"COME, NOW, AND LET US REASON TOGETHER, SAYS THE LORD" (ISAIAH 1.18)
—"The one reading, be understanding!" (Mk. 13.14; Mt. 24.15)
Brief studies and devotionals designed to elucidate the meaning of Scripture, increase our faith, and enable us to draw closer to God. To learn more about this column, see: "01—The Bible Was Written To Be Understood."
It came as no surprise to the Lord that Judas, in his greed, betrayed him (cf. Jn. 6.64, 70-71; 18.1-4). During the last supper with his disciples, Jesus explicitly identified his traitor, after which the son of Simon departed from their midst to achieve his sinister aims (Jn. 13.20ff). Meanwhile, in his conversation with the eleven that remained, the Lord forged a new relationship with them. “No longer do I call you servants,” Jesus said, but “friends” (philos—someone dearly loved; a trusted confident), since they did “whatever” he commanded them, and because he informed them of all his plans (Jn. 15.13-15). Note that Judas was not a recipient of this accolade.
Several hours later, in the garden of Gethsemane, Judas gave the Lord a tender “kiss” of affection (kataphileo), but the Lord said this to the man: “Acquaintance (hetairos), do that for which you are present” (Mt. 26.50). Like the word, friend (philos), this word (hetairos) also denotes comradeship or association — with one notable difference: it is bereft of endearment. Hence, it may suggest a supposed friend; one who is technically associated with another, but whose affections reside with himself, and not necessarily with his acquaintance. Even if Judas missed this subtle message at the moment, it stands out mightily in Matthew’s text — you play my friend (phileo), but you are only loosely associated (hetairos) with me.
Take special note of the similarity between this episode and the Lord’s remarks in Mt. 7.21-23. There, the Lord reveals that, on judgment day, many will be surprised to learn that they too sustained only a loose association with the Lord, without obeying his commands. Instead of “Master,” they will call him, “Lord.” Rather than “acquaintance,” the Lord’s verbal dagger to these pseudo-disciples will be: “workers of iniquity,” after which they will be sent away from him. Wherein, then, lies the difference between blessed friendship with God, and cursed acquaintanceship? Namely this: his friendskeep his Son’s commands (Jn. 16.27; 14.15; Heb. 5.8-9). Unfortunately, these false-Christians, with Judas, will have learned this lesson far too late.