Monday, March 27, 2017

A Bittersweet Friendship

by Andrea Renee Cox

Easter is just around the corner, and this time of year always has me thinking on Jesus’s great sacrifice in order to save me from eternal death. It is with deep gratitude and a humble heart that I recall the immense suffering my Savior went through in order to fulfill His Father’s will. I am forever in His debt and want to always remember His finest hour.

Yes, I believe it was, up to today, His finest hour. I believe He will have an even finer one when He returns to fetch God’s children home, but until then, Jesus’s death on the cross, burial, and resurrection will remain, in my view, His finest hour, for it was through those three events that He conquered death for all eternity.
 
Jesus has conquered death.


Something that I find incredibly intriguing about the events leading up to Jesus’s finest hour is how He remained a true friend to His betrayer until the very end. How incredibly hard yet exquisitely beautiful was it to befriend the man who would eventually betray Him? I can only imagine the excruciating bittersweetness of each moment Jesus spent with Judas Iscariot.

It seems to me that Jesus never showed partiality against Judas, always treating him the same as the other eleven disciples. He taught Judas the same lessons, shared the same food, even washed his feet right before that last Passover dinner together.

Yet Jesus knew from the beginning that Judas would betray Him.

From the beginning, y’all.

Can you imagine being nice to the guy who would eventually turn you over to the authorities for a measly thirty pieces of silver? Can you imagine how many meals and laughs and stories they shared before that fateful evening? And what about all those miracles they witnessed and performed to share the love of God with the people around them? Don't forget that Judas took part in all of that too.

Can you imagine the hurt Jesus carried with Him each moment of every day of His earthly life because He knew that Judas would turn traitor on Him?

I want to weep just thinking about it.

And then I want to cry harder because Jesus always treated Judas as a dear friend. I believe that’s how Jesus thought of Judas as they were spending all that time together, making memories and changing the world. They ministered to thousands of people together, and that had to create a bond of friendship there. Which, I imagine, only made it that much more difficult when Judas finally did betray Jesus.

One of my favorite verses right now comes during the scene where Jesus is washing His disciples’ feet. He shares a lesson about helping each other stay spiritually clean, encouraging each other along life’s journey as they each run their race toward eternity. Right in the midst of that lesson is this little gem:

“For I have given you an example,
that you should do as I have done to you.”
John 3:15 NKJ

I’m certain this sentence had multiple facets when Jesus said it. It reads, to me, as if He was saying a million things in one brief turn of words. The thing that stuck out to me when I read it today was that Jesus wanted the disciples to love like He loved, all the way to the end. And not just the “nice” guys, but the “naughty” ones too. Because even though none of us deserve a chance, God always gives each of us many opportunities to choose life through Jesus Christ. He also gives us each the gift of loving people in order to show them the way to our incredible Savior.

I love that it was said of Jesus, in John 13:1, that “He loved them to the end.” That “them” included Judas. Jesus loved even His betrayer, Judas Iscariot, until the very end. That is beautiful. Even though Judas had been “lost” (John 17:12), Jesus loved the man.

This shouldn’t surprise me, because Jesus always preached to love God and people, and to hate the evil that people do, yet somehow this relationship has surprised me recently. I’ve come back to it over and over again, puzzled every time as to why it surprises me, but I think I have finally figured it out. I think the surprise comes from my experience in the world, that people very quickly “hate” each other when they don’t see things eye to eye. I don’t think it has to be that way, though, and I pray my heart (and yours) is willing to drop the “hate” and put on the love of God that Jesus displayed with Judas.

I have really latched onto this friendship between Jesus and Judas recently, because it’s the most genuine and true example of loving one’s enemy that I have ever seen. It’s the prime example to live up to, and I pray that I learn tremendously from it, and that you do too.


How do you love your enemies?

What are your favorite Easter traditions?

What part of Jesus’s ministry has touched your heart recently?


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