So I’m walking my and I find myself meditating on Jesus' response to Judas in Matthew’s Gospel when Judas is in the process of betraying Jesus.
While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, "The one I shall kiss is the man; seize him." And he came up to Jesus at once and said, "Hail, Master!" And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, "Friend, why are you here?" Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. (Mt. 26:47-50 RSV)
The friend part is what I upon which I was meditating.
A little background is necessary to get to the point that was the focus of my meditation. The word translated as “friend” does not really mean “friend.” I’m not saying it is a bad translation; I’m just saying it’s a translation that requires an explanation.
The word in the Greek is hetairos, which can mean an associate, but it does not carry with it any emotional attachment. It is at best a colleague or an acquaintance, not a friend in the sense that most of us mean when we use the term friend or talk about friendship. The word is also a polite form of address for someone you don’t know, or know well. I think the best English equivalent is the word “buddy.” (Which is how I translate it in The New Peace Treaty.) When we are addressing someone we don’t know in English, we call them buddy. (“Hey buddy, get out of the way!”) So what Jesus is, in essence, saying to Judas is: “Hey buddy, why are you here.” Meaning, “Excuse me stranger...”
Now I’m still not on the focus of my meditation yet. It is surprising that Jesus both calls him a friend, and someone he doesn’t know at the same time. But not for the reasons we may think. Some may be surprised to think that Jesus is saying that Judas is a stranger after he had been traveling with Jesus for around three years and was a member of his inner circle. But that’s not the point yet. Others may be surprised that Jesus is calling someone who is in the process of betraying him a friend. But that’s not the point either.
By using this word, Jesus is keeping a promise. Jesus said earlier in the Gospel, way back near the beginning of his ministry:
“Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do what my Father in heaven wants him to do. There will be a lot of people who’ll say to me on Judgment Day, ‘Lord, didn’t we preach in your name? Wasn’t it your name we invoked when we performed exorcisms? Didn’t we put on public spectacles in your honor?’ And I’ll say to those people, ‘To be honest, I’m drawing a blank. I’ve absolutely no idea who any of you are. Leave me alone! It sounds to me like all of you just like to make a commotion!’” (Mt. 7:21-23 The New Peace Treaty)
Jesus promises that he doesn’t know anyone who doesn’t do God’s will–who doesn’t live the way God wants him to live. There are a lot of people who call him “Lord,” but sadly, only a few mean it.
By calling Judas “Friend” or “Buddy,” Jesus was demonstrating that what he said earlier was true. Judas was one of the Twelve, one of the inner-circle, one of Jesus’ closest companions, and Jesus doesn’t know him. Judas is not doing the will of the Father in heaven, so Jesus doesn’t know him.
And that brings me to the point of my meditation while walking the dogs. How can Judas’ betrayal not be God’s will when it is necessary to bring about the sacrifice and atoning death of Jesus on the cross? How can we have it both ways? How can we say that Judas was not doing the will of the Father, while at the same time declaring that what happened was God’s will?
And it dawned on me as one of my dogs was sifting a scent off of some random bush: perhaps there is a difference between “Willing” and “Being Willing.”
The statement from the Sermon on the Mount about not everyone who calls Jesus Lord will enter into the Kingdom, but only those who do the will of the Father, suggests that it is possible to do something other than the will of the Father. There are a lot of people who assume that just because something happens, it must be God’s will (or else it wouldn’t have happened). But if it is possible not to do God’s will, then not everything that happens is God’s will.
So Judas betraying Jesus is not necessarily God’s will, even though God is willing to endure it. Sin entering into the world was not God’s will, but it happened. Our actions that separate us from God are not God’s will, but we do them. God’s will was for us to be in relationship with God–to be close to him. But against his will, we chose another route, and we cut ourselves off from God and we are separated from him by a yawning, expansive chasm. Jesus paid the price that brings us back to God; the cross is the bridge that crosses the chasm.
Jesus dying on the cross may not have been God’s will; but God was willing to let it happen, so that God’s original will for us could happen. God is like the Father who watches his Son enlist in the military in wartime, to go off to front, and very probably die–but God is willing to let his Son do this. If pride and sadness can mix, then that is the feeling of God as Jesus moves toward the cross.
So the meditation concluded on two simple thoughts: (1) God was willing to sacrifice his Son for me; what am I willing to Sacrifice for God? (2) Jesus was willing to die for me; am I willing to live for him?
Am I just saying “Lord, Lord,” or am I doing the will of the Father in heaven?