Read John 13:18-30.
The Original Betrayer
Jesus and his disciples are at his last supper where Jesus has just finished washing his disciples’ feet, including the feet of Judas. After the foot-washing, Jesus says that he’s just given an example of how we are to serve each other, and love each other. And then he says that if we understand him, and if we do what he wants us to do, we’ll be blessed. (see previous post from the book of John series, How The God Of The Universe Came To Serve)
But then he qualifies these statements. He says, “I’m not saying this applies to all of you. I know who I’ve chosen but the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I’m telling you this now, before it comes down, so when it does happen, you’ll believe I’m the one. And whoever receives someone sent by the one receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (see Psalm 41:9)
Then Jesus becomes troubled in spirit, and he says, “I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
The disciples look around at each other blinking, because they have no idea who Jesus is talking about. John is next to Jesus at the table, so Peter motions to him to ask Jesus who it is. So John asks him, “Lord, who is it?”
And Jesus says, “It’s the one who I will give this piece of bread to after I dip it.”
Then he dips the piece of bread and gives it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. And after Judas takes the bread, Satan enters into him.
Then Jesus says to Judas, “What you’re going to do, do quickly.”
But no one at the table knows why Jesus says this to him. Some think Jesus is telling him to go buy something they need for the Passover feast, or that he’s telling him to give something to the poor, because Judas was the keeper of the moneybag. After Jesus tells him to go do what he’s going to do, Judas leaves immediately.
And it is night.
My Friend Chris’s Betrayer
I have a friend who was betrayed by a co-worker. This friend, who I’ll call Chris, was accused of embezzling, by his friend and co-worker, who I’ll call Richard. But the accusation had nothing to do with embezzling really. Chris works hard, communicates well, and he has that “it” factor too. So it’s not surprising that Chris experienced a lot of success at work. He was significantly more successful than his friend Richard. And Richard had a problem with that. Richard had a problem called professional jealousy, and he didn’t handle it very well. He falsely accused my friend Chris of embezzling money from the company.
But that wasn’t the only problem. Richard was very upfront about his being a Christian. And since the time of that accusation, my friend Chris has sworn off anything to do with church, or organized Christianity, or Christianity in general.
Chris is angry with Christianity, because of Richard.
My Least Favorite Parable
Chris’s betrayal, and Chris’s betrayer, bring us to my least favorite parable in the bible. It’s the parable of the weeds. Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like a farmer who planted his crop of wheat in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, the farmer’s enemy came and sowed seeds of weeds among the seeds of wheat.
Then when the wheat came up and bore grain, the weeds came up also. So the people working the farm went to the farmer and said, “Didn’t you sow good seed in your field? How is it then that it has weeds?”
The farmer said, “An enemy has done this.”
The workers said, “So do you want us to go and pull up the weeds then?”
The farmer said, “No, because when you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until the harvest. At that time I’ll tell the reapers to gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, and to gather the wheat into my barn.” (see Matthew 13:24-30)
Jesus Explains My Least Favorite Parable
Jesus explains this parable to his disciples. He says the one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world. And the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom of God. The weeds, Jesus says, are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.
“He who has ears, let him hear,” is how Jesus ends his explanation. (see Matthew 13:36-43)
So I have a hard time with this parable. In my analytical mind, I envision how much better the world would be if God pulled up those “weeds” just as soon as they were identified. If he did, I reason, then pedophiles, and pastors asking for new airplanes, and people who call themselves Christian for political reasons would be removed from public consideration when unbelievers evaluate the Christian faith. Because if those people really believed the words of Jesus, they would never behave the way they do.
But then I read the story of Judas.
The Invisible Betrayer Among Us
When I read about Judas in John chapter 13, I can’t help but notice that the disciples had no idea who the betrayer was. When Jesus said, “one of you will betray me,” the disciples looked around at each other blankly. In my mind I can hear them thinking to themselves, “What the heck? Who could it be?”
Peter has no idea so he motions for John to ask Jesus.
John has no idea so he asks.
Even after Jesus dipped the piece of bread and gave it to Judas, when Jesus told Judas to go do what he was going to do, the disciples were still confused as to who the betrayer was.
Some thought Judas was going to buy something needed for them to celebrate Passover, or that he was going to give a gift to the poor.
They still recognized Judas as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ.
Even at this late juncture, they recognized Judas as a Christian!
And then Judas, still recognized as a Christian, left to do the work of Jesus’ enemy.
“And it was night.”
The Wisdom Of The Farmer And The Eyesight (And Insight) Of The Workers
So this farmer, he says not to pull up the weeds. And I have such a hard time with it. It may be that Richard, the one who accused my friend Chris of embezzling, breaks my heart because of it. I don’t know Richard at all. Maybe the day he made that accusation was just a very bad day for Richard. Or maybe he thought he had accurate information on which to base his accusation.
Or maybe Richard is a weed.
If you’re Chris and your reading this right now, or if, like Chris, you’ve been hurt by someone who identifies as a Christian, I hope you’ll consider that possibility. It could be that Richard isn’t a Christ follower at all. It could be that Richard identifies himself as a Christian for cultural reasons, or political reasons, or to meet the expectations of family.
And here’s something for all of us to consider: Richard broke my heart when he turned my good dear friend Chris away from Jesus. That makes me want to take him out. That makes me want to uproot him like a weed.
But I can’t. And in light of what we see here concerning Judas, it doesn’t make sense for me to approach the situation that way.
Because if the original eleven disciples couldn’t tell which of them was working for Jesus’ enemy, I sure won’t be able to.
It’s up to the farmer.
It’s up to the Father.
Pray for my friend Chris.
Details of the story about Chris and Richard have been changed to protect the privacy of those mentioned.
In Sheep’s Clothing image via Josh McGinn – Creative Commons
… not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance( 2 Peter 3:9)
Richard needs prayer too.
“Richard needs prayer too.” So true JP! Thank you for that!
Kurt, I love the devotion. Thanks for the insight. I have concluded many times in my walk with the Lord that “it is me” and frankly it has been many times. I am thankful that God keeps running towards me despite my sin. I confess that I am a weed puller by nature but it is only in the past five years or so in pastoral ministry that I see the wisdom of letting the wheat and tares to grow together. I can trust my Heavenly Father to do the right thing because my view is always marred. Y sin and confusion of knowing only part of the story. Keep up the good work!