John 3:18b). May we open our eyes and hearts to Jesus.