Maundy Thursday Devotion – Traitors Anonymous

Psalm 55: 20-21 My companion attacks his friends; he violates his covenant. His speech is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords.

Every Maundy Thursday, I end up asking myself the same question: why did Jesus choose Judas to be one of his disciples? Couldn’t Christ, with all of His divine knowledge, have chosen a better person? After all, Judas was a weasel, who robbed from the ministry funds, disparaged other people, and whose name “Iscariot” – the dagger – aptly fits someone who will stab you in the back.

Jesus must have known what kind of unsavory character Judas was and yet He still picked him to be one of the Twelve. We know about how Jesus called the fishermen Peter and Andrew, James and John; we’ve heard about Matthew being called as he was gathering taxes for the Romans; we can read about Philip bringing Nathanael to Jesus in the Gospel of John; but what we don’t know is how Jesus called Judas personally, and what, where, when, and why were the circumstances.

It’s a puzzle and maybe because Judas turned out to be such a despicable traitor, his calling story wasn’t worth mentioning in the Gospels. But whatever happened, Jesus still called Judas to be one of the most important small religious groups ever to be established in the history of the world.

I don’t think that Jesus chose Judas because He needed someone to betray Him in order to be crucified. There had to be some sort of zeal, faith, and sincerity that Christ initially saw in Judas. He allowed him to be part of His ministry team for three years, so whatever Judas did before the last week of Christ’s life, it must have been valuable to Jesus.

In this country, when we think of traitors, the name “Benedict Arnold” usually springs to mind. We remember his deceit and disloyalty, his betrayal of Washington’s confidence and embarrassment to the cause for Independence. But we should also remember that before his treacherous act, Benedict Arnold was successful commander in Washington’s Army. He was a valued officer in the Continental Army.

So could Judas have been a worthy team member of Christ’s exclusive group? Was he a great teacher or preacher? Was Judas an organizer and administrator? Was he, in fact, dependable up until the last few weeks of Christ’s life? You would think that if Judas was such a low-down, lying and cheating, irredeemable rogue and scurrilous reprobate, Jesus would have thrown him off the team. After all, Christ wasn’t afraid to confront sinners with their sins, whether they were outsiders or a part of His entourage.

So what is happening here? Why does the Holy Son of God, anointed to become Savior of the world, healer of the nations, and King of all creation bother with such a louse as Judas? I think the answer can be summed up in one important word: grace. If Jesus could show such grace to an unworthy, unloving, disloyal traitor like Judas, then Christ can also show such grace to sinners like you and me.

Let’s be honest folks, the only reason that we feel sorry for Judas is because he represents every one of us. We all have betrayed Jesus in our lives. We all have done shameful things; we all are greedy and selfish, unfaithful and disloyal. In fact, if we were all to read these stories in the Gospel and replace the name “Judas” for our own, we know that we are quite capable of doing the same despicable things.

Hello. My name is John Stuart and I belong to a group called ‘Traitors Anonymous.’

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we all are guilty of betraying You at times. Sometimes we are embarrassed to say that we are Christians. Sometimes we fail to speak out when we see things that are immoral or wrong. Sometimes we neglect to pray, read our bible, or even worship You each day. Forgive our treacherous hearts and allow us the healing power of Your grace. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee.
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About stushie

I'm originally from Scotland and have been a Presbyterian pastor for over twenty years. I live in Knoxville, TN. I enjoy art as a means of therapy, but also as a creative way to strengthen my spiritual connection to God.
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One Response to Maundy Thursday Devotion – Traitors Anonymous

  1. Interesting thoughts and some I have never thought about.

    Was Judas stealing from the group? The only suggestion of that comes in John’s Gospel and John would have had a reason to put Judas in a bad light.

    If any of the disciples were considered by their peers to have a questionable character, wouldn’t it have been Matthew (or Levi), the former tax collector? After all, the nature of tax collecting in those days require graft and corruption. Matthew had to give that up to follow Jesus but everyone knew what he had done in his previous career, so wouldn’t that have made him a possible candidate for being the betrayer?

    I have come to the thought that Judas did it because he expected something entirely different and he was hoping that through his betrayal, Jesus would start the revolution that he (Judas) desired. When it became clear, that wasn’t going to happen, the plan was put into motion.

    But Judas didn’t expect the results to be what they were and when he realized what he had put into motion, he found out it was too late.

    The question will always be, “Did Judas ever ask for forgiveness?”

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