We have talked about Judas before. I have thought about him many times, maybe even more than about any of the other disciples. I have often wondered how it must have felt to know Jesus and experience His defiance of church and community. There is no doubt that Judas was very impressed with his friend Jesus and visualized the realization of Israel’s dream – restored rule and greatness amongst the nations.
Judas was fixated with this vision. Jesus gave him responsibility for the management of the money and there are indications that he was not a transparent modern financial administrator. He lived and walked with Jesus over a period of three years and saw many miracles. He chose his time to act, without listening to the words and discerning the times. He proceeded to set his plan in action without understanding the singularly unique point in time in the history of all mankind, the Jews included.
To understand the actions of Judas it is enlightening to go back to one of the conversations of Jesus with His disciples.
Jesus asks an easy question: Who do the people say I am?The disciples answer: Elijah, Moses, a prophet, John the Baptist etc. That was the easy answer.
Suddenly Jesus turns around and makes it personal.
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Trust the ever audacious Peter to blurt it out.
Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
This inspirational, Holy Spirit-infused answer prompts Jesus to speak an everlasting blessing upon Peter, that echoes throughout the church today.
Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
This is the revelation-knowledge that we desire from God. Not the things that flesh and blood reveals. We want to speak what the Father in heaven reveals to us.
He pronounces the words of Peter as the rock on which the church will be built. Note, it is not the man Peter, but his revelation that is the rock on which the church is built. The church of Jesus is not built upon a man; it is built on the revelation of who Jesus is.
The revelation of Jesus as the son of the living God is the rock on which the church is built.
Remember this rhema-word (the spoken word of God into a man’s heart) of Peter when we discuss Judas at the meal where Jesus washed the feet of the disciples.
Judas acts normal (John 13:21-30). If the other disciples might have grasped the full implication of the situation, they would have prevented him to go ahead.
John was closer to Jesus to ask Him who it was that Jesus indicated would betray Him. John calls himself the beloved disciple. He knew how much Jesus loved him. It was spiritual revelation knowledge of the love of God. Jesus did not love him more than the others. John was just very aware of the love of Jesus.
On the host’s left was the place for the guest of honour and that place was reserved for Judas. It was yet another appeal from Jesus to Judas to reconsider.
To offer the guest something from the meal was a special invitation to conversation. The host was saying, this is especially for you – let’s talk. Jesus offered it to Judas. (Compare Ruth 2:14 – Boaz invites Ruth to dip her morsel into the wine)
Again and again the appeal came. The darkness and own agenda in Judas’ heart won him over.
Then Jesus admitted to the process of how things will play out and said to him – go and do what you need to do. Still the disciples did not catch on. They thought Jesus might send him out to prepare for the Passover and give to the poor, as was the custom at the time.
When Judas received the morsel from Jesus (an invitation to communicate) the devil entered him. He was so set on his own plan that he could not respond to Jesus’ many appeals.
John mentions that when Judas went out it was night. It is a very symbolic indication of his dark deed.Deeds of darkness take place in the dark. Leaving the presence of Jesus is darkness. Leaving Christ to follow your own plans is your soul’s night.
This is the deep disparity between Peter and Judas. Consider their roles in the dark hours of the trial of Jesus.
Judas was a zealot. He was part of a political party that aimed to overthrow the Romans by force. He walked with Jesus for three years and many times witnessed the anger of the Jewish leaders flare up against Him to the point of stoning and violence. Many times the Gospels state that Jesus just walked away. To Judas this was a miracle. Maybe if he forced the hand of the authorities against Jesus, Jesus might overthrow the Romans in a miracle-like way. Without even giving a second thought to the warnings of Jesus that He was on a collision course with the rulers and will be put to death and rise again (Matthew 16:21; Mark 9:31; 10:33), Judas set his own plan in motion, “using” Jesus for his own goals.
He received the 30 shekels of silver (the price of a slave on the market at the time) from the High Priest and led the soldiers to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Very soon he saw that things were not going according to plan. He witnessed Jesus’ peaceful surrender to the soldiers to be led away to the house of the High Priest. Later that night Jesus was taken to Pontius Pilate, then to Herod and back to Pilate. Judas panicked. He saw that the whole thing was going wrong. He stumbled back to the leaders and uttered the words:
I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. (Matthew 27:4)
To the very end Judas did not realize that he was a player in the life of the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed One, the one man the whole world was waiting for. He died a self-inflicted death alone in utter darkness.
As soon as Judas leaves the table, Jesus speaks from His heart to His loyal friends. He pours out His mission to them. He wills them to look out for His glorification to strengthen them through the dark days of the crucifixion.
The glory of the Cross is a certainty. Obedience to God is foremost. Glory comes through obedience. Trust is the foundation of obedience.
God is present in the utmost tragedy and “wrong” turn of events. God is being humiliated to be triumphant and take all those who are obedient with Him. Still, Jesus went to the cross alone.
His farewell command is to love one another.
By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
In the light of the events at the supper – the prideful position arguments and Judas’ refusal to yield to Jesus, it is over all important that the farewell command is LOVE.
Jesus loved his disciples selflessly, sacrificially, understandingly (they were human) and forgivingly. There is no doubt that also Judas’ would have been forgiven had he asked.
Enduring love can only survive in an atmosphere of selflessness, sacrifice, understanding and forgiveness.
The last words of the chapter are all about Peter.
Judas betrayed, Peter denied – what is the difference?
Judas acted in cold blood, planned and deliberate. Peter was impulsive and weak on the spot and afterwards in a terrible state self-reproach and humiliation.
There is a difference between planned sin and a moment of weakness.
Jesus knew Peter’s weaknesses. He was impulsive, speaking his heart before thinking. Jesus also knew the strength of his loyalty.
Jesus loved Peter and knew Peter loved Him. He knew He would fail, but his failure was not the defining feature in Peter’s future, just as our failures do not determine our future. His love for Jesus defined him and his denial was a moment of weakness.
In the hour of Peter’s deepest humiliation and failure, his revelation knowledge of who Jesus truly is, saved him. He found his way back to his brothers and was present behind the closed doors, sharing their fear, when the shockingly wonderful news of the resurrection came. Jesus specially mentioned Peter to Mary, to make sure he gets the news.
Jesus knew what Peter would become. He knew that one day he would be brave enough to follow Him even unto death.
Jesus sees what nobody can see, what He is doing in our lives to make us what no one could ever imagine.