Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Known Betrayer

Continuing in the "things I love about Jesus" series, there's this: Judas.

It's a sad story, really. Jesus calls this man, Judas, to be one of His disciples. One of His core twelve. Judas spends years in the ministry with Jesus - going where He goes, doing what He does, eating the fish He eats, breaking the bread. And somewhere along the way, the selfish man gets a bitter idea: he will betray the very Man who has given Him this adventure. For a mere thirty pieces of silver.

Most of us have been betrayed. We know what it's like to have someone turn their back on us. We know the sting of the place where the once-strong friendship has been ripped from our hearts, this open wound bleeding with the pain of betrayal. And we often interject that into this story. How betrayed Jesus must have felt! How terrible for one of your best friends, one of your twelve, to just turn on you like that! 

Except...John 6:64. Jesus knew from the beginning those who wouldn't believe and the one who would betray him.

Jesus knew all along. Before He uttered the fateful words, "Judas! Come follow me!" He knew that Judas would betray Him. 

But He called Judas anyway.

That's what I love about Jesus. He doesn't invest His time solely in the faithful. He doesn't guard Himself against those who would have less to do with Him, who would even hurt Him, who would sell Him out. He doesn't protect Himself from what might happen, but instead always wholly gives Himself to what might be. I think that's what He was doing in Judas.

He knew Judas would betray Him; there was no changing that. According to the Scriptures, it must be done. But He also knew that three years' time with the man might be of some benefit to Judas' soul. After all, how can you betray a man you don't love? If you don't love him, it's tattle-telling at best. With love, it becomes betrayal. It was love that made Judas regret his action. It was love that drove him away from those final hours of Jesus, which ironically brought him back to his Lord.

Have you thought about the parallel? Judas betrays Jesus and is overcome by remorse for his actions. It draws him away to a quiet place where, by force of love, he cannot tolerate the separation he's just created between himself and the Teacher who has faithfully guided him these past few years. By love, he gives himself up, hoping for relief from that separation.

Meanwhile, Jesus is betrayed and is overcome by sorrow for the world. It pulls Him toward a quiet place where, by the force of love, He cannot tolerate the separation between Himself and Creation. By love, He gives Himself up - alone, separated, abandoned on a cross - with the hope of relieving that separation.

By calling Judas, in a way, He created a way for the sinner to come back to Him, too. The same is true today.

He calls us, not because we are faithful but because simply we are. He calls us knowing that some of us will betray Him, that some of us will turn our backs. He calls us despite our flaws and gives us the chance to love Him, knowing that at any moment, love can turn away. That's the freedom of love. Yet He calls us and welcomes us in and makes us part of His inner circle and it is only by our love that we are able to betray Him. And then by our love, we are drawn back. 

And by His love, He receives us. It's just beautiful.

So on the days when I feel like I've let God down, in some way, shape, or form, I think about Judas, who was called anyway. I look in the mirror and see the Known Betrayer, who has been called anyway and invited in, so that in love, I can feel the separation...and by love, He has made a way back.

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