Why did Jesus let Judas carry the money bag during his ministry, knowing in his omniscience that he was stealing from it (John 12:6)? One blogger humorously points out “one is tempted to offer the Lord some consulting on good stewardship.”
It’s a provocative question. I’ve seen a few posts on this over the last few years that make some good points. But they don’t always get at why Jesus had the right to do this, and we don’t — and what this implies for what it means to follow Christ’s example. In relation to this question, I think the best answer is from Jonathan Edwards:
[Judas] had been treated by Jesus himself, in all external things, as if he had truly been a disciple, even investing him with the character of apostle, sending him forth to preach the gospel, and enduing him with miraculous gifts of the Spirit.
For though Christ knew him [that is, knew that he was a fraud], yet he did not then clothe himself with the character of omniscient Judge, and searcher of hearts, but acted the part of a minister of the visible church; (for he was his Father’s minister;) and therefore rejected him not, till he had discovered himself by his scandalous practice; thereby giving an example to guides and rulers of the visible church, not to take it upon them to act the part of searcher of hearts, but to be influenced in their administrations by what is visible and open.
Here are a few additional thoughts to flesh this out.
First, if it’s surprising that Jesus would have let Judas carry the money bag, it should be even more shocking that he let Judas be an apostle at all. For the task of going out and preaching the gospel, which Judas participated in, is even more significant than carrying the moneybag.
Second, Edwards’ point here is right on: Jesus was acting according to what would have been evident in his human nature, not what he knew from his omniscient divine nature, as it was not yet time for him to exercise the role of judge.
Thus, if Jesus had, in his human nature, actually seen Judas stealing from the money bag, I think he would have taken it away. Jesus was not intending to set an example for us here that we should knowingly appoint dishonest people to important positions. He was acting in accord with the knowledge he had not as omniscient judge, but according to the ordinary operations of his human nature. And on that basis there were likely no concerns with Judas yet.
In acting according to what was evident according to his role as minister of the visible church, Jesus was seeking to show, as Edwards points out, that we aren’t to act as though we know a person’s heart unless there are clear and obvious outward signs that reveal otherwise. In that sense, then, Jesus is modeling something for us here.
Third, obviously Jesus did have reasons in his sovereign will for appointing this task to Jesus. Perhaps it was to show all the more fully Judas’ sin and apostasy over the long-term (or, as Jon Bloom argues, to give an acted parable warning us against the love of money). However, Jesus’ sovereign will is never something we are to model. He has rights that we don’t. As the best Calvinists have always pointed out, we are to make the moral will of Christ our guide — not his sovereign will.
Fourth, it is a sobering thing that there are some people seeming to follow Christ that are not truly following him. That is a scary, shocking thing! It should lead us all to be all the more diligent to “make your calling and election sure” by constantly growing in grace (2 Peter 1:10).