Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
I’ve heard a lot of people suggest that Judas betrayed Jesus due to disappointment. That is to say, Judas was let down because he (like most Jews of the time) felt that the Messiah was going to be a conquering king that would free them from Rome. Since Jesus was anything but a conqueror, it is assumed that Judas was upset and this led to him eventually selling out his master. Now, I’m not going to argue with the people who’ve come before me and suggested this, because there is certainly something to be said about the general reaction to Jesus being totally not the David-like king people were expecting. However, the Holy Spirit pointed out to me that at least one of the major reasons behind Judas’ betrayal manifested itself at the Last Supper.
While having his final recorded meal with his disciples, Jesus announced that one of them would betray him. Understandably this came as a great shock to his crew, who had left everything to follow him. Scripture records in Matthew 26:20-22,
When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”
They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?”
Even while being accused of treachery, the Apostles couldn’t deny that Jesus was the Lord. So one by one around the table they all said, “What? It’s not me, is it God?” They don’t even know if it’s them since Jesus, as God, knows all things. Jesus says a bit more about it, and then he looks at Judas. We read in Matthew 26:25,
Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?”
Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you.”
Notice the difference in language, all of the other apostles called Jesus “Lord,” but Judas could only muster up a “rabbi.” According to the Bible, rabbi means teacher (check out John 1:38). So while everyone else was admitting Jesus’ lordship, Judas showed that he only saw Jesus as a teacher, not as God in a body. In fact my NIV Bible also gives an alternate translation to Jesus’ reply which reads, “You yourself have said it.” In this Jesus implies that through his own words, Judas’ heart has shown that his unbelief stands out from the others- thus he must be the betrayer. No matter how you slice it we find that Judas did not recognize the divinity of Jesus.
But Judas isn’t alone. Although some still suggest Jesus wasn’t real in any sense, most atheists will now admit that our Christ was probably a real person- but not God since in the atheist view there is no God at all. Ok, so most people will probably agree that Jesus was a living person, in fact there have been studies into who this “historical Jesus” really was. Some religions, like Islam or Baha’i will even go as far as to say that Jesus was a prophet or messenger of God, however, they’ll never admit that Jesus was the Lord in the flesh because that’d upset their scriptures’ view of God. The admittance of Jesus as a prophet is likely a concession at best anyway to appease Christian converts. Even the Jews today don’t really know what to do with Jesus. I mean, the Christians are using the Jewish Bible as proof of Christ, and yet the person that Christ was didn’t fit what the Jews are expecting from their prophesied Messiah (which leads many to assume that Judas was disappointed with Christ). Even today, there are quite a few Christians who have trouble making Jesus into Lord. For example, take Christians that don’t believe in miracles (yes, they exist) if Jesus didn’t perform his miraculous tasks, then how could he be God? Jesus tells us to take note of this in John 10:37-38 when he says,
Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.
So if a person doesn’t believe in miracles, it makes it a little difficult to put Jesus on the same plane as God. One thing that I thought was really amazing when I started getting involved in the church in Korea is how interchangeably people can use God and Jesus. Usually, when looking at a picture of Jesus, many Korean Christians won’t say, “It’s a picture of Jesus.” They’ll say, “It’s a picture of God.” Even in their native Korean they’ll make this note, for I’ve heard my students talk amongst themselves after seeing picture of Jesus. Now I had always been raised with a very strong view of the three heads of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But I had managed to separate them so much that they were no longer still three in one, more like three on the same level- and so even I had trouble initially after coming back to God of saying that Jesus was Lord. Interestingly enough, at the time I also found Judas to be a much more sympathetic character.
But what you or I may think doesn’t matter. For the Bible makes things clear. Jesus was not just a teacher, he was, is, and is to come the Christ, the Son of God. For Scripture records,
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 16:13-17).
The Bible records that Jesus is the Son of God, and as his son, Jesus is also God. But that’s not all the Bible has to tell us. We know through the Bible that God created man,
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:26-27).
We know that Jesus was with God at the time of creation,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men (John 1:1-4).
We know that when man was created, he was given one command with which to follow,
And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).
And we know that the first man, Adam, was unable to follow this command and sinned against God,
And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
The man said, “The woman you put here with me- she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” (Genesis 3:11-12).
Some time after that, Jesus came from God to the earth. We know this because Jesus said it himself in John 8:42, “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father you would love me, for I came from God and now am here.’” The Scriptures also help us to know that Jesus was born in human form, for it is written “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). We also know through the Bible that Jesus was killed as our atoning sacrifice, freeing us not only from Adam’s original sin, but all of our sins past, present, and future, for Paul writes,
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:6-11).
And we know that the salvation offered by Jesus through his death on the cross is open to all who are willing to believe on him and trust in his sacrifice and his divinity. For the Word of God says, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). And furthermore we’re told, “Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). Judas couldn’t bring himself to admit Jesus’ divinity, and therefore he was able to betray him. But you my friend don’t make the same mistake he did. Throw away your doubts and proclaim the truth: Jesus is Lord!