One of the greatest things to me about God’s Word is the constant reminders that God uses ordinary people through which He works in unbelievable ways. Judas Iscariot is one of those people which we have a snippet of information on but who had a pivotal role in our lives as believers today. Many of us we are uncomfortable with Judas. We often judge him harshly. (Though it is NOT our jobs to judge him, nor anyone else, for that matter.)
I am guilty of thinking “How could Judas? He was one of the especially picked disciples of Jesus. He walked with, traveled with, ate with, and experienced the physical presence of Our Savior daily before betraying Him. Not just any garden variety betrayal either, a betrayal that led to Jesus’ death by crucifixion.”
Then I squirm in my self-appointed judge’s chair for truthfully, Judas’ makes me uncomfortable because I see myself in him.
In searching the scriptures concerning information on Judas some things jumped out at me:
- In Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:14-19; and Luke 6:12-16 Jesus sends out the twelve disciples and in Matthew’s account Jesus’ gave to the disciples gifts to help and heal those people they came in contact with – there is no mention in either account that Judas was left out of Jesus’ directive, given a different set of instructions or given lesser gifts than those Jesus gave the other eleven disciples. He gave them all what they would need to fulfill their mission from and for Him.
- Matthew 26:14-15; Mark 14:10-50; Luke 22:1-22, 47-48 in these scriptures we’re told that Judas went to the chief priests and ASKED what they would give him to betray Jesus. Also we learn that Judas ASKED Jesus at the Passover meal if it would be him would betray Jesus. Judas asked, Jesus said yes.
- Matthew 27:1-10 and Acts 1:16-25 tell us that Judas, overcome with grief and remorse for how he had condemned Jesus, goes out and kills himself. The 30 pieces of silver the chief priests gave him for his betrayal was used to buy a field for use as a burial ground and given the name Akeldama which means “field of blood”. Matthew also tells us Judas tried to return the money but the chief priests would not take it back.
- John’s account of Judas and of his betrayal is different a bit. The kiss Judas gave to Jesus isn’t mentioned (John 18:2-11). In John 6:60-71 we are told that Jesus knew even in selecting Judas to be his disciple Jesus knew Judas would be His betrayer. John 12:1-17 lets us know Judas is also a thief, helping himself to the group’s funds in the money bag he was entrusted with when he wanted. Finally John also tells us that Jesus tells Judas that what he is about to do he should go and do quickly. Judas finishes his meal and goes. (John 13:1-30)
- John also lets us know that despite Jesus knowing all along Judas would betray Him Jesus didn’t treat Judas differently. At the Passover Supper when Jesus washed the disciples feet there is no mention that Jesus excluded Judas.
I learned a lot about betrayal this week.
Like Judas this person has been a friend to me. One I would have trusted my life with instantly if the need arose. Someone that even when reality was staring at me in the face my heart could not comprehend could be responsible for not just stealing something very valuable entrusted to me but who would do so by taking advantage of my physical needs as an amputee. Furthermore, this person, who before had been a factor in helping me feel safe and capable in one senseless act rendered me back to square one all over again.
Working in a counseling office, though not as a counselor, and having participated in therapy myself through the years, I’ve learned enough to know emotionally I am cycling through the “phases” of being a victim. I’d like to plow through them and get to the other side but my humanity gets in the way.
For every other awful betrayal in my life comes back to whisper it’s reminders in my heart. Like the fiancé’ in college who promised to love me forever but who took my money and married another woman. The doctors who I entrusted to diagnosis and treat me who couldn’t see beyond a number on a scale and see the damaged lymph nodes earlier, who could have bought me more time with a whole body, but who didn’t. The kids in school who were one day my friends and the next taunting and ridiculing me to the point I would hid in the bathroom to cry. Another man who promised many things and delivered lies, shadows and mind numbing pain. The father’s discipline that became life endangering…it’s hard to move on when something like this slams you in the face.
Yet I remind myself, Jesus knew Judas! God’s Word tells us He knows us before He knits us together in our mother’s womb, that He knows the very number of hairs on our heads (and the number that float down the shower drain each morning). No exception was made for Judas. God didn’t not know him because of what Judas would choose to do to betray Him, God knew Judas as well as He knows me because Judas too was a creation of Our Father. God knew Judas as well as He knows you.
God gifted mankind with the freedom of making our own choices. We can choose to cultivate a relationship with Him or not. We can choose to walk in ways that honor and obey Him or not. We make our choices. We also have to deal with the consequences. Sadly, all of us are Judas’ at various times in our lives. We betray Jesus. We betray one another. We betray those we love the most. We even betray ourselves. We choose. We sin. We hurt others, ourselves and Jesus. It is OUR choice… Judas chose…I choose…you choose.
Perhaps that is the most bitter of pills to swallow. People who betray us CHOOSE to do so. Why?
Does it really matter? Had I known this person needed anything I had I would have given it. They didn’t give me that choice.
I’ve long believed that anyone of us has within us the capacity to do the unthinkable under the circumstances. Would I harm someone who had my child or husband in harm’s way? I know I would. That scenario is the extreme.
Does it help how I feel that perhaps whatever the circumstances in my betrayer’s life that led to their making this decision seemed to them the extreme? No, not really, but the wonderful thing is, God is working on that with me. I pause to pray even now that God moves me out of the way so He can to advance quickly to forgiveness, otherwise I betray my Savior again.
I surely can’t say I’m at a place of “forgiveness” yet, or understanding and it’s hard to even want to be in that place. But going there is a requirement. I must get there and I must come through for the other betrayal experiences taught me that holding on to the pain and anger and hate destroys only one person – and that person is me and the relationship it destroys is the one I have with my Creator.