With this entry, our series on “Faces Around the Cross” takes a turn in a new direction. From here on out, our focus will be solely on events surrounding the death of Christ.
It is now Wednesday of Passion Week. The whole city of Jerusalem is in turmoil over this man called Jesus. Who is he? Where did he come from? How does he work his miracles? And the greatest question—Is he really the promised Messiah, as some say?
Meanwhile, the religious leaders bide their time, looking for an opportunity to arrest him. Filled with hatred and envy, they have already decided that Jesus must die. Getting rid of Jesus would keep the peace and also rid them of a man they cannot control and they cannot defeat. But how will they do it?
Enter Judas, the most mysterious of all the disciples of Jesus.
As far as we can tell, Judas saw all the miracles Jesus performed. He was in the boat when Jesus calmed the storm. He saw Jesus turn water into wine. He helped pick up the leftovers after Jesus fed the 5000 with five loaves and two fish. He must have been standing there when Lazarus came out of the tomb. Not only that, he heard Jesus give the Sermon on the Mount. He listened to his parables. Judas was there when Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
He heard it all.
He saw it all.
He walked with Christ every day.
He was one of Jesus’ handpicked men.
He knew the Son of God personally.
Make that list as long as you like. Add one other fact. No one ever suspected him. Peter never said to John, “Hey, that guy Judas seems a little shifty to me.” Bartholomew evidently never wondered about his motives. James never suspected he was pilfering from the money bag. As late as the Last Supper, when Jesus openly predicted that someone would betray him, no one pointed at Judas and said, “He’s a traitor.”
We’ll have more to say about Judas in the days to come. But for the moment, let’s focus on the fact that no one suspected him. What happened to him could happen to me. What he did, I could do. If I think otherwise, then I have missed the point of this story. Judas is a lot like us and we're a lot like him. In fact, the more religious we are, the more like Judas we are. After all, you can't get much more religious than being an apostle. He was as "in" as any person could ever be.
And yet he betrayed the Lord.
Is Judas alive today? No, but his spirit still lives. It lives in all those who play the religious game. It lives in those who come to church for what they can get out of it. It lives in all those who are pretending a commitment to Jesus Christ that isn't real in their hearts. It lives in all those who just go through the Christian motions. It lives in those who come to church, give their money, follow the rules, and yet don't love the Lord Jesus.
There’s a little Judas in all of us. If we think anything different, then we’re more like Judas than we know.
Spirit of God, search my heart and reveal any false way within me. May my Christian profession be matched by genuine love for Jesus. Amen.