Our title this morning is – “Jesus’ Friend, Judas” – taking, as our text, Christ’s words in verse 50 – “Friend, wherefore are thou come?” You might think, somewhat incorrectly, that this is more about Judas than the Lord Jesus. Let me assure you that this is about our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. “Let us look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” – in Him are hid all of God’s blessings. “Let’s think about our Lord’s relationship and response to Judas.”
Unfortunately, if both what I understand and what I don’t understand about our Lord’s relationship to Judas were put on a scale, the second side of that scale would drop so quickly that everything would bounce off. Why was Judas permitted to become one of the Lord’s disciples? I don’t know for sure. I could make some wild guesses, but we don’t have a definitive statement. The Lord Jesus certainly knew all about the spiritual condition of that man, and the Bible tells us that. John 6:64 – “For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.” Human logic makes me wonder how that man could spend three years with Christ and still never became a child of God. If he was so spiritually irresponsible, why was he made fiscally responsible – keeper of the group’s finances? And what was he thinking when he took steps to betray the Lord into the hands of God’s enemies? Was his purpose totally evil, or was he trying to accomplish something good? Some commentators give him the benefit of the doubt, declaring that Judas was trying to force Christ into revealing Himself and into establishing the Millennial Kingdom. But if that was true then why didn’t Judas truly repent when Christ was crucified, instead of becoming merely remorseful? How could he NOT love the Lord Jesus Christ, after spending approximately three years with Him? There are some people, naturally speaking, with whom we can NOT fail to love once we know them. The Lord Jesus must surely have been one of the those people. What, then, was wrong with Judas Iscariot?
These are just the tip of my iceberg of questions. For some of them I have theological answers, but still the questions remain, despite the theology. For example, theologically I know why Judas didn’t repent. Because, repentance was not granted to him by the grace of God. Evangelical repentance does not have a human origin, it’s not something that we can do in ourselves. Repentance, like faith to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, is a gift of God. The Bible tells us these things. But still, in human logic, if Judas was sorry enough to kill himself, why wasn’t he sorry enough repent?
But rather than Judas’ lack of love, I’d like us to focus on our Lord’s love. That a Christian loves another Christian is a part of the proof that he is a child of God. John 13:35 – “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” I worry, I sincerely worry, about professed Christians, who display no interest in other Christians. That person is failing one of the tests, established by Jesus, by which we are to judge our own souls.
Then after this love of the brethren, the saint of God has been commanded to love his enemies. However, rather than love, there are a great many “Christians” who appear to hate just about everyone who is different from them – theologically or otherwise. And I’m not referring to people who hated and persecuted them first – just people who are different. How can they call themselves “saints” if they can’t take a spiritual interest in the unbeliever? If the professed Christian totally ignores the clear command of Christ, is that person really a Christian?
Of course, the highest example of love is that of the Lord Jesus. The fact that YOU are now a child of God, proves that the Lord loves His enemies. Christ even had enough love to call wicked Judas “friend.” To that statement I must add a word of caution. There is a grace and love of God, a love of Christ, which is irresistable. There is a love which Christ has for His elect, which is unique to God – it is divine. But in Christ, there was also a love more like ours – human love – a love which does not result in salvation. For example, Christ undoubtedly had a love for His siblings – His sisters and brothers, some of whom may not have been redeemed. That is the love to which most of my message this morning refers.
Now, if you were asked to name the lowest individual to ever pollute this globe, who would you name? Would it be a mass-murderer like Ted Bundy, Joseph Stalin, or Mao Tse-tung? Would it be a false prophet like Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy, or one of the popes? Would it be a criminal, a barbaric king – or perhaps one of your former employers? I believe that the Apostle Paul might have been tempted to mention his own name: Saul of Tarsus. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” The Greek word “chief” in this verse is “protos” – meaning “first in any list of things or persons.” If you were asked to name the worst of all humanity, you should be willing to mention your own name. “Oh, but Saul of Tarsus really was a terrible man – a murderer, a persecutor of saints, a spiritual rebel.” Yes, and by Biblical definition, so were you. Remember that “whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” You were never a rebel against God? Never? Really? Well, what about Judas? Is there anyone willing to nominate Judas for the very worst of the dregs of all humanity? There is probably not a person here today, willing to be called a “Judas” or to be associated with him. Perhaps in some ways he really was the worst of the worst.
But please notice that the Lord Jesus was willing to touch that man and call him “friend.” How did Christ mean that word? ”Friend, wherefore art thou come?” Some say that it was sarcastically – contemptuously – with the intention, “YOU are no friend to me. Why have you come?” Some think that it was facetiously – without sincerity – trying to be just a little bit funny. In other words, some people cast doubt about the honesty of Christ here. Others suggest that Jesus was asking about the manner in which Judas was approaching – “Are you coming to me as a friend, or as an enemy?”
I think that Jesus meant exactly what it appears He was saying – “Judas, my friend, why have you come?” For a moment, let’s forget about the fact that Jesus knew the answer. Let’s just concentrate on the word “friend.” If the human love of Christ could descend to the level of Judas, what encouragement there should be in that for us? Are we REALLY are better people than Judas? “Well, sure we are,” we say to ourselves. We are more noble, more truthful, more trustworthy. Perhaps so – I’m not going to argue with you.
But remember that there was nothing in his outward life to suggest the hideousness of his sinful nature. At the Last Supper, Judas asked “Is it I,” when Christ announced that there was a traitor among them. All of the disciples asked the same question. And there weren’t any who pointed at Judas and asked, “Is it he?” He was trusted enough to be selected as the church treasurer. He was apparently highly religious; he was as OUTWARDLY humble as any of the others. He was as useful as a preacher as any of the other disciples. He probably sacrificed and suffered as much to become a disciple, and perhaps in some ways even more, because he came from overly-religious Judea, rather than backward Galilee. The only faults in the man were his love for money and the fact that his religion lacked substance. But even these were kept hidden until after the betrayal. In many ways Judas could have freely walked in any society, in any church, or in any city. But his true character was displayed to the eyes of the world when he betrayed Christ.
And yet when he planted that kiss on the cheek of the Saviour, the Lord still reached out to him. “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” By any definition that you might use, to be a friend of Christ, would be a very good thing. Here we have a beautiful illustration of the breadth, length, depth and height of the love of Christ.
Think first the PATIENCE of Christ’s friendship.
Judas was resolved to betray the Lord in a most disgusting manner. He could have used any of a dozen different means to point out the Lord to that murderous mob. Even if he had walked up and slapped Jesus across the face, I might have a better explanation. But why betray with a kiss? For two thousand years now preachers have been offering their suggestions, and some have probably been right, but no one knows for sure, because the Lord hasn’t revealed that to us.
That kiss could it have merely been to create a powerful lesson for us today. A kiss is usually a sign of affection. I regularly kiss my wife, daughter and grand-daughter. Judy still kisses her son – and probably wishes that she could do it more often. I am glad that you and I don’t greet one another with holy kisses, because I think that they really should be special. But there are thousands of people, hundreds of thousands, who by their church attendance symbolically kiss the son. Unfortunately, it is often done with less sincerity and love than a child who kisses his aunt whom he’s never met before. Sure Judas was at that point the enemy of Christ, but his enmity was covered by an abominable kiss.
On the other side of that kiss, what a display of perfect patience and unruffled calm. The traitor came to him with a cup of poison and Christ drank it down, despite knowing its power and intent. I know that there is a difference between divine, gracious, saving love – and mere human affection. I know that there is a difference between “agape” love and “phileo” love. I know that there is a difference between brotherly love, spousal love and the sincere affection of a friend. But that the Lord should have any kind of simple affection for Judas at this point is unreasonable. “Well, maybe Jesus didn’t know what Judas was up to.” What a foolish and ignorant thought. Of course He did.
Surely if there was ever a man who LEAST deserved the title “friend” of Jesus, it was Judas. But that was exactly the term Jesus used. Granted, there are two different words translated “friend” in the New Testament. There is “philos” which speaks about a closer relationship than the word “hetairos” (het -ah-ee-ros). In speaking about the brother of Mary and Martha Jesus told his disciples, “Our friend (philos) Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.” “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (philos).” Here in this chapter, as in a few other places, the word which Jesus used was different; it was “hetairos.” In our Lord’s parable of the laborers who go to work at different hours of the day – the farmer “answered one of them, and said, friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?” And in another parable, the Lord Jesus spoke about someone who came to the wedding celebration of salvation, but he had not entered the festivities according to the Master’s rules. “And (yet) he saith unto him, friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?.” Judas was a friend in the sense of companion or comrade, but not in the sense of a close brother. It is very important to notice that the Lord never called him a “brother” or a “child of God.” Yet, Christ Jesus still identified Judas as one of His men – as one variety of friend.
As I said, if ever a man should be excluded from any kind of friendship with God, it should have been Judas. Other men have sinned against the Lord, but none so maliciously as Judas. If there was ever a moment when the heart of Christ should have slammed shut, it was at this time. But no, even in the act of treason, Christ still held out His hand to the man.
Sin has great power against us: it can embitter us, age us, enslave us, destroy us. But sin cannot make God do anything to us that He doesn’t specifically choose to do. Past sin and even future sin, cannot force God not to love His people. The prodigal can demand, forsake, revel, squander and spit upon his father’s love, but those things cannot destroy that paternal love unless the father chooses to permit it. HUMAN love can be hurt and even destroyed by foolish sin, but not the Saviour’s. Can a mother forget her child? Yes she can. But as it is the nature of God to love, that love can find a way even through His divine holiness.
What am I’m trying to say? Is there a worse man than Judas? A more unworthy man than Judas? Is there a murderer, a rapist, a terrorist, an anarchist, a homosexual, an atheist more sinful than Judas? Perhaps so, perhaps not, but that is not the important question. The real question is – “who or what shall separate us from the love of God?”
While you consider the Lord Jesus’ patient friendship, notice the way that it was USED.
Our sins do not turn away the love of God; if it did no one would ever experience divine love. On the other hand, our sins do change the expression of that love. To one person the Lord speaks of love through that person’s parents. To another the Lord’s love is seen in its breadth, stretching over the years of that man’s life. To yet another God’s love is expressed in chastisement. To another God’s love is seen in its height surpassing the mountains of that man’s sin.
With Judas, Christ’s affection dove straight for the man’s heart and appealed to his conscience. “Judas, you have been my companion for these many months. You are my friend; we have eaten hundreds of meals together; we talked about your problems and past. Judas, we walked thousands of miles together; we sweat together, we tired and got exhausted together. Judas, I want you to remember those many, many hours that we spent in fellowship together.”
In this way aren’t all the church members of all the scriptural Baptist churches just like Judas? We are all co-laborers with Christ, as members of His body. We are His comrades, His companions in the work of the Lord. We’ve have dined at His table; observed His baptisms; listened to His Word; felt His Holy Spirit. And every time that we have sinned, we have betrayed the love and friendship of Christ. He died for His church in the sense that He died that sinners might be saved and then to join His church. He gave His life for the true members of His churches. And if we are members of one of those churches then we are “hetarios” (het -ah-ee-ros) of Christ, but are we really “philos” of Him? We may be companions of Christ as members of His church, but are we brethren and children of God?
Notice Jesus question: “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” “What is your purpose, Judas? I know what it is, but do YOU? Will you specifically consider it?” This is an important question, because we are all prone to gift wrap ourselves and our sins. We tend to call our avarice – “caring for our family;” we call our lust – “just the appreciation of beauty.” We might call our self-gratification – “rest;” our laziness – “just minding our own business.” There is quite often an excuse given for our sins, because we have such well-developed, but fallen, depraved imaginations. But one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to force us to look at our realities, not our imaginations. Jesus asked: “Friend, why have you come.” If Judas had taken time to think about it and answer it properly, it may have changed his life. “I have come to betray you for the price of a cheap slave; I have come to bring about your death. I have come to expose you as either a fraud or as God, because I don’t know for sure which you are. I am here because my heart belongs more to these priests than it does to you.” No one can say with any confidence that they know how Judas would have answered that question. Nevertheless, the love of God pleads with us all to examine and answer the same kind of question: “Friend, wherefore art thou come.”
However you might answer, understand that it is possible to REJECT Christ’s friendship.
I know that there is an divine, irresistible love rooted in grace, which no sinner on earth can refuse. But the Lord has other loves which ought not to be rejected or ignored, and yet which can be. As strange as it seems, we can turn from God and say, “I will not listen to you.” Christians do it all the time, so we know that the lost can do it as well. The Lord pleads, and we resist like a dirty boy in front of the bath tub. As Christians, we will never cease to be objects of His love, but we can refuse the blessings of His love. Or as lost souls, we can feel the tug of the Holy Spirit, and we can refuse.
To the lost as well as to the saved, the Lord says, “Come unto me…. Look unto me…. Bow unto me.” How easy it is to join Judas. How tragic it is to join Judas. We can do it as unbelievers, and unfortunately we can do it as Christians as well.
Once again, I plead with you to surrender to the conviction which the Lord is laying on your heart this morning. Once again, I plead with you to repent and to turn to Christ Jesus. Set Him apart in your soul as your Lord and Saviour. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”