Sometimes familiarity deceives us; gives us a false sense of “knowledge”. That was my conclusion as I spent time re-reading the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ final week on earth. Familiarity with the events blinded me to the depth of information said in so few lines. The story of the betrayal of Jesus received a cursory glance rich with assumption. Recently however, a particular thought arrested my attention: Jesus was betrayed by an intimate friend.
Naturally, few if any define Judas as an intimate friend of Jesus. Having familiar knowledge of his identity, we spend little time in thought over the life of Judas. Cast aside and compartmentalized, he sits quietly by waiting for his turn on the great stage of history. Nothing more than a cardboard character stuck in the play as a bookmark. Except Judas was indeed a flesh and blood man, who lived, breathed, walked and talked as the other disciples did. Laden with hopes, dreams and desires for his life, captivated by the carpenter from Galilee, he left all to follow Him.
a chosen friend
We know little of the man Judas Iscariot in actual literature, but a good deal more if we take in the fuller picture of Jesus’ ministry. Bear in mind we know from scripture (Matthew 10:4) Judas betrayed Jesus, but at the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth, no one else knew this yet future fact, certainly not Judas himself. Jesus called Judas as a disciple in the same manner He called the other eleven disciples. Judas followed Jesus, a member of His inner circle for three years, building a relationship with Jesus and ministering in His name alongside all of the disciples.
Chosen, Loved, Taught
Your days spent with me,
Speaking, Sharing, Journeying
In My name-healing
A trusted Friend
These men traveled together, ate together, slept together. Despite knowing He would be betrayed by an intimate friend, we have every reason to believe Jesus treated Judas as every other disciple. Judas heard the heart of Jesus, lingered on the words of His teaching, and saw every miracle. Made treasurer, he was trusted, valued and respected by the other disciples.
Familiar knowledge induces faulty conclusions. The Gospels written after the fact, clearly show Judas as the traitor. We treat him as such from the very outset, as if it was an ordained fact Judas would betray Jesus. While Jesus underscores His betrayal fulfills prophecy, no where in the Old Testament do we find Judas Iscariot named as the one to perform this deed. God foreknew Judas through his own freewill would betray Jesus.
Trusted, Known, Befriended
Ministering, I kept you
I called you friend.
An INtimate Friend
Empowered by Jesus, Judas preached the Kingdom of God, healed the sick and cast out demons. Like the others, he dreamed of Jesus as King, the new kingdom and the part he would hold there. Judas, as a member of the twelve, was intimate with Christ, “breaking bread” in Bible times, as it still holds true today in the Middle East, is an invitation to intimate friendship. The disciples had done this countless times during Jesus’ earthly ministry.
Jesus loved Judas despite foreknowledge of Judas’ betrayal. Demonstrating that love through giving him the words of the Father, sharing His own identity as the Messiah, protecting and keeping him safe throughout the three year ministry. (John 17:6-12) Culminating in washing the feet of the one poised to deliver Him over to death. (John 13) Further, Jesus became very troubled in His spirit before declaring one of His disciples stood ready to betray Him. (John 13:21)Having all foreknowledge, Jesus’ heart still loved to the uttermost.
Accepted, Sent, Intimate
Breaking bread, loyal,
Washed, Seen, Held
Your heel poised to strike
betrayed by an intimate friend
In the end, Judas’ sins of greed, ambition and apathy turned his heart away from Jesus and the Kingdom. Things were no longer as before, he stood aloof, became critical, apathetic. As Jesus’ disfavor with the religious leaders grew, Judas realized his kingdom aspirations were out of reach. His loyalties shifted and he sought instead to profit from the betrayal of the One who called him “friend”.
At the last Passover meal, commonly referred to as “The Last Supper”, Judas sat directly next to Jesus; a place of honor. Though loyal, trusted and valued, something changed for Judas. For at this Last Supper, Judas already held the price of Jesus’ life; thirty pieces of silver obtained just hours before.
Betrayed, Sold, Rejected
Greed, Ambition, Apathy
My Familiar Friend
lord is it me?
Characteristically, we all love to hate Judas; his very name is synonymous with “traitor”. If we allow familiar knowledge overcome us, we detach ourselves from this descriptor. Instead, aligning ourselves with the “other” eleven disciples. Drawing a hasty conclusion, we forget not only did the other eleven wonder aloud “Who is it?”, and “Is it me?” when Jesus declared one of them would betray Him, but Peter promptly went out and denied Christ three times.
The story of Judas is not a simple story of an evil man bent on betraying Jesus. Judas was no weak pawn forced to play a part in redemption’s story. He was a man not unlike you or me; with dreams, desires, ambitions; and a sinful nature. Like the other disciples, he left everything and followed Christ into a life of wandering, persecution and hardship. Jesus warned many others who sought to follow Him, this life was not for the faint of heart.
The Legacy of Judas
Judas was one of twelve chosen men closest to Jesus during his entire three year ministry. He saw first hand the miracles, heard every teaching from the mouth of Jesus, looked into Jesus’ earnest eyes in many intimate conversations among these men and felt the love Christ had for him. Yet ultimately succumbed to his sinful nature and satan’s evil influence.
Perhaps the biggest legacy Judas leaves behind is not his betrayal of Christ. Possibly his life also speaks a warning. If someone so close to Christ, preaching, ministering, and performing miracles fell away into sin and evil influence, how much more vulnerability might we have? How easily do we permit our ambitions, desires, and expectations to betray Christ before others? How often do we coddle our sin nature leaving us vulnerable to satan’s attacks and influence? As we commemorate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ this Lent, may we heed the warning that Jesus was betrayed by an intimate friend who professed love for Christ, but never truly knew Him.
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