Few people in the Bible raise more questions than Judas Iscariot. Job would be a close second. The most obvious question that arises when we think of Judas is why Jesus chose him in the first place. The Bible says Jesus spent all night praying about who were to be the twelve men who would travel with Him as His disciples. Listen:
It was at this time He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles (Lk 6:12-13). Then Luke lists the twelve and identifies the last one as Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor (Lk 6:16).
If I had gone off to pray and had chosen someone who ended up betraying me I would have assumed I had made a mistake, that I had missed hearing Gods will on that particular name. But Jesus didnt make such mistakes, and His choice of Judas couldnt have been one because John tells us that Jesus knew from the beginning
who it was that would betray Him (Jn 6:64). That means He knew when He chose him what Judas would do. Now I can imagine someone hearing that and thinking it must mean Jesus deliberately set Himself up to be betrayed. But theres one fact that makes that impossible. The only way Jesus knew that information about Judas was because the Father revealed it to Him, and the only reason He chose Judas was because the Father told Him to choose him. If there was a plan to place a traitor among Jesus disciples, it was the Fathers plan. I guess someone had to do it, and the Father knew Judas would. So choosing Judas was no accident, but whats shocking is the way Jesus treated him. It appears He genuinely loved him, and that raises the biggest question of all, Why?
A dangerous moment (Jn 6:64-71)
Our Heavenly Father (Mt 5:43-48)
Essentially Judas was Jesus enemy, and heres what Jesus said about enemies:
You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Mt 5:43-45).
Ive always read these words with the assumption that God wanted me to be kind to people in order to wear down their resistance to the gospel. In other words, I was to love my enemy in order to win him or her to Christ. But in Judas case we watch Jesus be kind to someone He knows He will never win, ever; theres not a chance. And that forces me to rethink this command, and when I do I discover its goal is to change me not my enemy. That means in Gods mind, loving this way is not an evangelistic technique; its not a strategy designed to reach the hard-hearted, though it may indeed do so. Its about me becoming like Him, and Hes kind to everyone.
On another occasion Jesus said something similar. He said:
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them
But love your enemies and do good
and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men (Lk 6:32, 35).
Please notice that our reward is that we become like God, not that well win souls. Again, such kindness often does win souls, but Jesus doesnt even mention that possibility here. His focus was on the change that would take place in us. When we love those we know will never love us back, were becoming like our Heavenly Father.
Jesus and Judas (Jn 6:70)
When Jesus said, One of you is a devil no one knew who He meant. That fact alone tells us how He treated Judas. Clearly He treated him no differently than the rest of His disciples. He didnt shame Judas. In fact He even trusted him to handle their finances (Jn 12:6). At one point during His final week in Jerusalem He outsmarted Judas, so he wouldnt be able to report to the religious leaders where they were going to meet to take Passover (Lk 22:8-12). But He had so carefully guarded Judas identity over the course of their years together that not one of the disciples suspected him even during their final gathering in the upper room (Lk 22:23; Jn 13:27-30). During the meal Judas was seated next to Jesus at the table, and in a final appeal for repentance Jesus dipped a piece of unleavened bread into a dish of bitter herbs (maror) and offered it to him. Judas couldnt have missed the symbolism. The bitter herbs represented the bitterness of slavery in Egypt, and by presenting those herbs to Judas, Jesus was warning him that the betrayal he was planning would bring bitter bondage (Jn 13:26). Sadly instead of producing repentance, Jesus warning only infuriated Judas, and at that moment Satan
entered into him. And seeing this Jesus said, What you do, do quickly (Jn 13:27). His appeal to Judas failed, yet the fact He still tried to warn him, that He invited him to escape that bitter future, is amazing. He reached out one last time to a man He knew wouldnt listen. Why? To shame him? No! He did it because He loved him. Someday in the future, when God reviews Judas life, the record will show that Jesus loved him to the very end
even though He knew He would lose him.
What does this mean? It means God is kind even to those He knows will reject Him. And that reveals something very profound about God. To Him being kind is not a means to an end; its the expression of who He is, and therefore regardless of how humans might respond, He doesnt change. Hes good all the time. So if you and I are going to become like Him, we have to do what He does: We have to treat rebellious people, even a Judas, like He does, not be nice to someone only so long as we think we might win them to Christ and then grow cold if they prove to be stubbornly resistant. Our love for our enemies is to be sincere and endure to the end. Loving like that is an essential part of becoming like Him. How we love our enemies matters for us, even after it ceases to matter for them. Its one of the ways we suffer with Christ, and becoming like Him is a good enough reason even if there were no other.
But there is another reason. This kind of love does not go unnoticed. It makes a powerful statement about the depth of Gods gracemaybe even a stronger statement than if that person had been converted, because it strips away all suspicion of ulterior motives. Theres no self-interest in that kind of love. And its so unusual that wherever its practiced even future generations look back and marvel.
A common charge against Christians is that our love is phony. Its said that we only pretend to love in order to proselytize someone. But when we truly love our enemies
and dont stop even when it becomes apparent that they will never believe, that accusation is silenced, and our critics are confronted by the essential goodness of God.
A last chance
I think there was one more reason Jesus was kind to Judas. Its a painful truth to hear, but its very real. I heard someone say it this way: For those without Christ, this world is the closest theyll ever be to heaven. For those who know Christ, its the closest theyll ever be to hell. That perspective helps us to understand why God was so kind to Judas. Watching Jesus love Judas is like watching a parent lavishing love on a dying child. Yes, Judas was rebellious, and he would perish. But the Father created him with the intention that he would become a beloved son, and that Father still loved him and chose to be kind to him while He still could. Judas rejected that love and then opened himself to demonic possession and finally killed himself, apparently before he was able to repent, so its almost certain he stepped into a terrible eternity. Yet our Heavenly Father reached out to that tragic man through His Son to the end. And He still asks you and me to allow Him to use us to do the same for those like Judas in our generation.
Some people will never appreciate our love. Some may even laugh at us and consider us to be gullible fools. Some may cynically exploit our generosity, and yes, we may need to draw boundaries because we should only do what the Father asks of us rather than what unhealthy people demand of us. But the example of Jesus loving Judas teaches us that we must not turn kindness on and off; we must not use it to manipulate people. We must continue to love those who dont love us, and never will. We must continue to be kind to those who may never believe. Why?
1) For the Fathers sake, so He can show them His love while its still possible.
2) For the sake of those who are watching, so they can understand the depth of Gods grace.
3) For our own sake, so our hearts will be purified and become like our Heavenly Fathers until we too can love like His Son loves.
1) Without naming names, is there someone in your life who rejects your faith and is cold toward your love, yet God asks you to keep showing kindness? In what tangible ways do you show that person Gods love? How do you handle discouragement?
2) What is the greatest example of someone loving their enemy that youve ever seen? How has that example affected you?