“Then he dipped the crust and gave it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. As soon as the bread was in his hand, Satan entered him.”
“What you must do,” said Jesus, “do. Do it and get it over with.”
“No one around the supper table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that since Judas was their treasurer, Jesus was telling him to buy what they needed for the Feast, or that he should give something to the poor.”
“As a secret sign to John, Jesus says it is the one to whom he will hand the bread after dipping it in the Passover relish. This would indicate that Judas is sitting on Jesus' immediate left. In Judaism this was referred to as the place of the intimate friend. There is a possibility that Jesus and Judas were far closer friends than any of the Gospels can bring themselves to say.” John: The Gospel of Wisdom by Michael Card
|Would you trust a guy who looks like this?|
Judas Iscariot. His name is synonymous with treachery. Not one of the Gospel writers have anything good to say of him. The asides and descriptive phrases that John uses to describe him belie a hardness that seems out of place for the apostle who wrote so much about the love of God. In film he usually is portrayed as someone who has a dark, miserly look about him presumably to telegraph to the audience that this a guy not to be trusted. He's Grima Wormtongue of the Golden Hall only (perhaps) better looking.
|Yeah, I wouldn't trust him either|
Somewhere along the way he had become their fellowship's treasurer delegated to dispense gifts to the poor and buy what was needed for food and sundries. In church circles, the person who ends up as treasurer of a church is usually someone whom the fellowship considers “real good with money” and who possesses a character totally above board. When that trust is betrayed, as it happened to a parish in our area recently to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, the outrage experienced by the rest of the congregation is acute. Everyone knows that thieves steal but when you have seen them in church and made small-talk with them only to learn later they were lining their pockets with money you gave to God how can you not feel duped and stupid for considering yourself their friend?
|That's Judas in the middle whom|
Satan is devouring
Could it be that instead of the dark, brooding, scheming guy that he is often made out to appear in film and literature (think Dante's Inferno infamous Ninth Circle denizen), he was, in fact, a pretty likable and otherwise friendly fella that you would enjoy having coffee with? Case in point is John's version of that moment when Jesus announces to the group that someone in their inner circle will betray him (John 13:21-30). The way John puts it Jesus becomes “visibly upset”. The Greek word that John uses (tarazzo) doesn't speak of a man quietly putting on a stoic mien as he faces his nemesis. No, it's more like a washing machine agitating as if it were about to be launched to the moon. What else but betrayal by a close and trusted comrade could provoke such a response in the Lord? After all, he knows these guys having chosen them and done life together with them for the past few years. A knife in the back couldn't cut as deep.
When Peter from across the room motions to John to ask Jesus just who the culprit is uncharacteristically Jesus answers straightforwardly: “The one to whom I give this crust of bread after I’ve dipped it” and immediately he so dips his piece of flat bread into one of the common bowls upon the table and hands it to Judas. He might as well have pointed at him and simply said, “him.” I find it curious that neither John nor any of the others at that moment (except, of course, Judas) have a clue of what is going on. He hands Judas the bread and cryptically says, “What you must do, do. Do it and get it over with” and all that some of them can surmise is that Judas has to run a few last minute errands on the Master's behalf before Passover begins. No one guesses that he leaves their intimate gathering only to make a beeline for the Sanhedrin because a guy like Judas could never do such a thing. Later that evening when he shows up in a procession of Temple guards in the garden and gives Jesus the fated kiss of greeting they are all stunned at his duplicity which is maybe why later as John tells his story of his life with Jesus he can't help but reveal his jaded opinion of the man he and everyone else once regarded as Jesus' close friend.
|What if this was Judas and Jesus during better times?|
The lesson for me is this: don't be too hasty to judge Judas. Walk humbly and don't put any confidence in titles or experiences. I don't want to contemplate it but if push comes to shove I could succumb to the same temptation he did. I want to insist that never in a million years would I sell out the Lord of glory because, well, I'm a good guy, a pastor, and been a Christian for most of my life. But then I think of all that Judas saw and experienced and heard as a member of the Twelve and yet after all that his heart remained a stone within, unmoved and unpersuaded of the truth that was right in front of him. Judas is, in fact, a fearful warning to us all. As Bruce Milne puts it: “There is, tragically, 'a road to hell at the very gates of heaven' in the sense that it is possible to resist even the prolonged, personal appeals of Jesus Christ and turn away at the last into the darkness. There are those whom even Jesus cannot, and will not, save. Not that his grace is insufficient for them. On the contrary, it truly is 'enough for all, enough for each, enough for evermore', as Charles Wesley eloquently declared. But they will not come to receive it. The corollary to the stress on the crucial importance of faith in this gospel is the seriousness of unbelief, the refusal of faith. Hell is no mere theoretical possibility. It is an awesome and fearful reality. To refuse the light means to choose the darkness where no light will ever shine again” (The Bible Speaks Today: The Message of John, pp. 203-04).
|The proverbial road to hell|
Could Judas have said no? Could he have refused the part he was given to play in the passion of the Christ? The Arminian in me says of course he could, he wasn't a patsy or a fall guy destined to fulfill Scripture. I don't believe for a second that there are some people born doomed to be damned. For all time God has filled the universe with free-will agents whom he desires will choose him of their own volition. That being said I also think that the more we resist the grace of God the greater the chance our character will become permanently bent away from him. While only God knows where exactly it lies there is a point of no return, a place to use Lewis' turn of words where God says to a human being “thy will be done.” It's a sobering thought. Of Judas says Milne: “he was within arm's reach of Jesus through occupying the place on his other side, the host's left, the place of special honor. For one last, lingering moment Judas' destiny hangs in the balance as the love of God incarnate shines one more time into his benighted heart. But the moment is no sooner present than it passes, as Judas in a final act of defiance closes his heart against the light, and turns away into the darkness that has no end” (pp. 202-03). May God keep me - and the rest of us - far from such a place.