I envy those people who say that Jesus is their best friend.
I’ve never been able to understand how people are able to think of Him as My Buddy Jesus, confiding in Him like they would a best friend. I have no problem telling Him my innermost thoughts, but when it comes to receiving the satisfaction that one receives from sharing with a real best friend, I’m like the little girl who’s afraid of the dark. It’s not enough to know that God is watching over me; I need “God with skin on.”
Part of what was missing, I thought as I walked to the subway, was the feeling that Jesus could truly empathize with all my sufferings.
I knew He suffered more than anyone else ever has or will. Yet, it seemed to me, He never endured that special sting that comes when one experiences hurt without warning. Whatever insults were thrown his way, whatever injustices were perpetrated upon him, He at least could see them coming.
Or could He? On the ride home, I read Fulton J. Sheen’s The World’s First Love and was reminded that the Gospel says the young Jesus “increased in wisdom and stature” (Luke 2:52).
Sheen says the all-knowing Son of God could have expanded his wisdom by intentionally limiting himself: “In order that He might be really and truly a man, He consented, in His wonderful condescension, not to call into exercise those powers that He had as God.”
So perhaps it was possible, I thought, that Jesus could allow Himself to be surprised by pain.
Thinking about it, I realized there is one line in the Gospels in which Jesus actually does seem to be caught unaware, in Luke 22:48: “Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?”
Jesus asks many questions in the Gospels, and usually it’s clear that He
allow Himself to be surprised by pain.”
knows the answer, as when he asks whose likeness is on Caesar’s coin, or queries whether the disciples have caught any fish. He also asks questions to provoke thought, as when He asks the Pharisees, “What think ye of Christ? Whose son is he?”
His question to Judas is different, more intimate, than most of his others. Not surprisingly, there exist many interpretations of it, including that He was pronouncing judgment upon His betrayer or was drawing attention to the fact that Judas had forfeited his position as disciple. I wouldn’t doubt that Jesus did ask the question for those reasons or some similarly straightforward one.
Just the same, something seems off to me. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is so certain of His impending betrayal. He drops hints all over the place and eventually tells the disciples plainly that He will be betrayed and killed. On the Mount of Olives, when He sees Judas coming, He announces confidently that his betrayer is at hand (Matthew 26:46). Yet, when Judas leans forward to kiss Him, His last utterance to His rebellious disciple ends not with a thunderous exclamation, but a wounded question mark.
I wonder if Jesus purposefully prevented Himself from forseeing the manner in which Judas would approach Him on that hill. In doing so, He would have enabled Himself to fully experience the shock of his former friend’s sheer brazenness. The pain of betrayal would have been that much more intense.
Pondering that as I arrived home, I still longed for God with skin on, But it did make Jesus seem like that much more of a best friend, to think that when He had eyes like mine, He too could be blindsided.