“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)” — John 6:63-64 ESV
One of the great paradoxes of the faith is that Jesus was fully God and fully man. Being fully God meant that Jesus had access to information. He knew the heart of Man, and, individually, the hearts of men. We see this when Phillip brought Nathanael to see Jesus. “Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit'” (John 1:47 ESV)! Jesus could see into the heart of Nathanael.
This paradox is played out most poignantly in His relationship with Judas Iscariot. Our text points out that Jesus knew from the beginning who would betray Him. This means that Jesus selected Judas to be in his “small group” knowing full well that Judas would steal from Him (John 12:6) and betray Him to death! Jesus gave Judas 24/7 access to the Son of God for 3 1/2 years. He told Judas “the secrets of the kingdom of heaven” that were kept from all but the disciples (Matthew 13:11).
Not only did Jesus allow Judas access, but there is nothing in the scriptures that gives the impression that Jesus treated him any differently than the other disciples! As fully God, Jesus knew that Judas would betray him; as fully man, Jesus had emotions and passions as we have. This to me is every bit as powerful and miraculous as the raising of Lazarus, as turning water to wine, as healing a man who was blind from birth!
Even in betrayal Jesus treated Judas with grace. Before the Last Supper Jesus took water and a towel and washed the feet of Judas, the feet that, just a short time later, would lead an angry crowd from the chief priests to a garden where Jesus was in such agony that His “sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44 ESV).
Sometimes, as we walk our path of discipleship, we will face our own betrayals, even from within the church. While it is unlikely that betrayal will be to the death, it hurts nonetheless. Knowing the sting of betrayal has a tendency to make us hesitant to forgive, and hesitant to trust.
Our natural tendency, one which Jesus surely had, and brought into submission, is to shy away, and to treat the other person differently–“once bitten, twice shy”. It’s difficult to forgive even one sin against us sometimes, which is why Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him” (Matthew 18:21 ESV)? (I think Peter had someone in particular in mind when he asked this question!). If you don’t know His answer to this question, check it out here.
If Jesus, knowing full well that Judas was going to betray Him, could treat him with the same love and compassion that He had for the other 11 disciples, how should that influence the way we live our lives? How should we respond to those who betray our trust?
Being a Christian, and exhibiting forgiveness, compassion, and grace, doesn’t mean that we are doormats. On the contrary, when someone has wiped their feet on us (maybe you could say we’re washing their feet!), we stand up and brush the dust and dirt from the rest of them as well. Doormats don’t have a choice; they express no aspirations of being either more or less than what they are. As Christians, we are concerned about the whole person, and if they wipe their feet on us in betrayal we can rise to the occasion showing the same kind of love and grace that Jesus showed Judas.
**The image is my own.