In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.
Read Matthew 26: 14-17; Luke 22: 1-6
Judas Iscariot. His first name has become synonymous with one word: betrayal.
“What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” he asks the chief priests. “Thirty silver coins” was all they had; and all Judas apparently needed. So they watched him until he was able to hand Jesus over to them. Jesus knew it was coming, for when they were reclining at table, he foretold it by saying “Woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man!” Judas had a rather ambiguous reply, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered him, “Yes, it is you.”
Luke tells us that “Satan entered Judas” and that’s what led to his going to the chief priests and officers of the temple guard to discuss with them how he might betray Jesus. Of course they were delighted at the possibility that one of the Twelve would make such an offer. This made their job much easier. And, Judas became a bit richer. But only for a short time…those coins must have burned a hole in his pocket.
Since we know the rest of the story, we know that this denial killed Judas too…he was a wreck. For when he saw that Jesus was actually being condemned to death, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” So he threw the money into the temple and left to hang himself. How incredibly sad to be a betrayer, even one with penitent sorrow after all was said and done.
If you’ve ever been betrayed by someone you thought was for you, you know how much this hurts. One can only imagine how Jesus must have felt, despite this plot being a part of the God-intended meta-narrative. Judas was one of his Twelve disciples, who had traveled with him and watched him perform miracles of healing and grace. He had interacted with the other disciples daily and for a few very significant years. Most likely with obedience as his regular track record, this time he fell into the hands of evil and was used as a tool of Satan in this life-destroying betrayal.
Betrayals are rare but costly to any relationship. Like Judas, they most often come at the instigation of the enemy who wants to destroy every healthy relationship. And, in vulnerable moments, even the best intentioned person can be curtailed and led astray. When the enemy whispers in the ears of the most susceptible, his trickery can quickly create interpersonal upheaval and destruction.
But, we know Jesus didn’t treat Judas any differently as a result of his betrayal. We still see him with outstretched arms of love toward Judas, just as he always had offered. Behold Jesus exhibiting unconditional love toward his Judas; believe in the redemptive value of repentance; belong to those who are accused and betrayed because of Jesus; become strengthened in the power of Christ.