"Jesus answered them, 'Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?' He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve." John 6:70-71
The reason that Jesus' chosen disciples did not turn away from Him in unbelief is because Jesus prayerfully chose them and revealed Himself to them -- who He is and what He came into this world to do.
When others found it hard to believe and accept Jesus' words and turned away from Him in unbelief, Jesus asked His disciples if they also would turn away from Him and no longer follow him. It was then that Simon Peter, speaking for Jesus' inner circle of disciples, confessed: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also, we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (John 6:66-69)
Jesus' disciples were blessed by God and enabled to receive Jesus' words in faith. Notice what Jesus said to Simon Peter when he made a similar profession of faith in Matthew 16: "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 16:17). And so it was for Jesus' disciples. The words Jesus spoke were "spirit" and "life" (John 6:63), and no one could come to Jesus in faith apart from the Father drawing him (John 6:44). It was by God's gracious choosing and the enlightening work of the Holy Spirit through God's Word that they had come to know Jesus and believe His words.
And yet, even among those Jesus chose was one who would betray Him. As the Scriptures say, "Jesus answered them, 'Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?' He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve" (John 6:70-71).
Judas Iscariot had been with Jesus, seen His mighty miracles, and heard His words, just like the other disciples. Yet, it appears his love for money moved him to betray his Lord and Savior (cf. John 12:6; 18:1ff.).
And how often this happens yet today! Even among the most faithful church members, there are those who, despite knowing the truth, turn against and betray faithful pastors and fellow believers or turn against and reject Christ Himself and His life-giving words. Either because of sinful pride, out of love for the things of this world, or from fear of possible repercussions for following the truth, they shrink back and betray the faithful. And, of course, there are those among the chosen who, sadly, like Judas, so love money and the goods of this world that they pilfer from the offerings given to the church for the work of Christ's kingdom.
Why did Jesus say these words? Why is it important for us to consider them?
In addition to learning of treachery in churches, Jesus' words are certainly a warning to us against the treachery of our own hearts. Never should we think we are above or immune from being devils in the mix -- thinking that we would never let self-righteous pride or the love of this world and the things of this world move us to betray faithful pastors, malign our fellow believers and teachers, or to turn away from Christ and His Word (cf. Jer. 3:20). That is why the Bible warns us of the wickedness and deceitfulness of our own hearts, cautions us against love for the world, and exposes the wickedness of our own tongues. (Jer. 17:9; 1 John 2:15-17; cf. James 3:7-12)
Rather than being quick to betray and condemn our spiritual leaders, we ought first to examine ourselves and repent of the evil in our hearts and of the sinful pride that prevents us from hearing and considering the truth of God's Word. And how important it is to repent and look in faith to Christ and His cross for mercy, lest we end up like Judas, who died in unbelief and despair over his sin!
Editor's note: Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Devotion is by Randy Moll. He may be contacted by email at [email protected]. More of Moll's devotional writings are freely available at https://mercifulsaviorlutheran.net. Opinions expressed are those of the author.