MATTHEW 10:4c (part three)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 10:4c (part three) “. . .who also betrayed him.”
The Twelve–Simon the Leader, Andrew the Usher, James the Thunderbolt, John the Beloved, Philip the Analyst, Bartholomew the True, Thomas the Melancholy, Matthew the Tax Collector, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot. Eleven shine brightly, number twelve serving as their dark foil. Judas just doesn’t fit. Similarly, on our church rolls, a person can be listed, but the heart not belong. The name can be there, but commitment not be.
First, what did Judas do? Jesus called Judas a devil (JN 6:70). What does a person have to do to be called a devil by the kindest man who ever lived? Betray the kindest man who ever lived. Second, are we capable of such treachery? Yes.
Third, why did Judas do it? Disillusionment, resentment, greed, and Satanic influence help explain it. Fourth, how did Judas view himself? He was hard on himself, confessing he was a traitor (MT 27:4). The Bible is hard on Judas, he is never mentioned again after being replaced by Matthias (AC 1:26). Language is hard on Judas. Iscariot contains “scar” and “riot,” words of pain and lawlessness.
Now a final question regarding Judas. Fifth, did Jesus love Judas anyway? Judas’ deed is so atrocious that he is completely forgotten in the halls of human sympathy. Yet the same Gospel writers who record his wickedness also paint the precious portrait of a merciful Lord who repeatedly reached out in love to Judas.
Surely if ever a man might be excluded from the love of God, it would be Judas. But even as he deteriorated more and more into a devil, Jesus remained Jesus, and always displayed genuine love for Judas. Did Jesus love Judas anyway? Yes. The question opens a beautiful chapter in the tragic association between Jesus and Judas, and is answered by examining three critical junctures in their lives.
First, Jesus loved Judas from the beginning. At the outset, Jesus knew Judas was a devil (JN 6:70). Nevertheless, Jesus put honor on the betrayer, choosing the turncoat to be one of the Twelve. The fact that Judas was self-destroyed had to be made obvious. None could ever charge the traitor was justified in his treachery.
Jesus chose to have a devil nearby. Christ was willing to try to rescue a soul as evil as Judas. By selecting Judas, Jesus proved His love extends far enough to reach any sinner. Why Jesus picked Judas is a complicated question, but another is just as complex–why did He choose us? Were we respectable, amiable, or free of devilishness? Ever be amazed at God’s love extended to us. As Lehman wrote,
“Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.”
Second, Jesus loved Judas at the last supper. When Jesus and the disciples gathered in the upper room, Judas had already contacted the religious leaders. Jesus stooped to wash Judas’ feet along with the others’. Christ washed feet that had already sought out the murderers, feet that would soon lead soldiers to arrest Him. Within hours the dastardly deed will be done, but Jesus kept loving Judas anyway.
The traitor was also esteemed by being given a seat of honor. He had to be within close reach of Jesus, for Christ was able to place the morsel in Judas’ plate.
Passing the sop was another attempt by Jesus’ love to save Judas. A morsel dipped in a dish and passed by the host to a guest was a token of favor, trust, unity, confidence. Everyone, including Judas, would have viewed it a sign of friendship.
When Judas asked, “Lord, is it I?” and Jesus, while passing the sop, replied, “Thou sayest” Judas simultaneously realized two truths: he had been discovered, yet Jesus still loved him. As the decisive moment crashed in, Judas scorned both facts. He slammed shut his heart to Christ and opened it wide to the devil. “After the sop, Satan entered into him” (JN 13:27a). That moment a soul committed suicide, and none but Jesus so much as dreamed of the tragedy dawning before them.
Jesus knew the die was cast, the Rubicon crossed, the decision irrevocable. Seeing finality in Judas’ defiant refusal, Jesus said, “That thou doest, do quickly” (JN 13:27b). It was the whisper of love despairing to watch the conflict being lost.
Learn the vital lesson here. When we know God is aware of our sin and that He loves us, but we decide to persist in our sin, Jesus has no choice but to say in pity, “Very well, go do what you want to do. You will not like it when it is done.”
Though Judas refused to rescind his plan, he still was unable to make Jesus stop loving him. His love was enduring, unending. How far should we go before drawing a line on love? How long should we show love, be kind and gracious? I guess, till they crucify us, and even then we ought to pray, “Father, forgive them.”
In love for sinners, Jesus must be our example. We prefer to compare ourselves to Judas. The betrayer makes us look good, but in comparing ourselves to Jesus, we see ourselves as we truly are. Our impatience, shortness, ill-tempered-ness, and ugly spirits are more like Judas than Jesus. “O Lord, increase our love.”
Third, Jesus loved Judas in Gethsemane. While Jesus prayed in the Garden, Judas rallied his co-conspirators and mustered the troops. Knowing the place of prayer–but not the prayer of the place–Judas led the military entourage to Jesus.
Judas made sure his own part in the fiasco was brief. Maybe he actually hoped it would be undetectable as treachery. Maybe he feared a last minute struggle against conscience. Squelched affection might burst forth and try to block the deed at the last moment. Judas wanted to do it, but it must be quick, soon over.
He would not clutch Jesus with a ruffian’s grasp, or strike Him with disdain, or yell, “There He is.” No, his role was only a kiss. He used as the betrayal sign a mark of goodwill, as if to say he was still a loyal disciple. Judas added to his infamy by prostituting the fondest of all endearing signs. He made the symbol of loyalty a badge of treachery, the token of affection an instrument of destruction.
Even when the deed was done, Jesus continued trying to reach Judas. Judas “kissed Him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come?” (MT 26:49-50). Jesus’ first word to the traitor after the betrayal was “Friend.” Note it forever. We would have used words of denigration, but Jesus kept loving anyway.
In trying to grasp such love, my comprehension breaks down, and as it does, for one beautiful moment, I get it, a glimpse of the depth of His love soaks in. It only lasts a moment–the heart can stand only so much–but it is a precious moment.
Jesus’ love reached beyond Judas’ point of no return. “Friend” tells us the worst pain Jesus felt. Betrayal’s wound pierced the deepest. It always does. This is why divorces are so terrible. The strongest hate mutates from the greatest love.
If Christ’s open heart was ever going to shut itself against anyone, it would have been at this moment. But no, not even the act of betrayal itself could change the tenderness of Jesus. The heart of Jesus still kept beckoning to Judas anyway.
“Friend” was the last effort of Divine patience to win back the traitor. Here was the last struggle between infinite love and infinite treachery. If anything good yet remained in Judas, “Friend” would have drawn it out. Had he not been incorrigible, Judas would have at this moment fallen down and cried for forgiveness.
Instead, the man-devil, having finished his work quickly, quietly walked away from the scene of his treachery. The episode teaches a solemn lesson. It is frighteningly simple and easy to repel the imploring love of Christ. Jesus was still pleading even after the kiss, but what did Judas do? He walked away. That was enough to send him to Hell. He held his peace and did no more. He did not have to curse or slap the Lord. His silent lack of response was enough to condemn him.
Judas went to Hell, not because he betrayed Jesus, but because he never repented, he did not ask Jesus to forgive him of his sins, he refused to surrender his life unconditionally to Christ. It is very easy to ruin our own souls. When Christ pleads and draws, delay is refusal, non-submission is rebellion. We do not have to attack God to go to Hell. Just stand still with eyes and mind shut, become totally engrossed in earthly matters, keep drifting on, until the time of reckoning arrives.
Hell can be entered by being passive, by standing still. We don’t have to do any thing overt to demonstrate insolence. There is no need to lift a clenched fist in defiance. Hands folded behind our back suffice. A hand closed in apathy is just as empty as a hand clenched in defiance. “He that believeth not is condemned already” (JN 3:18). I urge us, open hands and hearts to Jesus, flee to Him for refuge.