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Midweek Devotionals

Published weekly on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays.

Midweek Devotional 8/23/2016

Robert Chen

Dear Church:


John 6:60-71

60When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?" 61But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, "Does this offend you? 62Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64But among you there are some who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father."

66Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" 68Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."70Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil." 71He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him.

No one names their kid 'Judas' for a very good reason, which I don't need to explain. It's like naming your kid 'Lucifer'. Actually, 'Judas' in Greek is Ιούδας, which is a transliterated form of the Hebrew, Judah, ידה, which is much more common. In fact, there are six men in the NT named 'Judas'. One of them in our English Bibles is known as 'Jude', who is the brother of Jesus. Obviously you don't want to confuse Judas, the traitor of Jesus, with Judas, the brother of Jesus. Hence, the difference between 'Judas' and 'Jude'.


The other thing we can notice is that you don't get any clear, early signs that Judas is going to betray Jesus -- at least the way the Gospels tell it. You don't get any comments from the other disciples, one elbowing another, whispering something like, "Take a look at that Judas kid. Something about his shifty eyes I don't like. His hand always on that money bag...." 


With one exception, Jesus. From the very beginning of picking Judas as a disciple, Jesus knew Judas' heart. That it was divided. Jesus never trusted Judas. Because of Jesus' knowledge of Judas' heart and the fact that Jesus never trusted Judas, what Judas did in turning Jesus over to the Roman authorities is not, strictly speaking, an act of betrayal of a friend, because Judas and Jesus were never trusted-trusting friends. Of course one can "betray" non-friends, colleagues, even one's country. (The disgraced American swimmer "betrayed" the US Swim Team, his country, the Olympic ideals, the hospitality of the Brazilians, simple truth, common decency, good manners, and so many other things.) The betrayal of Judas was based, according to the Bible, not on some idealistic notion that Jesus would be a certain kind of Messiah, hoping that Jesus would act decisively against the Romans if Jesus was cornered (this is the hypothesis of a well-known Biblical scholar, William Barclay). According to the Bible, greed was at root of the betrayal. 


The larger point I like to highlight is not really centered on Judas. The larger point is Jesus' willingness and wisdom in working with flawed people. Jesus is not "played" by Judas. Jesus is never a "victim" to someone's devious plans. God the Father reveals to Jesus how the cross and redemption will come about. Jesus, the Son of God, agrees with the Father about the course of action. This course of action is not a necessity. It is something that both the Father and the Son agree to, voluntarily, out of love and out of hope, for the sake of salvation.


This Jesus, our Risen Lord, is still willing and full of wisdom. His friends -- all of us -- are never being "played" by evil people. We are never "victims." Followers of Jesus can be taken advantage of, they can even be killed, and they can be harmed in many other ways. But we are never at the mercy of people, evil or otherwise. It is God who is ultimately in control. 


In affirming God's ultimately in control, we don't accept everything that comes our way and say that it's God's will. If that were the case, no disciple of Christ should fight injustice, pray for change, advocate for the poor, and work for those in need. What we need is wisdom and discernment as we deal with people with divided hearts and evil intentions. We are not called to fear them. Like Paul, who saw above King Agrippa a greater authority, and like David, who saw above King Saul a greater King, we ought to see above those who might be against us, a greater Lord who is for us. Indeed, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31). And with that sure knowledge, we can confidently move forward in God's will for our lives and for others. 


Let's pray: Lord Jesus, we thank you for your friendship with us. We thank you that in every situation you are sovereign and with every person we deal with you are sovereign. And that you are always for us. May we trust in your sovereign wisdom and your willingness to work out your good will for your glory and for our good ends. In your name, amen.