It doesn't take long for the disciples to start thinking that it's time for them to replace Judas among their ranks. Where they were once twelve, they are now only eleven, and surely, since Christ called twelve, He intended for twelve to do His work.
But as we saw yesterday, this was probably not Jesus' idea.
Not only is there no indication in the Bible record that Jesus suggested this course of action to His disciples (which He had plenty of time to do between resurrection and ascension if this was truly what He desired), but this would be contrary to the entire testimony of Jesus.
First, it would suggest that Jesus chose Judas only for his role as betrayer. We know that He chose the disciple knowing this would be the one who would betray him, but is this all that Judas is good for? Hardly so. The fact that we have record of Judas as the disciples' treasurer demonstrates this. For why would you give the betrayer the books to keep, if there were nothing more to him than betrayal? Why would you let him play such a crucial role in the entire ministry, if he has but one role, and a devious one at that? Wouldn't you stuff him in the back somewhere, let him hang around, tolerate him until it's time for him to do his thing?
More than that, what does this say for the rest of us? We are always told that God has a plan for us. That God is using us in some way. What if....what if we're only betrayers? If Jesus chose Judas only so that the disciple would betray Him and then set out to replace the disciple among the faithful, we could never be certain of our own relationship with Jesus. He might simply be using us. He might require something wicked of us and then discard us, replace us. Forget us. Mightn't He? If God has this overarching plan to use Judas only as a betrayer and then replace him with someone better, how can we ever be certain of the plan that God has for us?
Our modern Christianity here interjects and attempts to make the argument that this wasn't God's original plan, that it was Judas who rejected his own place among the disciples and forced God to replace him. There are several serious theological problems with this idea, not the last of which is that Jesus clearly knows that Judas is going to betray Him; it's not like Judas' act came as a surprise.
But let's say Judas does somehow reject his own place in the structure by his act of betrayal. Let's say Judas does turn his back. Did not Jesus just die on the Cross to redeem sinners? Isn't that what this whole thing was about? Even if Judas turns his back, is not Jesus able to redeem him?
Judas' last act on earth was not an act of betrayal; it was an act of contrition. He returned to the temple elders, attempted to give them back the money that they had given him. He went to a secluded place and hanged himself. These are the acts of a contrite man, not a hardened betrayer. And here we are, all too willing to say, "Too bad." Too bad, Judas. You were the betrayer. There is no hope for you.
If there is no hope for Judas, there is no hope for any of us. If there is no redemption for Judas, there is no redemption for any of us. For we are all betrayers. We are all sinners. We all fall short of the glory of God. Judas' last act on earth was contrition. And we, who with contrite hearts beg God for mercy, are unwilling to offer this disciple any? Thank God that He is Lord and we are not.
Thank God that there is redemption for Judas. For that means there is redemption for me, too. And for you.
The disciples were quick to want to replace the betrayer, to make themselves twelve again. But I don't think this was Jesus' idea. I don't think Jesus ever saw less than twelve. He had a plan for Judas from the beginning, and I think that's still the plan. Despite the seeming end of the betrayer in the Gospels, I don't think we've seen the last of Judas. I think we'll see him again....
Where? What is God's plan for Judas? Stay tuned....