John 13:21 “After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.”
Jesus knew what was waiting for him later this night and the next day. We should be surprised if his spirit wasn’t troubled. He knew that he would be beaten, scourged, crucified, and killed. He knew that he would be deserted by his disciples, mocked by his enemies, even abandoned by the heavenly Father on the cross. Does a man sit on death row without feeling some sense of dread at what is about to happen to him?
But that was not the issue that occupied Jesus’ thoughts at this moment. He is not thinking about himself. He is thinking about someone close to him. From our perspective in time, we find Judas disgusting. We are appalled at his decision to sell the Redeemer of the world, the best friend anyone could ever have, for the equivalent of about 4 months salary, one third of your annual income. We have made his name synonymous with treachery.
But Jesus loved Judas, even Judas, with his whole heart. Out of the whole population of Palestine, Jesus had made this man part of his inner circle. Judas was one of his twelve chosen and closest friends. He trusted him to take care of his money. He was an integral part of this brotherhood, a dear member of this family of faith. Jesus didn’t choose Judas and trust Judas just to set him up. He didn’t seek Judas because he needed someone to play the traitor’s role. That’s not how our Savior works. He wants all men to be saved. He treasured Judas’s friendship, appreciated his gifts, valued his contribution to the team.
In fact, he regarded Judas so highly that, with all the things facing him in the next twenty-four hours–torture, crucifixion, and death– the loss of Judas is what troubled his spirit at this moment. If Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus, who was not part of the Twelve, then the thought of what Judas was about to do was especially hard to bear.
You and I are not Judas, at least not now. But we can still learn from Jesus’ relation to him. If we are contemplating sin, if we think it will be our little secret, Jesus knows. He knows if we visit that website. He knows what we slipped out of the cash register or out of the supplies at work. He knows that our excuse for being late was a lie.
And our sins trouble him, not just because they are damning and they condemn us to hell. Jesus is the one who grieves over sinners because he loves them, in spite of their sin. The Apostle Paul speaks of God’s grace as something in which we now stand, an ongoing attitude of forgiveness flowing from God to us at all times. The Apostle John tells us that God is love. That is not an abstract concept. That is a real and warm concern that he has for us at all times. It is why Jesus was about to do what he was about to do–give his life for the sins of the world.
If Jesus’ spirit is troubled over the loss of Judas, a traitor, we mean so much to him as well. His grace calls us back to him. His grace assures us he forgives us. His grace promises that we are accepted and loved.