We all want to be remembered in some way. Whether it’s by our friendship, generosity, accomplishments, or the lives we lived. We all want to have great things recalled about us. But no one wants to be remembered or identified for their worst moment.
Richard Nixon. Will Smith. Other celebrities come to mind as we think of a legacy marred by one mistake.
We struggle to move beyond what we’ve done and begin to identify ourselves by that mistake. So, we can’t help but ask, is this how God sees us? Think about what it would feel like to be called on by Jesus at the worst moment of our lives because that’s what happened to Judas.
Choosing your friends very carefully is incredibly important in life and relationships. Bad company ruins good morals. And it’s almost as if Jesus missed this lesson in school. So he hung out with the sinners and his closest friends, his disciples.
As Jesus picks His 12 disciples, He selects Judas Iscariot. It’s safe to assume that all of us are familiar with Judas. His name is so synonymous with betrayal that we don’t even name our children that name. It certainly isn’t on 2023’s top baby names list.
But as we read and ponder Judas, we have something that the people of Jesus’s time didn’t have, the benefit of hindsight. Things look much clearer because we know how the story ends.
But the betrayal of Jesus was not a complete plot twist because it was predicted many times. First, Jesus predicts His betrayal in John 13:18.
We are tempted to label Judas as the snake in the grass, always plotting to ruin Jesus and betray Him. But that doesn't come across from a simple reading of text. That's not to dismiss his actions, but we must acknowledge that we all tend to identify Judas by his actions.
This is all a part of God's plan working out. This is all a part of Scripture being fulfilled.
Look at verse 47 one more time. If he had arrived, he wasn’t there. Judas was not present in the Garden of Gethsemane, but he was present at the Last Supper. Earlier in Chapter 26, Jesus takes bread and wine and asks His disciples to remember Him in His death, what we do today through Communion.
Judas was present for this intimate and beautiful moment with Jesus. Why is this important? Because even though the Son of God knows what’s in Judas’s heart, He still invites him to the table.
This is profoundly important for us to understand. No verse says Jesus excused Judas from the communion part of the meal. Jesus didn’t send him away even though He knew what was in his heart and what he would ultimately do.
There are areas of sin or struggle that we’re battling with, and we think that we are dismissed from God’s presence, goodness, and love until we put those things right. That is not the case. We are not excused. We’re invited. We are not dismissed from His grace and mercy even though He knows what’s in our hearts.
Jesus leaves with His disciples, heads to the Garden of Gethsemane, and prays. Jesus is praying that God the Father would remove this situation from Him, that He wouldn’t have to go through with what was coming next.
And if He knows what’s coming next, we can assume He also knows who’s involved. He knows that Judas will betray him.
So, think this out.
When you know something bad is going to happen and someone involved will betray you, how would you treat that person? Probably not how Jesus did.
When Jesus addresses Judas and calls him by name, He doesn’t say, “Hello Betrayer” or “Greetings, Spawn of Satan.” Instead, Jesus genuinely calls him friend. The use of that word is incredibly intentional, signaling how Jesus chooses to interact with Judas. He calls him friend.
Judas spent years alongside Jesus. He witnessed and performed miracles and healing. He heard sermon after sermon, the countless teachings. He was in the boat when Jesus calmed the storm. He watched Lazarus resurrect. Yet, he still betrayed Jesus.
And even in the lowest moment of His life, the lowest moment in human history where God’s Son was betrayed, Jesus’s response was one of kindness. He was gracious and merciful to Judas.
Now, this doesn’t excuse Judas’s actions in any way. Instead, it demonstrates God’s love on full display.
He doesn't treat us harshly based on our actions but consistently extends His grace, mercy, and love. Does this mean that there are no consequences to our sin? No. It means that God’s love is not punitive, but corrective and loving.
Nothing can separate us from God’s love. If it applies to Judas, it applies to us as well. This means that we can engage with God at our worst, when we feel like we’ve failed Him, or when we’re at our lowest moment. When we feel like we can’t come to Him, He still calls us “friend.” The level that God engages with us is not based on our actions but on His love.
It's sad how Judas’s story ends. First, Judas realizes he made a mistake. Then, he buys a field and hangs himself. He cannot live with the betrayal. But Judas wasn’t the only disciple to betray Jesus. Peter did too. The difference between Peter and Judas was that Judas believed he was beyond redemption, and Peter experienced a moment of reconciliation and being reinstated by Jesus.
Our sins, our worst moments, our failures, and even our betrayal of Jesus at times are able to be forgiven because of Jesus’s death and resurrection. And even when we betray Him, He still calls us “friend.”
So how do we live this out?
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