During Holy Week, I read a devotional centered around Judas’ betrayal of Jesus in John 13:21-32. The premise of the devotional was how much Jesus loved Judas, even though he knew he would betray him and he did. Here is a snippet that I think speaks to heart of the devotional;
It is one thing to consider what Jesus would do in our situations. It is quite another to put ourselves into his life situations. When we do this, we focus on Jesus and the contexts of his decisions, instead of our own. In John 13:26, Jesus is serving the person he had just identified as his betrayer. If we were in the presence of someone we knew had planned harm to us, could we do the same? Jesus served Judas, literally and figuratively, without resentment or any effort to “get even.” Now that is love.
Our brokenness can cause us to struggle with showing love. We could feel and behave as if an “other” was a personified WMD (weapon of mass destruction) aimed at us, making us feel MAD (mutually assured destruction) in response. But we do not have to wonder WWJD. We know what Jesus did. We have his road map. Yet, his path for us may still cause us some internal struggle. We need not, even as good Christians, ignore that struggle. It is part of the process. Even Jesus was “greatly distressed in spirit, and testified, ‘I tell you the solemn truth, one of you will betray me’” (John 13:21). However, his love was greater.
Now I gleaned from the gist of the devotional that Jesus is showing us how to love our enemies. However, I found this angle a bit short sighted. Yes, Jesus did demonstrate love for Judas and overlooked the offense. But to leave it at that kind of misses the point of what was transpiring. Jesus saw Judas. He saw the betrayal. He turned the other cheek. Why? Because he saw more than Judas. He saw us. He was set to offer himself over as a sacrificial lamb to redeem those whom the Father called into his kingdom. There was something more at stake than dealing with Judas but to be the deal for mankind so that we could know the Father and reflect his glory.
It’s not lost on me that we’ll often be confronted with the same kind of betrayal that Jesus experienced. Not just betrayal of us per se, but what it represents: opposition to Christ’s kingdom and purpose. Let’s not be fooled into believing it’s something that just happens out there. Judas was in the inner circle. Judas sat at Jesus’ feet. Judas was part of the ‘leadership’ structure, if you will. Judas’ betrayal took the form of handing Jesus over to the authorities but betrayal to Christ and his mission can take on different forms–recalitrance, selfish agendas, dissension, backbiting, etc. These are betrayals than can trip us up and get us off kilter. When I see Jesus overlook Judas’ offense, it wasn’t just so he could turn the other cheek but because there was a mission and purpose that could not be stalled
Then I consider what Paul writes in Philippians 2;
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death upon a cross. (Phil. 2:3-8)
Jesus not only laid his life down for us but he did so overlooking soul staining offenses. He was more concerned about his bride than his pride, so to speak. Of course, being the sinless son of God he had none. But we surely can. Pride that says we must deal with a person according to the offense that they caused. Pride that wants to insert our desire to let them and others know how wrong they are. Pride that wants to have the moral upper hand.
It occurs to me that the mind of Christ spoken of here, is perhaps the same mind that Jesus possessed during this moment of betrayal. He was so focused on the bigger picture and what needed to be done that he wasn’t going to waste his energy on taking down Judas. I think this is instructive for us in terms of the mind we are to have especially when confronted with opposition from within the ranks.
Let’s not be fooled that opposition will be an overt affront to Christ’s kingdom as if the person is rejecting Christ himself. No, opposition can come in more subtle and subversive forms that do something to undermine the work and person of Christ and his reflection in his bride, the body of Christ. I’m particularly thinking of the offenses that have arisen here lately regarding the latter category, threats to the peace and purity of the church especially related to what is going on around racial reconciliation, social justice and the persistent need to expose white supremacy…and those who repudiate it.
I see the internet spats. The calling out. The dissension. The accusations. High profile leaders or high prolific tweeters are targeting and targeted. Social media is awash with charges and pointed fingers. We are doing the opposite of what Jesus did by shaking Judas and neglecting the greater mission. I have no doubt that this happens in real time as well. People are leaving churches and levying charges. We want our perceived Judases to hang for their crimes and destroying our Christian witness in the process.
Now I get the impulse to call out those we believe are in error. But I am convinced and convicted by Jesus’ words that he will build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. He is bigger than our perceived offenses and the Holy Spirit’s power more forceful than any push to segregate, divide and conquer on worldly terms. And let’s be honest that worldliness takes many shapes and forms even when disguised in a spiritual dress to show how those Judases are destroying the kingdom. God is bigger than that!
I am convinced by Jesus’ actions towards Judas in his dogged determination to complete his mission according to the Father’s will that there is something more at stake than our prideful insistence to harangue the perpetrators of offenses. But it is this: to demonstrate to the ultimate perpetrator of offense, Satan and his dominion of darkness, that Christ’s kingdom stands united against his assaults and will accomplish that which was purposed from the foundations of the world. We can only do that with a humility that puts his agenda above our own.
Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Eph 3:7-13)