It was a dark, foreboding night.
Jesus and his disciples were spending their last few moments together in fellowship during supper in an upper room. Before their meal ended, Jesus made a sudden, alarming announcement that someone, one of His own disciples, would betray Him. An instant panic ensued as the disciples one by one began to repeatedly ask, “Lord, is it I?” However, there was one man at the table who remained silent after Jesus’ announcement, waiting impatiently for the awkward conversation to end. Then Jesus calmed the anxious questioning by declaring, “‘He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it.’ And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.” (John 13:26)
Now when Jesus handed the dipped piece of bread to Judas, many Bible scholars believe that He was symbolically offering Judas one last chance at redemption before he committed his horrible treachery. However, in spite of the Lord’s mercy, Judas had already made up his mind and his heart, and prepared himself to leave the room, separating himself from his Lord and fellow disciples. “And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.” (John 13:27)
After leaving the last supper with Jesus, Judas Iscariot made his way to the Jewish temple, where the Sanhedrin of Pharisees awaited him. Without any hesitation due to being possessed by the Devil, Judas, a former disciple and follower of Jesus, betrayed his Lord to his worst earthly enemies for thirty pieces of silver. The same man who had heard all of Jesus’ teachings, seen all of His miracles, and witnessed His divine identity up close was also the man who disregarded the privilege of knowing the Lord for material riches. Judas even went so far as to betray Jesus with a kiss right before He was captured, revealing himself to be the two-faced snake he really was.
Why did the Lord allow Judas to betray Him, when He knew it would lead to His death?
While it doesn’t make any sense from a human perspective for Jesus to let Judas leave the room to betray Him, it made perfect sense inside of His own mind and heart because of His Father’s will. The whole reason Jesus came to earth was so He could die for our sins, paying the penalty for our own wickedness. Even though Jesus was all too aware of the terrible torment ahead of Him, He knew that Judas’ betrayal of Him would serve the important purpose of fulfilling God’s will. It must have broken Jesus’ heart to watch one of His own former disciples walk out that door, with no intention of repenting from his evil plan. Judas had no idea how much his Lord loved him in spite of his depraved heart, choosing to follow through with his scheme after refusing His offer of mercy to him. However, this changed nothing about how much Jesus loved Judas’ soul.
How could Jesus love Judas after what he did to Him?
The fact of Christ’s love for Judas should hardly surprise us, since Judas’ soul was just as valuable to God as anyone else’s. God’s love is so great and incomprehensible, that it surpasses all of our corrupt nature in a sweeping, unconditional tide. Unconditional love is defined by loving a person no matter what, even if he chooses not to return it or appreciate it in his free will. Even when Judas’ loyalty changed, God’s love for him never did. In fact, it is because of Jesus’ love for Judas that He allowed him to betray Him. God would not be loving to Judas if He didn’t allow him to have a freedom of will. Also, Jesus knew that by letting Judas leave that room, it would ultimately lead to His death on the cross, resulting in an opportunity for Judas to receive salvation if he chose it. Because Jesus loved Judas’ soul, He willingly let him leave to go do his damage, so he could eventually partake of eternal life after repentance. Although Jesus provided a way for Judas’ redemption, He could not force Judas to follow that path against his will.
Was Jesus’ love for Judas in vain?
Sadly, the Bible tells us that after the death of Christ, Judas finally realized the fatal mistake he had made, and tried to run back to the Pharisees to return his thirty pieces of silver. “Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, ‘I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood.’ And they said, ‘What is that to us? see thou to that.‘ And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.” (Matthew 27:3-5) How tragic it is that Judas repented too late! Instead of waiting for the consequences of his actions, he could have easily accepted Jesus’ offer of mercy, and end his plot to betray Him. Rather, Judas chose to sentence his Savior to death because of his own selfishness, forsaking the loving, outstretched hand of divine fellowship that could have been his. If only Judas had waited long enough to experience the Lord’s resurrection, he could have received forgiveness and mercy without limits! Yet he chose not to forgive himself, and ended his life because of his guilt and anguish.
The most heartbreaking part of this story is the aftermath of Judas’ foolish decision. When he saw what he had done, the Pharisees couldn’t care less about his guilty conscience, as they were satisfied with finally capturing Jesus and sentencing Him to death. They basically told Judas, “That’s not our problem; get out of here.” It must have felt horrible for Judas when he realized that he had been used by both the Pharisees and the Devil. He was left without a purpose, and without a master, except for himself. Feeling that he had nowhere else to turn to, it must have been the only natural option in Judas’ mind to kill himself. He had made his life devoid of meaning by choosing to serve himself instead of his Lord. When he saw that his thirty pieces of silver were hollow and worthless after what he had done, he must have viewed those coins as a reflection of his own life.
Seeing that Judas learned his lesson too late, it might be easy to assume that Jesus loved him in vain. However, that idea is the farthest thing from the truth. Just because Judas failed to appreciate the value of Jesus’ love for him, it does not make Christ’s compassion worth any less. God has to deal with billions of sinners rejecting Him and His love every single day, but that does not change the reality of His love for them, nor the value of it. Jesus did not die on the cross in vain just because multitudes of people choose not to accept Him. Instead, Christ’s death was worthwhile because it provides eternal security for those who believe, in spite of all the ones who do not. More importantly, Jesus’ love for Judas was not in vain because it was always there for him to accept if he chose to ask for redemption. Just the fact that God’s love was available for receiving to begin with proves that it was not in vain, as Judas could have enjoyed it in his free will if he wanted to.
Who else is guilty of betraying Jesus?
The most despicable part of Judas’ story is how he betrayed the love of Christ. In reality, we all are like Judas in the fact that we are all sinners. It was our wicked hearts that put Jesus on that cross. Because He loved us, Christ was willing to endure pain and suffering for our sake. All of this occurred because God’s very first human creations, Adam and Eve, chose to betray His love by disobeying Him out of discontentment. And Judas wasn’t the only disciple who betrayed Jesus. While he didn’t betray Him directly, Peter was guilty of betrayal by denying Jesus three times in a row. Afraid of being punished by the Jews, Peter pretended that he never knew Christ, his own Lord and Master. Before Peter’s denial of Christ, all the other remaining disciples had abandoned Jesus after His capture, fearing that they might be taken next.
The most sobering thought of all is how God’s own creations, the Jews and the Romans, betrayed Jesus by sentencing Him to death. They chose to release a convicted murderer named Barrabas over a holy, perfect Man Who had never done anything wrong in His whole life. While Jesus hung suffering on the cross, He had to endure the taunts and jeers of the crowds of people watching Him die, knowing that just a week before they had been praising and worshiping Him. Every voice that mocked Him and scorned Him belonged to a soul that His Father knew intimately, the very reason and cause for His death. In the darkest moment of history, the Almighty Creator had to look down in agony as He watched His only Son being disrespected and betrayed by His very own creations.
Betrayal can happen to anyone, sometimes from the very people we trust most.
I too have experienced betrayal on more than one occasion. While many times I experienced it at school growing up, the one I will never forget came from the one particular Judas in my life. I thought that he was on my side for the longest time, until he showed his true colors to me during an already difficult time I was dealing with. In spite of the deep hurt he caused me, I offered him mercy and forgiveness several times, thinking that would be enough to change his heart. Unfortunately, he only threw it right back in my face each time, making me regret that I had ever trusted him in the first place. By the third time, I knew ahead of time that he was going to betray me again, and I let him do it out of respect for his free will. I was angry and bitter for a very long time, wanting revenge as it was clear that he showed no remorse or any signs of repentance. However, I asked God to forgive me, and to give me the strength to finally forgive him, even though he never asked for it. I realized that I was required to show the same mercy and forgiveness to him that God showed to me unconditionally, regardless of whether or not it would ever be recognized or appreciated. I never felt true peace in my heart until I let go of my anger and accepted that God would deal with my Judas in His time, holding him accountable for his actions in either this life or the next. All that really mattered was that I was right with God in my heart, even if he wasn’t right with God in his. However, even though it has been many years since my betrayal, I still haven’t forgotten the hurt it caused me, and I probably never will. I believe that the greatest hurt that anyone can ever experience comes from being betrayed by someone you once trusted with all your heart. Yet I am thankful to God for allowing me to experience something that constantly reminds me of my constant need for Him.
How do we respond to the Judas in our lives?
If you have been alive for a significant time on this earth, chances are you’ve gone through the awful experience of someone betraying you. The worst part about betrayal is the realization that someone whom you believed was your friend has revealed himself to be your enemy. When this happens, we are presented with a choice – to become bitter, or better. The natural, human tendency is to become bitter, harboring anger and hatred long after the time and culprit of the betrayal has disappeared. However, the unnatural, spiritual tendency is to become better, by choosing forgiveness and mercy regardless of our traitor’s actions or lack of repentance. Perhaps you have encountered more than one Judas in your life. I know I have. Maybe there is one Judas in your life who stands out as the worst offender from all the rest. No matter what our personal situation is, we are expected to respond as Christ would, without giving place to wrath and a desire for revenge.
As God Himself knows what betrayal feels like, His Words best describe how we should respond to such a situation:
Luke 22:48 ~ “But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?”
Romans 12:19 ~ “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”
Psalm 41:9 ~ “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.“
Psalm 55:12-23 ~ “For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him: But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance.
We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company. Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.
As for me, I will call upon God; and the Lord shall save me. Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice. He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me: for there were many with me.
God shall hear, and afflict them, even he that abideth of old. Selah. Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God. He hath put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him: he hath broken his covenant. The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords.
Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. But thou, O God, shalt bring them down into the pit of destruction: bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; but I will trust in thee.”
Proverbs 20:22 ~ “Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee.”
Isaiah 53:4-6 ~ “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Colossians 3:13 ~ “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.“
Matthew 6:14-15 ~ “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Ephesians 4:31-32 ~ “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
Will you choose to become bitter, or better?
No matter what the circumstances of your betrayal are, I hope that you can find the courage to rise above them in Christ. You must realize that He is in control of ALL things, and His purpose will prevail in your life no matter what man does to you. No matter what evil has happened to you, God can turn it around and use it for good, if you allow Him to take away your pain and anger. Once you release yourself from negative feelings of bitterness, you will be free to experience God’s power in your life more openly. God can use your circumstances to grow you spiritually into a better person, a mature soul who reflects His wisdom in all aspects of life. Satan wants to defeat you by keeping you a prisoner to bitterness, but Jesus can help set you free through His keys of forgiveness. Only through God’s help can you gain the victory over bitterness from betrayal. But you alone must decide how you will respond – will you give in to Satan’s wishes by locking yourself behind bars of bitterness? Or will you give yourself over to God’s power by following Jesus’ example of forgiveness? The second option is the only way to feel better.
– Gloria D. Hopkins