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How Could Judas Betray Him?

Judas Iscariot was close to Jesus physically. He heard the Lord teach. He saw Him walk on water. He travelled with Jesus and ate with Him. He was only inches away from God in the flesh, but his heart was far from Him.

Jesus knew from the beginning that Judas would betray Him (John 6:64). “Did not I choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:64). Judas knew that the Lord had him figured. How could he not have known? Jesus identified him on that fateful night when He handed him a piece of bread and said, “What you do, do quickly” (John 13:27).

No matter how close Jesus was to Judas’ body, He could not get close to his heart. That was a choice only Judas could make. He was near the Lord yet far from Him.

How Judas could be so close to the Lord and turn against Him puzzles us. We know he had free will, but we have trouble imagining what went through his mind. Still, there are lessons we can learn from what the traitor to our Lord did.

In our families we experience the most intimate of earthly bonds. Husbands and wives share a physical and emotional closeness unlike any other relationship. But sometimes one is a Christian and the other is not (I Pet. 3:1-2; I Cor. 7:12-13). If Judas could be around the Lord Himself and yet not agree with Him, it should not surprise us when this happens in homes today.

A mother carries her child for nine months inside her. How could two people be closer? Sometimes the child has a close relationship with her throughout life. But that child may grow up and rebel against her and the Lord. When this happens to Christian parents, it doesn’t matter if that son or daughter is a step away or a thousand miles away. It is true that if that child is present you can have more of an influence. But in either case that grown child has free will, and there is only so much influence you can have regardless of how close you are or how much time you spend together.

In other situations, it is good that we can be near others in body and yet be distant in mind. In crowded places we never know who is sitting or standing next to us—thieves, drug dealers, pedophiles or murderers. At other times we know the people around us are bad but we can’t avoid being near them because of work and other situations. In either case we don’t have to act like they do. We can choose not to think and talk as they do.

This is no excuse to be careless in our associations with others. Solomon wrote, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed” (Prov. 13:20). What is the difference between just being around bad people and hanging out with them? It is a matter of choice. Choosing the wrong friends is not simply being in the same room with them. It’s being close to them in spirit and wanting to be with them. It’s a matter of the heart.

No matter where you are or what circumstance you are in, you can draw near to God. Paul said, “He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27). He said that to a group of idolators! How much more is this true of Christians? “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

We sometimes wonder what it was like for the apostles to see and hear and even touch Jesus. But we can be just as close to Him in spirit if we choose to be.

Kerry

West End church of Christ bulletin, March 10, 2024

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