We have spoken and written much in this series about the incredible resistance demonstrated by the religious leadership in Israel to believe in Jesus as the Christ. Even in the face of undeniable miracles, they were unaffected.
Yet even more startling than this is the unbelief of Judas. Here was a man who witnessed everything, not just in public, but also of the private ministry of Jesus. He truly saw it all, but in the end he was likewise unaffected in terms of faith and commitment.
This would appear to be also impossible. Yet it was true. Surely he was a self-centered person who would not yield control of his heart and life. We might speculate that many elements of the ministry of Jesus were attractive to him, though perhaps he had political hopes of a Roman overthrow. And when seeing that Jesus was about spiritual ministry and renewal rather than being focused upon material world priorities, Judas may have become disenchanted.
Though it was never a surprise to Jesus that one of them was not truly “on the team” and would ultimately be a betrayer, the picture we see of the whole group would seem to indicate that the other 11 did not see this coming. When Jesus said that one of them would turn against him, it is not as if all eyes looked at Judas. It would be interesting to know which of the other 11 was paired with him when they were sent out two by two.
Another curiosity centers around why Jesus would select and have such a duplicitous person among the inner circle. We cannot know for certain. It does demonstrate the magnanimous grace of the universal reach of the message of Christ. For Judas … for any … who do not choose to believe, it is not because there is a lack of love or opportunity to believe and follow wholeheartedly. It has rather to do with the dark grip of sin upon their own lives.
A great sadness that I have felt in pastoral ministry is to have seen more than a few who appeared to possess faith and commitment choose to at some point walk the other way … to even deny the truth. I do not believe this means that they genuinely had a faith that they chose to deny, but that they rather never truly possessed it in the first place. People have the ability to play the role of a follower of Christ, even for an extended time. However, the day comes when perseverance wears out and the true nature of the heart is revealed. And in that it happened even amongst the disciples should make it as no surprise that rejection of faith can occur in our day and among people we knew and even served alongside.
Luke 1:1 – Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2 and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5 They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 6 He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.