“Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.’” John 13:21
Most of us are familiar with the events in the upper room, where we see Jesus washing the dusty feet of His followers and preparing them for the drama that was about to unfold in the final stage of His earthly ministry. When Jesus—“troubled in spirit”—predicted that one of them would betray Him, it’s no wonder that the disciples “stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant” (John 13:22). Weren’t they all fully committed to Jesus? For three years they had been in this thing together. Little did they know that there was a traitor in their midst.
Betrayal often comes from those we would least suspect. And—here’s a news flash—the person you might least suspect could even be you. The seeds of betrayal are sown in the unseen world of our hearts. And while the seeds may be unnoticed for a time, left unchecked they will inevitably begin to pop up to the surface of our lives in tragic ways.
Some of us have already betrayed Jesus at the heart-level. Often it is a slow, subtle shift from being fully devoted to Him, to following the seductive lure of personal pleasure or gain. Hearts dedicated to cash and comfort are quick to bail when Jesus calls us to sacrifice and suffer for Him. But, whether the betrayal is “big” or seemingly small, it is always in the face of His love. That’s what makes it so wrong, so brazen. When we lose the wonder of His amazing love for us, when we fail to look at His nail-scarred hands, when we start taking His daily provision for granted, we run the risk of cultivating a compromised heart.
And when we betray Jesus, it also shows how stubborn we can be. Clearly, Judas had already made up his mind, or perhaps the love that Jesus extended to him in the upper room—washing his feet and honoring him with a distinguished seat at the table—might have made him think twice. It’s a reminder that when we have decided that we want to sin—that the wrong in our lives serves some purpose that is more important than anything else—we have the capacity to insulate our choice from any outside influence that would cause us to change. We go to church and essentially say to God, “I don’t care what You or anyone else says today. I don’t plan on changing. I don’t care what my spouse says, what my friends say. I don’t care what it means to my job, to my family, or even to Your reputation.” The resolve to sin is an engine that is powerful enough to drive us past even the deepest love of Christ all the way to betrayal. Sin is often an in-His-face, stubborn enterprise.
It’s what happened to Judas and, if we’re not careful, it can happen to us. But if we carefully cultivate a heart that responds to Jesus’ amazing love, we can find ourselves in the group of followers who will stay true to the end!
So, whose crowd are you in—the 11 who followed Jesus regardless, or the one who wanted life his way regardless? Think about it!
– In your opinion, what heart issues may have led Judas to eventually betray his friendship with Jesus? Can you identify with any of those issues?
– You may not be tempted to turn Jesus over to the authorities as Judas did, but in what ways do we betray Jesus in terms of our friendship and devotion to Him?
– What issues in your heart might threaten to derail your commitment to Christ? If you’re not sure, ask Him to reveal those areas to you—just as He revealed the reality of Judas’ imminent betrayal—and then pray that He will break down any stubbornness that might keep you from responding to His love.
– How can you avoid cultivating seeds of compromise in your heart?