Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him. John 6:70-71 NASB
There are so many lessons and themes in John 6, they are miraculous, dramatic, confrontational, separating, about becoming, and then the chapter concludes with the real life, present day lesson being lived out directly in front of them: Judas.
I personally have not spent much time on Judas Iscariot. His life did not end well. To be the face and name of the most notable betrayal in history is truly a place of infamy no one should aspire to. Yet, the lessons he offers are significant.
One of the most important is about becoming: every day our heart leans in or leans away from our passionate God. We are getting warmer or cooler. There is no middle ground. The mystery of godliness is incredible — but just as impacting is the mystery of iniquity. We are becoming like him or like our adversary. We become what we behold. That’s the incredible thing about Judas. He had the model of human perfection living out his life in front of him. It would be a feast to the normal man. And to the disciples, it was. Their hearts burned yet were enlivened with his words, even these difficult words. Yet somehow, Judas’ attention was focused on something else. He was with Jesus and the other eleven, but not really. He started with the same promises and opportunity that all the disciples had, yet there is a differentiator: where he chose to look. Not with his eyes, but with his attention, heart, and focus. It makes me ask myself, where will I look today? Which well will I drink from?
Another lesson may be found in the separation taking place in John 6. Differentiation is an important process in biology, chemistry, farming and in relationships. Is it a heart cell or a liver cell? Is it an oxygen molecule or CO2? Is it wheat or a weed? Jesus was deliberately creating separation at this point — distinguishing the good from the bad, faith from unbelief, human motivation from heaven motivation, the love of God from the love of self. The crowd that was about to crown him king left him. The hungry zealots who chased him across the lake decided to follow no further. And even many of Jesus’ disciples (beyond the 12) couldn’t reconcile his words any longer and departed. Yet, even at the conclusion there is still one who has not left, and he should have. One tenacious cancer cell that the radiation missed. One tare that was not pulled. One fly in the soup. The process of choosing to part ways is very personal. The refiner’s fire. The gardener pruning the plant or pulling the weed. The surgeon’s knife will cut off our very flesh and blood to save us from betrayal. It is difficult but necessary. I pray I have the courage to make these tough choices.
And what about the lesson that success may not be possible even if I do everything right? One of Christ’s missions was to keep all 12 disciples and engender faith within them. Sustaining, life-giving faith that would keep them in the most challenging times… even in untimely death. And yet he lost one. Jesus lost one! If the perfect Son, the perfectly-connected-to-the-Father Son of God failed at winning a heart, what about me? What he asks me to do, I will do with all my heart, but I must let go of my success and failure, leaving it in my Father’s hands. The result I get from my effort, may not have been the goal anyway. I assume much. And even if a failure is because of me, he will work for good in it — just like he does everything.
Jesus said earlier:
For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father. John 6:65 NASB
This sounds like those who follow are mysteriously predetermined. Mysterious, yes. Predetermined, no. The granting is to the qualified. The lesson in front of us is that Judas was selected and qualified at one point. The Father and the Son selected him. Jesus spent all night praying about his choice of disciples — talking to his dad about it. He was one of the twelve, the “in crowd.” Yet when all was said and done, he disqualified himself. The Father “granted” that Judas come to Jesus. But something changed and the “granting” was revoked. The granting was faith. And action. I believe and I follow. And Judas started well, but chose not to finish. He chose, so the Father also chose… to separate him. He got a heavenly pink slip.
So what is the lesson for me today?
What is the point at which I will stumble and fall backward? What is the circumstance, the words, the life event that will cause me to question the intent and love of my God? On earth, what possibility, what lottery of events or what one in five million chance will happen to me that will make me stub my foot? It’s no accident that people follow Christ. It’s a choice. One that I must make every day. I’m either hot or cold. Anything in between makes me a target for my adversary. He will leverage every misstep I make, and accuse God before me, just as rigorously as he accuses me before God. This walk with Christ is no summer stroll, it’s a life and death battle. Daily.
I love what one of the patriots at the time of the American Revolution penned:
THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Thomas Paine, Common Sense, December 1776
To end on a lighter note, when thinking about Judas, I love how the de-motivational poster produced by Despair.com puts it:
It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others