“I am not saying these things to all of you; I know the ones I have chosen. But this fulfills the Scripture that says, ‘The one who eats my food has turned against me.’ I tell you this beforehand, so that when it happens you will believe that I am the Messiah. I tell you the truth, anyone who welcomes my messenger is welcoming me, and anyone who welcomes me is welcoming the Father who sent me.” Now Jesus was deeply troubled, and he exclaimed, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!” (John 13:18-21)
Read: Esther 5:1 – 10:3
Relate: What if Judas didn’t really think he was betraying Jesus? I’m a firm believer in the concept that everybody is the hero in their own story. What I mean by that is that from their own perspective everybody, at least most people, truly have convinced themselves that what they are doing is right. At the very least, they are doing something wrong but because of x it is no big deal or maybe it is a necessary evil so that y might be accomplished. Even the most notorious of villains usually are committing their evil for what they believe are good causes. With that in mind, I wonder what Judas was thinking when he did what he did.
I remember reading a book from his perspective. I don’t remember it well because I read it probably as far back as high school. I really did not like the book but the idea behind it stuck with me. This book tried to turn Judas into a “not so bad” guy. He wasn’t stealing funds from Jesus ministry for his own greedy, selfish purposes, he was funneling that money to other revolutionaries. He didn’t really view what he was doing as betrayal. Judas truly did believe that Jesus was the Messiah but that Jesus for whatever reason wasn’t yet ready to “just do it”. Judas figured that if he could just force a confrontation Jesus would forced to become the hero, kicking out the Romans and the hypocritical Jewish leaders just like the Maccabees had done a century before.
Unfortunately, obviously, things didn’t work out as Judas had planned. Even after Jesus was captured, convicted, and crucified Judas still didn’t “get it”. Judas decided (as many of the others must have as well) that he was wrong and that Jesus must not have been the Messiah. Combine that disappointment with all the he “wasted” time following Jesus and the guilt that Judas had just sent a genuinely good man to his death… It was too much for poor Judas. He couldn’t bear it anymore and in a moment of sorrow, he plunged to his own death. Forever this man with good intentions became painted as the ultimate villain.
React: Looking at it in this light, perhaps Jesus wasn’t so much accusing Judas beforehand but trying to warn him. If Judas truly thought he was doing the right thing, Jesus repeated warnings throughout the night might be seen more as an attempted warning to Judas to open his eyes. Just as God warned Cain, before he killed Able, that he was headed down the wrong road perhaps these betrayal statements by Jesus were a warning to Judas. You don’t have to do this.
You might call me a heretic for my next statement but I firmly believe that Judas’ betrayal was not necessary for the purposes of God to be fulfilled. It is how things happened but it wasn’t necessarily how it had to happen. God uses the choices of evil things for good but God never forces someone into doing evil even for the best of purposes. Nobody is predestined for damnation. Each person makes their own choices and the “righteous deeds” some people think they are doing are exactly the deeds that are leading them to hell. The question is never, “Do I believe I am doing the right thing?” Instead it should be, “Are my actions lining up with the commands of God?” It is God who makes us right, not our own rationalization.
God, please make my ears attentive to the warnings You might be directing my way. I pray that you would quiet my mind enough that I might hear Your voice. I want to do what is right, help me to dig in to Your Word so that I might better know what that right is. Like Paul I say, “My conscience is clear but that does not make me innocent.” You make me innocent. You make me righteous. Help me not to walk in the way that I believe is right but rather to follow You no matter what direction that leads me. You are Holy. Take up residence in me that I might be holy as You are.