I have been contemplating the lyrics of a song by Michael Card regarding the betrayal of Jesus.
Only a friend can betray a friend
A stranger has nothing to gain
Only a friend comes close enough
To ever cause so much pain.
Those words have echoed in my ears since I was a teenage boy. They haunted me, actually. I have spent hours and hours mulling over Judas’ horrible act.
Jesus let Judas into His circle of friends. Intentionally, Jesus called Judas to follow Him. He called Judas just like He called each of the other disciples. They broke bread together. They told jokes. They stood up against the powerful together. They walked. They taught the way of God together. They sang. They cast out demons together. They were friends. Real friends.
We can speculate Judas was different from the rest. We imagine we would have seen him. Maybe he was aloof. Maybe he didn’t pull his weight. We speculate that way because we want Judas to be easily differentiated from the others. He was not. Judas sat at the table with Jesus–he dipped his hand in the same bowl as Jesus. They were friends.
When Judas betrayed Jesus, he did so with a kiss. A sign of respect. The greeting of a friend. But that kiss was not as it might have appeared. Judas actually used the sweet greeting of a friend to betray Him into the hands of the soldiers.
Somewhere along the path of discipleship, Judas realized his relationship with Jesus was valuable. It was a commodity he could trade to get something more valuable. Power. Favor. Money.
He traded human life for money to spend, favor to call upon, for power to wield. Power over the people of God–maybe even power over God, himself. He would never have said it that way. Betrayers don’t.
They somehow twist their betrayal to be a virtue. They will do this damnable thing, but, someday people will understand. They will strike down this shepherd and claim the sheep as their own–the sheep will thank them.
It didn’t work out that way for Judas. There was just too much guilt. Perhaps, at some point, Judas realized his friendship with Jesus was more valuable than everything he traded it for. Maybe that is why, in the end, Judas did not even enjoy the fruits of his betrayal.
Perhaps, when we see betrayers betray and then go on to enjoy the spoil of their betrayal, we should go a little easier on Judas. He wasn’t as bad as some. At least he realized the gravity of betrayal.