After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.”
His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”
Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. (verses 21-26)
Judas Iscariot is the devil in this piece. Literally. “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him” (verse 27). But prior to that point, there are so many sightings of the Lord’s favour on his life, remarkable to us in that we know the unfolding story of his treachery.
Consider the fact that Judas was there in the room moments earlier when Jesus had progressed round, from disciple to disciple, washing their dirt-shrouded feet. He performed this act of loving service for Judas, equally with the others, cleansing away dirt and grime. He refreshed him from road weariness.
Consider the fact that he was part of Jesus’ inner circle. He was privileged with the Master’s time and presence. He shared his bread (verse 18). He was there for this crucial Passover meal. He had open access.
Consider that at this Last Supper, it is likely, though not certain, that he actually held the place of honour at the table, reclining at the Lord’s left hand. Whatever his exact position, of all those gathered with Jesus at the table he was close enough that he could easily receive a morsel of bread directly from Jesus’ hand, that morsel itself being a traditional sign of honour when passed by the meal’s host.
Consider, further back, the fact that Jesus had chosen Judas in the first place, drawing him into this privileged circle to experience first-hand his life and teachings and miracles. The fact that Jesus had understood Judas’ duplicity early on (“Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” John 6:70), makes his ongoing extension of favour all the more remarkable.
But for Judas, there came a point of no return. “Satan entered into him … he went out. And it was night” (verses 27, 30). Yet up to that point, Jesus had extended grace, favour, privilege – indeed friendship.
Such open-hearted acceptance makes clear that Paul’s statement in Romans 5 is not mere words. Paul speaks these words about anyone of us who has experienced salvation through Jesus. The end point for us – thanks be to God – is entirely different than that of Judas. We have received full forgiveness and adoption into his family. But beforehand, we had treachery in our own hearts, too. Yet he loved us.
“While we were still sinners,” Paul says, “Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). What love. “When we were God’s enemies,” he says further, “we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10). What forbearance.
Judas’ full story is horrific. Yet the Lord’s favour extended to him, right till the end, plumbs the depths of Jesus’ love for us.
For us, sin may have abounded. Missteps and stumbles may catch us still, again and again. Willful disobedience may raise its head. But his grace is greater. Return. Press in. Give thanks.
Lord Jesus, thank you that while I was yet your enemy, you died for me. You brought about reconciliation. You washed away sin. In this is love – such love. I give thanks.
Reflect: Trace back through your own experience. How have you experienced the Lord’s forbearance? Give thanks. Reflecting further, are there any points at which you are living still in waywardness? Take 1 John 1:9 seriously, and return.