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Judas: Friend of Jesus?

Jesus is never short on surprising things to say. One such thing comes at the moment he is betrayed by Judas. Matthew 26:50 reads, “Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Friend? Does Jesus really address the one responsible for betraying him to those plotting his cruel destruction as “friend”? What do we do with that?

Well-known preacher and teacher Thomas G. Long suggests that Jesus is speaking ironically and argues that “friend”, in the Gospel of Matthew, “means something like ‘Buster’ and is itself no term of endearment” (Matthew, WJK, 305). He references Matthew 20:13 and 22:12 as other examples in the Gospel where “friend” is used ironically to mean something other than the way it is normally used.

Alternatively, N. T. Wright insists that when Jesus is here using the word “friend” in its normal sense. He says, “It is of course the word ‘friend’ that causes us to catch our breath. Friendship, for Jesus, does not stop with betrayal, even though now it is tinged wth deep sadness” (Matthew for Everyone, WJK, 2.164). He also says that the Greek sentence above translated as “do what you came to do,” could be taken as a question asking, “Do you really want to go through with this?”

What do you think? Is Jesus’ address to Judas as “friend” a term of ironic derision? Or might Jesus be demonstrating the ongoing and unconditional nature of his love, even for those who seek to do him harm? Leave a comment with your take on the passage.

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