Over the past week, I have been studying John’s account of the “Last Supper.”
John takes up a considerable amount of space within his Gospel regarding this one event; five chapters, to be exact (John 13-17). Through John’s writing, we are given a window into this intimate, important, and meaningful meal that was shared between Jesus and His disciples. There are many lessons that could be learned from this text, but for the purposes of this article, I would like to focus on ONE of those lessons.
When it comes to Judas, we all know what happened. We know that he was a thief, that he betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane for 30 pieces of silver, and that he later hung himself as a result of these events.
Judas is hardly ever mentioned without being referred to as the one “who betrayed him” (Mt. 10:4; Mk. 3:19; Lk. 6:16; etc.), and he has a special place in history as one of the most infamous traitors to ever live. In other words, he was not cool.
But that’s how WE know him.
How did the OTHER disciples view Judas? Here are some implied truths and educated guesses regarding how the disciples may have viewed Judas:
1.They trusted him – Jn. 12:6 – The disciples allowed Judas to be in charge of their moneybag. Since this was a group of people who lived “on a budget” (Mt. 8:20), this was no small thing. The implication is clear: “We believe that Judas is honest, trustworthy, and a man of integrity.” They were wrong, but they had NO IDEA that they were wrong. He had earned – and kept – their trust. In other words, he was pretty cool.
2.They listened to him – Mk. 14:3-5; Jn. 12:2-6 – In these two accounts of the same event, we see something interesting regarding the possible influence of Judas. In Mark’s account of this event, we are told that, “There were some who said to themselves indignantly, ‘Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.’ And they scolded her.” John’s account, however, gives full credit to Judas: “But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor’?” Here is a possible explanation: perhaps Judas was the FIRST person to say something about this, and the other disciples FOLLOWED his example. After all, he is their trusted treasurer, right? If anyone should be allowed to make a comment about money, it would be Judas, right? Is it possible that they were “following his lead” in this instance? It would make sense. And although Jesus rebuked him/them for saying this, the disciples may have come away from that situation thinking that Judas had a “cool idea,” especially if they had to sleep on the ground again that night!
3.They never suspected him – Jn. 13 – Up until the very night that he betrayed Jesus – possibly until the very MOMENT that he betrayed Him - none of the other disciples seem to have suspected that Judas could/would do something like that. There was no suspicion, no questions, and no raised eyebrows. Ever. Even after Jesus gave multiple clues, hints, and outright indicators of who the traitor was going to be, the disciples just didn’t get it. After Jesus points out Judas as being the traitor by giving him a morsel of bread, John says, “Now no one at the table knew why He said this to him.” He flew under the radar until the very end. He was cool.
How did Judas fool so many people? How did he stay so cool with everyone?
First of all, I think we all know how easy it is to pretend to be something we’re not. Judas was good at it, and so are we. But here is another thought…
Interestingly, with all of the information that John gives us on this last supper, he leaves out an important detail that is contained in Luke’s account: “A dispute arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest” (Lk. 22:24). In other words, according to Luke’s account, the disciples got into an argument THAT NIGHT about which one of them was the greatest among them!
I have a simple question: Out of the twelve disciples who were having this dispute, how many of them may have suggested that JUDAS was the greatest among them? Surely they’re not all voting for themselves, are they? That wouldn’t be a very productive “dispute,” would it?
Think about it: although we sometimes see Peter, James and John as being in Jesus’s inner circle (and therefore, perhaps considered to be the frontrunners for the title of “greatest”), we have to remember that Peter has embarrassed himself on a number of occasions (Mt. 16:23; 17:4; etc.), and James & John have been “rejected” for this position by Jesus Himself, with some considerable fallout among the other 10 disciples (Mt. 20:20-24).
In other words, is it possible at this point that Judas – with his practical, thrifty, and trustworthy approach towards things - has emerged as a leading candidate for being the “greatest” among these men? In our modern terminology, Judas was “cool.” He fit in with the group, participated in all of their spiritual activities, and even stood out as someone who could be trusted. In their minds, maybe he WAS the greatest!
We know him as a thief, a traitor, and a quitter. They didn’t. They thought he was cool.
So, how do people know YOU? Are you pretty “cool” at church? Do you fit in with the group? Maybe you’re even in a position of leadership, or you’ve been given some kind of responsibility. Maybe everyone likes you, and maybe they even listen to what you have to say. Maybe you are respected, valued, and important to everyone around you. There would be nothing wrong with any of these things, unless – like Judas – it’s all a show. And as we know, “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (I Sam. 16:7).
Don’t trade your right standing with God just to be “cool” with His people! Judas did that, and it cost him everything.