Sitting Down with Judas

After Jesus had said these things, he was deeply troubled and told his disciples, “I tell you for certain that one of you will betray me.” They were confused about what he meant. And they just stared at each other…

Jesus answered, “I will dip this piece of bread in the sauce and give it to the one I was talking about.”

Then Jesus dipped the bread and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Right then Satan took control of Judas. Jesus said, “Judas, go quickly and do what you have to do.”                   John 13:21-22, 26-27 (CEV)

Lectionary texts for Holy Wednesday: Isaiah 50:4-9, Psalm 70, Hebrews 12:1-3, John 13:21-32

I confess to you that of all the people spoken about in the Bible, I have found Judas to be the most troubling. For most of my life, I was taught that Judas was a condemned man. He betrayed the Savior and committed “the unpardonable sin” of suicide. I found this “theology” to be very troubling because of two points: 1) Judas seems to have had no “free will” in his role. 2) If suicide is the unpardonable sin, then it seems God is giving Judas the eternal damnation consequence, not Satan who entered in.

I’ve learned through my own study and the commentary of some smart people that John’s gospel has specific characteristics that separate it from the other three gospels. John wants to keep our focus on God and His sovereign authority. He is willing to sacrifice some details like time lines in order to make a point. There is also a sense of “destiny” in the lives of the people. Judas was “destined” to betray. As John aged, he may have seen God and “free will” as more compatible as Revelation certainly speaks of choices and different outcomes for those choices.

So where does all of that leave me on the subject of Judas? With God and His unapologetic love for His children.

For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14 (HCSB)

Judas shows me the how satan and his scummy minions harass and confuse us as they whisper half-truths and outright twisted lies into our minds, our spirit. Matthew tells me in his gospel that Judas is “filled with remorse”, repentant, when he sees Jesus condemned (Matthew 27:1-10) and attempts to give back the money that the church leaders had given him. They refuse and so Judas stumbles out, finds a tree and hangs himself in despair. “I have killed the Son of God! I can’t be forgiven!” Now I don’t know about you, but there was a time that I thought I was too dirty with sin to ever be forgiven by GOD! And yes, I had broken every one of God’s commands so I was dirty! But Jesus did not give up on me and He broke through and showed me depth of His love to take even my sins upon Himself and die on the cross so that I could be clean. Would Jesus give up on one He had spent His ministry time with? Would throwing a rope over a tree branch for the purpose of ending torment stop Jesus from stepping in the gap and saying, “No, Judas! I forgive you!” Remember that Jesus washed Judas’ feet too (John 13:1-11) even though He knew that it was Judas who had sold Him for 30 pieces of silver. It was satan that Jesus rebuked when Peter tried to dissuade Him from going to Jerusalem (Matthew 16:23). It was Peter that Jesus reinstated after denying Him three times (Matthew 26:69-75, John 21:15-19).

As a hospice nurse, I have attended many deaths. I tell you that God is not limited by verbal speech, disease, confusion, or comas when it comes to communicating with His children. We don’t really know what happens between God and His children in those final moments. Surely the LORD would love for us to spend our lives here on earth serving and following His plan for our lives. But what matters is the decision that we make, even if it is a “last minute” decision. It is eternity that is on God’s mind.

So I believe that I will see Judas one day at a wonderful banquet table and he will share with me how Jesus didn’t give up on him just like He didn’t give up on me.

Mercy Seat by Mark Caruthers, Steve Harpole, & Steve Richardson, sung by Vicki Yohe 

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