Judas Isn’t the Enemy

Without even knowing your story, I bet you’re reading this article because someone you love and trusted, who sat at your table, betrayed you and you’re ready to run. You have one foot out of the church and an eye on the back door. 

You love Jesus, but sometimes your Judas is so loud. 

When I read the story of the Last Supper, or I see a painting or stained-glass portrayal of Jesus and the disciples around the table with Judas sitting there all smug, I want to put a giant red X on his face and cancel him. Why does he get to sit there? Didn’t Jesus know what he had done? 

Let’s read Matthew 26:14–16 together: 

“Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?’ So they counted out for him 30 pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.”

There it is, right there in black and white: Judas betraying Jesus. 

In the next part of the chapter, Jesus tells the disciples what is going to happen. “And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me” (v. 21). And Judas is just sitting there with his bread and wine like nothing is wrong while the others are questioning themselves and asking the Lord if it is them. 

Then Judas has the nerve to say, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi.” Are you kidding me?

I had never really paid much attention to Jesus’ response to Judas but all he says is, “You have said so.”

Our Jesus, in his humanity and divinity, breaks bread with the one who would betray him. He doesn’t try to expose him, call him out in a moment of irrational anger, or blame him for the coming pain. Instead, he keeps his eyes on his Father, his assignment and the kingdom at hand. He spends that precious time before his death with his friends, those who call him teacher and friend, and he doesn’t let Judas ruin the meal.

Judas was driven by power. Jesus was motivated by his mission. 

Jesus wasn’t focused on exposing Judas that night, trying to change his mind or asking the disciples to take sides. Jesus was focused on finishing what he had started, enduring the cross, scorning its shame, sitting down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:2).

Judas eventually exposes himself in Matthew 27 as the one who betrayed Jesus and confesses, “I have sinned … for I have betrayed innocent blood” (v. 4). He threw the money in the temple and hung himself. Though Judas’ betrayal makes me angry, it doesn’t bring me joy that it cost him his life. He knew Jesus, he had heard the teachings of Jesus, at one time he had been a friend. 

When someone falls, it should break our hearts. 

We have to be careful not to spend so much time waiting for our Judas to fall that we lose our own life in the process. God has called us to abundant life, but I’m wondering if we’re so busy trying to expose our enemy that we’ve lost sight of who our true enemy is and it isn’t an enemy we can see. Our real enemy is a prowling lion looking for anyone he can devour, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12). 

Jesus knew who his enemy was, and it wasn’t Judas.

Vindication, revenge, plotting and scheming against one another won’t get us to our promise any faster. God always fulfills his promises; he doesn’t need our help. This doesn’t mean we can’t hold leaders accountable for toxic leadership or abuse. What this means is we won’t take matters into our own hands by murdering others in our hearts, with our thoughts, actions or words. 

Sometimes it means remaining quiet at the table when we want to let everyone know a betrayer is in our midst.

Sometimes it’s using self-control when responding to social media posts, having someone else read a text message before we hit send, and choosing our words carefully to not gossip about or slander one of God’s children. Yes, God loves even those who have hurt us. 

I know this isn’t easy; leave your Judas to Jesus. 

So what does it look like to give our Judas to Jesus?

I believe the first step is recognizing we’re all sinners. We all need Jesus. On any given day you and I both are one bad decision, conversation, social media post, or confrontation away from being someone’s Judas. I know we all want to think we’re perfect and that our intentions are good even when we unintentionally hurt someone, but the truth is, we won’t get it right 100% of the time. 

Start with prayer. Take a moment now or at some point this week to ask the Lord to show you where you have intentionally or unintentionally hurt a brother or sister. Be ready for this to be a painful process, as offense truly is the bait of Satan. When we can lay down our rights, confess our own offenses and where we may have caused offense, it takes away his power and puts the people and situations back into the hands of the Father. 

Respond with humility. Perhaps you aren’t in a place of leadership, but maybe you’ve taken your offenses to inappropriate places and sought vindication or justice through gossip, slander or disrespectful behavior. Ask the Lord to forgive you for trying to take matters into your own hands. Ask him in the stillness of this moment to teach you how to forgive. Remember, forgiving doesn’t mean trusting, it means setting ourselves free from anger and bitterness so the Lord can begin a healing work in our hearts.

Confess hurt and/or betrayal. For those who may have one foot out the door and one eye on the church door exit, don’t run from Jesus. Stay. I don’t just mean in a physical church building because God knows sometimes the best thing to do is leave toxic situations or take a sabbatical or rest. I’m talking about running from the Lord. You may have been so hurt by your Judas that they became an excuse to flee a situation that was meant to challenge you to grow up and not hold you captive: Speak up and learn to travail.

Just as Jesus would suffer on the cross and raise up from his grave, God has something for each of us to accomplish for his glory, but we won’t see it to completion if we quit.

I am so glad Jesus didn’t run. I think all the time about how grateful I am that Jesus took on that cross for the joy set before him. 

For the joy set before us. 

Forgive what you can in the moment. When God makes something right, there is true restoration, healing, forgiveness, and change. God wants to free us from the chains of bitterness and unforgiveness, and it is worth every attempt to contend for forgiveness and reconciliation in the family of God. 

It may seem like every table has a Judas.

But your Jesus is there too. 

Lock your eyes on him. 

Excerpted from Raised to Stay: Persevering in Ministry When You Have a Million Reasons to Walk Away © 2023 Natalie Runion. Used by permission of David C Cook.  May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Natalie Runion
Natalie Runionhttps://NatalieRunion.com

Natalie Runion is pastor of women and creative pastor of family ministry at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  In 2019 after watching many of her peers walk away from the church and their faith, Natalie began Raised to Stay, a ministry for those who have wandered, wondered and wrestled with the church and the challenges of full-time ministry.