In the evening Jesus arrived with the Twelve. As they were at the table eating, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, one of you eating with me here will betray me.” Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one?” He replied, “It is one of you twelve who is eating from this bowl with me. For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!” [Mark 14:17-21 (NLT)]
In yesterday’s post, I wondered why Jesus chose the men he did as his apostles. Today, I wonder specifically about Judas Iscariot. Jesus knew the prophecies; he knew he’d be betrayed as part of God’s plan. He saw promise in the others, what did He see in Judas? We don’t know what Jesus saw in him or even what was in Judas’ heart in the beginning. We only know that greed and ambition had entered his treacherous heart by the end.
Remembering that all of the men abandoned Jesus that night in the garden, perhaps all twelve had the potential to be His betrayer. Peter not only fled, he denied Jesus! The zealot Simon easily could have become disappointed in Jesus when it became clear that overthrowing Rome was not part of His plan. Matthew’s past was shady; like Judas, he could have been tempted to steal from their money bag and sell out the Lord. We have James and John: the angry men who wanted to call down fire on a village because it wouldn’t welcome Jesus. They wanted honored places by the earthly throne of Jesus. Could their disappointment in His answer and all that talk about being a servant have caused them to think about betrayal? When Jesus told the men that he’d be betrayed by one of them, each one asked “Am I the one?” Twelve ordinary men—perhaps, any one of them could have chosen to be the betrayer. They all had moments of disillusionment, uncertainty and anger. Yet, only one man allowed Satan to enter his heart. Like Judas, we all harbor darkness in our hearts. We can choose to be faithful or unfaithful, true or false, friend or foe. We can be true to Him or betray Him—the choice is ours.
Nevertheless, it’s difficult to understand why Jesus kept Judas around. Knowing what was going to happen, how could Jesus wash his feet and break bread with him? Later in the garden, when Judas greeted Him with a kiss, how could Jesus call him “friend?” Our Lord never asks us to do something He hasn’t done Himself. Perhaps His relationship with Judas was His way of demonstrating the sort of behavior He wants from us all—love, mercy and forgiveness for our enemies, even for those who betray us!