Perception may not be everything, but it sure weighs heavily on how men live their lives in this vale of tears.
I have often wondered at the strange phenomenon, in the Christian world, we call back-sliding. How can a person who has truly experienced the love that Jesus brings leave off the walk of faith? Some of my friends say that anyone who back-slides never really knew Jesus to begin with. I am not sure I buy that.
Judas knew Jesus. People can say all they want about how Judas only had a head knowledge and not a heart knowledge of the master. Certainly, by the end that was true, but to say Judas never knew Jesus… was never a follower, that just might be supposing too much. Didn’t Judas leave everything to follow Jesus like the other disciples? Wasn’t Judas used to cast out demons and cleanse the lepers too? Now I am not saying that Judas was ever a fully devoted follower of Christ on the level of James, Peter or John, but I wager he would have given most of us a run for our money in the “intimacy with Jesus” department.
I don’t think Judas started out as a Satanic sleeper cell in Jesus organization. So what happened? How did someone who started out enamored with Jesus become the Messiah’s foil?
It’s just speculation and perhaps we will never really know but I think it might have something to do with perception. Something had to change in the way Judas viewed Jesus.
I think Judas joined the Messiah’s band of merry men because he thought he had found Israel’s Savior. As I have said before, to the Jews of the time there were certain expectations they had of the Messiah. Jesus in their understanding was to take David’s throne and build an earthly kingdom. When the displays of God’s power began to shoot forth from Jesus fingertips Judas probably revelled in the certainty that at last Israel was going to rise to the top and the rest of the world was going to get theirs.
But there were cracks in this Messiah’s castle walls at least according to Judas’ perception: Jesus wouldn’t build a political base by making nice with the political powers of Israel; His preaching was radical he said things…many things that made even his followers edgy; He flew in the face of convention and tradition; He talked with women and let them touch him; He was good to foreigners and even performed healing for the Roman oppressors at their request. We can’t be sure when it happened but with some certainty we can say there was a point when the betrayer felt betrayed. Maybe it was a “slow fade” as the song says. Maybe the feeling built up over time. Maybe Jesus’ rebuke of Judas in John 12 was the lit match that set fire Judas’ fury. Something in Judas’ perception convinced him that it was time to act. Judas decided Jesus needed to be stopped.
I have known many back-sliders. I’ve even dabbled in the art of back-sliding a bit myself. I know my own back-sliding had to do with my perception that God was unfair…that He wasn’t doing a very good job with my life. Most of the people I have known who have back-slidden have done so because they saw something else in life that looked better to them than Jesus. One man commented to me that at the time his memories of all the miracles he had seen were removed from him. He was left with a perception that God had never done anything in his life. It was only after he came back to God that the memories were restored.
When we give room to the feelings of bitterness against God that Satan would inspire within us we are walking a slippery slope. Look, there are moments all of us feel abandoned or hurt by God. Feelings aren’t sin. They are indicators of internal struggle. Judas’ feelings of betrayal or anger or hurt weren’t sin. They were indicators of his internal faith struggle. The decisions, mind-sets, and actions he based off those feelings, those were sin. Judas should have turned to the word of God to lead him. Anyone struggling with their mind-set towards God needs to turn to the Bible for guidance rather than their feelings. We have to live by principle these days not by “how we feel” about things. Judas chose to live by his feelings. In the end the betrayer betrayed himself as well as the Savior. Jesus recovered in case you don’t remember the end of the story. Judas never did.
What struggles do you have with your perception of God? What are you doing about it?