Hand-picking the Devil

Then Jesus shocked them with these words:  “I have hand-picked you to be my twelve, knowing that one of you is the devil.” Jesus was referring to Judas, the locksmith, son of Simon, for he knew that Judas, one of his chosen disciples, was getting ready to betray him.                                                    

John 6:70-71 (The Passion Translation)

So raise your hands if you’ve ever felt the whipping sting of betrayal? Yea, not fun. Betrayal usually means that someone very close to you–someone with whom you’ve shared secrets, dreams, and hopes; man, someone you’ve done life with–broke intimate trust and pooped all over that life. We don’t usually say that a stranger or new acquaintance betrayed us. We get betrayed by colleagues, friends, business partners, teammates, squad, moms, brothers, lovers, husbands, wives. And, for Jesus, one of his hand-selected 12. One of his squad betrayed not only Jesus, but…the whole squad.

What continually amazes me though is that Jesus knew that some day, three years down the line, Judas would hand him over to the council to be crucified. Yet for every single day of those 3 years, Jesus entrusted the money to Judas. Jesus loved on Judas. Jesus taught Judas. Jesus allowed Judas to eat, sleep, walk, and do daily life with him and the squad, whom Jesus deeply loved as well.

What kind of crazy lover do you have to be to let someone whom you know is going to betray you  (cos you’re omniscient God and the hearts of men are not hidden from you) into your life like that? Into your covering of anointing, blessing, presence, miraculous, supernatural love?

As if this fact were not astonishing enough, the careful consideration Jesus has for his squad wrecks me too. He told his 12 that one of them “is the devil” and that he knows this, but nonetheless he is still hand-picking that one. Why would he shock them this way? Why tell them? Why make them all anxious like that of an impending betrayal not only of Jesus, but of all of them?

Remember, the Hebrews had been waiting for their Messiah, the Anointed Christos who would free them from Empire and Oppression for a really really really long time. Like, waiting for a REALLY long time. And the 12 who stuck by Jesus after He made the crazy declaration “eat my body, drink my blood” (John 6:47-59; more on this in a forthcoming post) knew by revelation of the Spirit of God that Jesus was the Promised One. So they were ready for revolution. Whatever ideas they had about the coming reign of the Kingdom of God, they were convinced that Jesus was the Chosen One to bring it. They left everything to join this revolution. Because they believed in a Man named Jesus. Granted, their ideas of what the reign of the Kingdom of God would look like were off–and only after Jesus resurrected & ascended did they start to get it–but they believed in Jesus & they followed Him.

So imagine what they must have felt when they saw Judas betray Jesus with a kiss. Imagine…these misfits and outcasts of Jewish society who sacrificed everything to follow this one-day King…to see him captured, imprisoned, tried & found guilty, whipped, beaten, tortured, then crucified to die the most ignoble death on a cross. This Man they heralded as the Messiah! How could he DIE? And, at the hands of one of the squad! When Judas betrayed Jesus, he also betrayed the entire squad.

Imagine their heart breaking in ways that most of us may never, thankfully, have to experience.

And, today, this is what wrecks me about this passage (John 6:70-71):  Jesus foresaw this sorrow his disciples would one day face. And He said these shocking words to them so that when the time came and their heart and dreams and revolutionary visions shattered, they might, hopefully, remember and find a measure of solace in knowing that if Jesus knew Judas would betray them all, and yet still loved Judas, perhaps they too could find it in their hearts to not hold on to anger and hatred and unforgiveness toward Judas. Perhaps in the middle of their world crashing down around them, they would be able to at the very least keep their hearts free from all the darkness that can overwhelm us when we feel the whipping sting of betrayal.

The precision, tenderness, strength and wisdom of Jesus’ shepherding love wrecks me. He didn’t selfishly think about his own heart breaking because of Judas’ betrayal, but his first priority was his friends. His beloveds. To prepare them for the coming days. To give them words alive with life and hope to sustain them through watching his crucifixion and the spiritual, political, emotional tumult surrounding that momentous crux in human history.

In addition, Jesus’ absolute ferocity and unshakable trust in Father trembles my heart. Jesus chose Judas. I’m not saying go and purposely look for close friends who’ll one day betray you, then give them complete access to your life, and then you’ll be more like Jesus–that’s…not wise. The point is, nothing scared this Man from Galilee. He was righteous and always in the perfect will of God His Loving Father who loves with a Perfect Love. And when this Loving Father God said, “I’m giving you Judas. Choose him to be in your Twelve. And by the way, he’s an adversary-enemy who will hand you over to be crucified. Love him anyway,” in perfect trusting obedience, Jesus did. Even to the point of choosing a betrayer to do life with, to the point of death on a cross, Jesus trusted Father God. And, because of God’s Perfect Love, Jesus also prepared His other disciples so they wouldn’t be irreparably ruined by the devastation of Judas’ betrayal.

Goals, to Love like that. To be like Him.

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