It was precisely because Jesus knew that Judas would betray him that He chose him as a disciple. For us to be saved, it was essential that Jesus die for our sins on the cross — and Judas’ treachery would lead to that event.
As popular as Jesus was, the authorities knew that it could be disastrous to seize Him with a lot of people around, people who could rush to His aid. They needed to know when and where He would be relatively alone, and Judas was just the man to give them this insider information.
As awful as the crucifixion was, this central event in history was wonderful in its effect. Indeed, that’s why we call the day on which it occurred, “Good Friday.” And though it seemed to signal a breakdown in Jesus’ ministry, when the world turned on Him despite His life-giving teaching and healing, it came right on schedule according to a plan put in place from the very founding of the world. Throughout human history, Jesus was to be the sacrificial lamb, who would die for the sins of His people (Revelation 13:8).
Judas treachery came as no surprise to Jesus. The Bible teaches that the Lord knew what was in the hearts of all men, including Judas (John 2:24-25), who was the perfect traitor, whom Jesus would even call “a devil” (John 6:70). His character was deeply flawed. For one thing, he was a thief, who helped himself to the disciples’ living funds (John 12:4-6). For another, he was ambitious to a fault, and was frustrated when the Lord didn’t capitalize on opportunities to enlarge His earthly influence (John 14:22). Furthermore, he took no care to guard his heart, so Satan could “enter him” at will (John 13:27).
We can only imagine Satan’s delight on finding such an evil and usable man in Jesus’ inner circle. He exploited Judas’s character for what he thought would be great gain, the execution of the Son of God, but he fell into a trap. Jesus’ death, and subsequent resurrection, broke Satan’s grip on countless souls, giving them eternal life. In a word, the devil’s use of Judas backfired.
Jesus did not turn Judas into a traitor; He selected him because He already had a traitorous character. And as a number of New Testament passages make clear, the particulars of his treachery were anticipated centuries in advance. For example, the prophet Zechariah spoke of someone’s throwing thirty pieces of silver to the potter (Zechariah 11:13). That’s precisely the amount Christ’s enemies paid Judas for his cooperation, and that same money was used to buy a burial place for Judas in a potter’s field, once he’d committed suicide in remorse for his horrible deed.
So did Jesus choose a traitor knowingly? Absolutely, from a long time back. He knew that Judas was precisely the sort of man who would push Him toward the cross. And so, in selecting him as a disciple, He helped arrange His own death – for our sake.
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