Matthew 26:49-50 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for.”
The Japanese has Jesus saying, “Friend, why have you come?” which the NIV gives as an alternative translation in a footnote. In either case, it is undisputed that Jesus spoke to Judas as a “friend.” I think we would have trouble doing that, knowing as Jesus did what Judas was doing. Jesus knew that Judas had been embezzling money that had been given to the ministry (John 12:6) and here he was making the ultimate betrayal, but He still called him, “Friend.” I’m sure it broke His heart that Judas was making these choices. After all, Jesus had a younger brother named Judas! (We usually just call him Jude.) That Jesus didn’t expel him from the group much earlier is an illustration, I think, of Jesus’ parable of the weeds in the wheat field. (Matthew 13:24-30) Even Jesus wasn’t going to rip Judas out of the group ahead of time, so to speak. Also, Jesus knew that Judas was an integral part of the fulfillment of several Scriptures about the Messiah, and He wasn’t about to interfere with that. Judas is in many ways an enigma. We can’t grasp how someone could be that close to the Son of God and yet betray Him in this way. That said, we too are prone to betray Him in countless smaller ways, failing to speak up when others use His name in vain, failing to obey when He is urging us to do something, doing things that we know are not pleasing to Him. There is no indication that Judas availed himself of God’s grace, since he took his own life rather than throw himself on the mercy of God, but I am convinced the option was still there up to the last minute, and he could have been saved had that been his choice. Judas is an extreme example of the conflict between predestination and free will. Some would say that he was predestined to do what he did, since it had been prophesied in detail ahead of time, but at every step it was his free choice; God just knew what he would choose, and told prophets about it ahead of time. This is also the ultimate example of God using vile evil for incredible good. (Romans 8:28) There was nothing good about what Judas did, but the result was salvation made available for all mankind.
I think I realized a long time ago that Judas was no more human than I was, and that I am capable of just as much evil as he was. I am to keep watch over myself, asking God to keep me in line and striving to be obedient as He does so. I am to rejoice that He calls me, “Friend,” as well, (John 15:15) but never to take that for granted or presume on it. After all, He called Judas, Friend. As the old chorus goes, “I love Thee, I love Thee, and that Thou dost know, but how much I love Thee my actions will show.” I am to live like the friend of Jesus that He calls me to be.
Father, thank You for this reminder. I hardly ever think of Judas except during Passion Week, but he is a good object lesson. May I continue to grow more and more to be like my Lord, and less like His betrayer, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!