I’m in Love with Judas, Baby

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“Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” Psalm 41:9

Though in this Psalm’s immediate context, it is King David who is lamenting personal betrayal and subsequently pleading for God to deliver him, I believe that this Psalm is fully realized in Christ, specifically in his being betrayed by Judas Iscariot.

We know the scene.  Jesus and the Twelve are in the upper room, eating and drinking the Passover meal, which would be Jesus’ last meal until the coming of God’s kingdom in its fullness.  This Passover is different than the others, for Jesus tells them that He is initiating a new covenant, not with unleavened bread, but with His own body, and not with wine, but sealed by His own blood.

The mood becomes even darker when Jesus tells them, “One of you will betray me.”  These alarming words cause the Twelve not only to look around, but to look inward, examining themselves.  They ask Him, one after another, as if in a game of Russian roulette, “Is it I, Lord?” They had heard Jesus’ words that not everyone who professes Him or takes part in His ministry will enter His kingdom.  Jesus tells them that it is indeed one of them at dinner that evening.  Jesus laments the sad reality, and Judas answers him, “Is it I, Teacher?”  Jesus replies, “You said it.”

Note the difference in how they address Jesus.  Eleven confess Jesus as “Lord,” while Judas simply calls Him “Teacher” or “Rabbi.”  It is as if inherent in Judas words and tone of voice is his diabolical plan to destroy Jesus.  We know the rest of the story.  We know that Judas already had blood money in his pocket.  It ends tragically for Judas.  His life is a tragedy.

Lately, I have begun to realize that I have been desensitized to both the empty sadness of Judas’ destruction and the intensity of pain in Jesus’ heart upon being betrayed.  In this post, I’d like to recover both of those, at least a little bit.

First, here are two reasons why I think I am desensitized, or distanced, to these things:

  • We are put in the know early on in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and fairly in John, of the demise of Judas.  In MML, the Twelve are listed with Judas Iscariot named last, followed by, “who betrayed him,” (Matt 10:4; Mark 3:19) and “who became a traitor” (Luke 6:16).  Though John waits longer to tell us, he does give us fair warning in 12:4: “He who was to betray Him.”  He also tells us of Judas’ character–that he was a thief (12:6).  Therefore, Judas’ betrayal comes as no surprise to us by the time it happens towards the end of the gospel.
  • We often think of Jesus as a ghostlike character floating around with no emotion except maybe a smirking nod here and there.  He may have chuckled at a joke or two, but only if it was really clever.  This made-up Jesus never experienced pain and, since he knew everything that would happen to him, hurt less when it did.  However, the gospels teach that Jesus’ divinity did not separate him from the human experience.

As far as the first reason goes, just because we are told beforehand what was going to happen does not lessen the seriousness of the matter.  We are also told on numerous times by Jesus that He would be handed over and crucified, but that certainly does not lighten that occasion.  And for the second, this isn’t like our Jesus at all.  He was a man, and as a man, he could be betrayed, and feel the pain of betrayal.

I want to consider the following:

  • Judas was numbered with the Twelve.  Even though he is distinguished early on in the gospels, he is still one of them.  In Acts 1 Peter says concerning Judas, “He was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.”  We have this idea that Judas is the weird little brother that no one likes, not even Jesus– always lurking around, staying on the outside while in his mind knowing what he was going to do.  I would like to un-demonize Judas.  Judas was one of Jesus’ closest friends.  He listened to his teaching and witnessed the miracles.  They were buddies for Jesus’ entire ministry.  They were ministry partners.  Even in John’s character-revelation of Judas in John 12, we learn that Judas was in charge of the money!  He was, as a friend put it, “the guy who organized the funds for the mission trips,” hence the Psalm, “my friend, in whom I trusted.”
  • The intensity of betrayal is proportional to the intimacy of the relationship between the betrayer and the one betrayed.  Dipping food in the same dish is a sign of intimate fellowship.  It symbolizes the closeness of Judas and Jesus.  Jesus doesn’t say, “The guy that I saw two weeks ago at the market is going to betray me.”  Rather, he says, “The guy whose spit is swirling around in this sauce bowl with mine is going to stab me in the back.”
  • There is a sense of mourning in Acts 1 over Judas’ suicide.  The disciples were praying together with the women concerning how to replace Judas.  Peter assures them of God’s sovereignty in the midst of tragedy.  They moved from there to seek God concerning Judas’ replacement.  It seems that Judas’ sandals were big ones to fill, because here are the criteria for his replacement:  “One of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us… You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place” (Acts 1:21-25).
  • Judas’ fall came gradually, in slowly being taken over by the love of money (John 12).  Satan fills Judas’ heart and  God hands him over.  We see the same thing happen to Ananais and Sapphira in Acts 5, when they embezzled money from the church.  Peter asks them, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?  You have not lied to men but to God.” The same thing happens to Demas, who had been a friend and ministry partner of Paul (Col 4:14):  “For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me…” (2 Tim 4:14).

Listen to Jesus’ words, “Would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”– “Judas, would you abandon me with the most intimate sign of friendship?”  Jesus’ heart broke, not only for the pain of personal betrayal, but lamenting over Judas himself:  “Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!” (Luke 22:22)  He loved the things of this world more than the things of another.  He loved this life more than true life.  It is such a tragedy because in our hearts we know that what happened to Judas would happen to us if God removed His grace from us.  It is what should happen to us, if we got what we deserved.  But God has not given us what we deserved; he gave that to Christ, and Christ took it upon Himself on the Cross.  We do not have to purchase a Field of Blood (Acts 1:18) on which to die because we have the cross of blood upon which Christ died.

Christians when reading the gospels like to relate to certain characters.  For instance, “I’m like Peter because I’m always putting my foot in my mouth,” or “I’m like Thomas because I doubt”; “So-and-so is like Mary, but so-and-so is like Martha.”  However, I think in our attempts to personalize the gospels, we miss the warning laced throughout their entirety, “DO NOT BE LIKE JUDAS.”  The gospels are a call to discipleship–an invitation and exhortation to follow Jesus.  And within that discipleship, we are to “REMEMBER LOT’S WIFE,” who loved where she came from more than where she was going (Luke 17).  Do we not think that Lot wept for days when his wife turned to a pillar of salt?  And should we not weep when we consider Judas?  Should we not look into our hearts and come face to face with the fact that there is some Judas in all of us?  When Jesus says, “One of you will betray me,” do you look at him and say, “Is it I, Rabbi?”


Written by keywoodblog

April 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm

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