Have you ever thought about that before?
Even just a little bit?
To be fair, it’s not a question that comes up very often, mostly because it’s essentially a moot point. But hypothetically speaking, let’s pretend that instead of taking his own life, Judas had simply gone into hiding for a few days while Jesus’ trial and crucifixion was underway, and then tried to rejoin the rest of the Apostles after Jesus had been raised – do you think they would have been forgiven him?
This is, after all, the one who was most directly responsible for betraying the date and time of one of Jesus’ most vulnerable hours, despite following Him for the better part of three years and witnessing the exact same things they had all witnessed, so you can understand why the rest of the Apostles would be hesitant. But on the other hand, one of Jesus’ most preached about virtues is that of forgiveness (Matt. 5:7; 6:14-15; Mark 11:25-26; Luke 17:3; et al), and holding any kind of grudge against even this most heinous act would have gone against the very forgiveness they had been given from time to time as well. So when put to this test – that of forgiving the one who betrayed their Lord and friend – what would they have done?
When you consider John’s Gospel in light of the fact that he wrote it 50 plus years after the crucifixion, the fact that he still calls Judas a “thief” in John 12:6 tells you all you need to know about his mindset. After all, John was the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20); Jesus’ death might have been the hardest for him of all people to take!
Then you take into account Jesus’ own admission that it would have been better for the one who betrays the Son of Man to “not have been born” (Matt. 26:24). Upon hearing that, would the Apostles then have considered Judas a condemned man and disfellowshipped him until further notice? Certainly worse treatment than that occurs within our own brotherhood.
And let’s not forget Peter’s ready defense of Jesus in the garden by pulling out his sword and cutting off Malchus’ ear. One wonders if the next time Peter saw Judas, he wouldn’t have wanted to cut off his ear also.
But what’s really the point here? Are we really trying to determine what they would have done by making assumptions about events that didn’t take place, or are we trying to determine what we would have done had we been in that situation? Skip the self-righteousness for a second and be honest with yourself.
Did I mention you’re angry?
And then, the one responsible for all these emotions comes walking back into your company, asking for forgiveness. Would you have welcomed him?
That decision is a hard one to make realistically, but brethren, we see these same circumstances in our own lives all the time. People have wronged us, and then down the road they’re in our lives again, and we treat them with contempt and spite for what they’ve done, and for reasons a lot less severe than “betraying our Lord.”
Whether someone asks for forgiveness or not is really not as important as we would like to believe; we often use that as a crutch to mask the fact that we don’t really want to forgive in the first place, justifying ourselves for denying them grace (1 John 3:15). But someone’s got to be the one to walk through the door in the first place, and if it wasn’t Judas making the first step to prostrate himself before the Apostles, the Apostles would have had the responsibility to reach out to him and seek his repentance.
Why do we not? Because we’re angry, and we believe that our anger gives us the right to be angrily angry forever until they gravel at our feet and wipe our feet with their tears. But if even Jesus, who I honestly believe would have forgiven even Judas if he had turned back, then why couldn’t His disciples? And if God has forgiven those who have wronged us in the past, first wronging Him (Psalm 51:4), then why can’t we? Seek reconciliation, despite the apparent obstacles in your heart.