Comparisons are important. They teach truth and illuminate truth. Jesus makes a remarkable comparison in His “Good Shepherd” discourse in John 10:14, 15, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” Those two little words, “even as,” is the Greek word kathos, and is a comparative conjunction. Notice the comparison, “I know My own and My own know Me, even as; just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father.” In order to make this double-sided comparison a little more clear, we could phrase it like this: “I know My own, even as the Father knows Me, and My own know Me, even as I know the Father.” Four times Jesus uses the word “know” to describe the relationship that exists between He and His Father, and between Him and those who are His own, i.e. His sheep.
This is more than just an intellectual knowledge of each other’s existence. This is more than a mere emotional experience. This is an intimate, experiential knowledge that is analogous to and rooted in the intimacy between the Father and the Son. This is astounding. This is no mere superficial attraction. This kind of knowledge is not the byproduct of shallow teaching and even shallower worship. It is not the result of pep talks, sentimental and syrupy sermons, or pursuing self-gratification.
No one who rejects Jesus as He is, and substitutes a Jesus of their own imagination can have this kind of intimate, loving fellowship and personal experiential knowledge of Jesus. In fact, it is this mutual knowledge which makes certain that the sheep will follow their Shepherd, and only their Shepherd (cf. John 10:3, 4). True sheep will never follow a false shepherd; they will never follow a Jesus of their own or someone else’s imagination. The implications of this truth are staggering. It reveals how few who profess to follow Christ are truly His sheep. True sheep know and love the true Shepherd, but you cannot love what you do not know.
Two men from the New Testament who shared an uncommonly close relationship to Jesus provide the greatest illustration of this truth. The great difference between Peter and Judas was that Peter loved Jesus and Judas did not. Peter loved Jesus because he was one of Jesus’ sheep, therefore he knew Jesus, he knew who Jesus is, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Judas did not know Jesus because he was not one of Jesus’ sheep.
To Judas, Jesus was simply the means to an end. Jesus was the means by which he would achieve all his self-serving goals, realize his personal ambitions, and complete his own self-fulfillment. Judas hoped to ride on Jesus’ coattails to a position of power and influence. Jesus was his ticket to fame and fortune. Judas could be the poster child for those churches who promote Jesus as the means of worldly success, respectability, and self-improvement, and who invite people to “Come and see what God can do for you.”
None of the other disciples ever suspected that Judas or Peter would betray Jesus. There was no real outward evidence, but there was a huge difference in their motives for following Jesus. One was motivated by his love of self, the other by his love of Jesus. One followed Jesus for the perceived worldly advantages, the other followed Jesus because of who He is. Judas was only interested in self-gratification, but Peter was willing to sacrifice himself for Jesus.
To Judas, Jesus was the means to an end, but for Peter, Jesus was the end, He was the ultimate goal, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life” (John 6:68). This is true of all who have a sincere love for Jesus, and what we love we want to know better. Judas loved a Jesus of his own imagination, a political Messiah. And when it turned out that Jesus was not who or what Judas had imagined, that Jesus had not come to advance his own self-interest or help him achieve all his personal goals, then Judas’ love turned to betrayal.
When Jesus is only the means to an end, once that end is realized, or it becomes clear that Jesus is not going to satisfy someone’s desire, then the love affair with Jesus is over. For Judas, it became clear that Jesus was not going to be the means by which he would realize all his worldly and materialistic desires. It became clear that Jesus’ message and mission was contrary to his worldly and self-seeking ambitions.
In Jesus’ economy, honor and wealth were to be despised, self was to be denied, the flesh was to be crucified, personal ambition was to be subjected to His will, the world was to be renounced, self-confidence was to be distrusted, suffering was to be patiently endured, the cross carried, the reproach of man borne cheerfully, self-effort was to count for nothing, the greatest is a slave and the poorest are rich, the wise of the world are foolish and the foolish wise, sin is to be forsaken, and holiness of life pursued.
In short, it condemns all that the world esteems virtuous, valuable, and praiseworthy, all that the world lusts after and desires and expends all its efforts to gain, and exposes our innate blindness to spiritual truth, our utter inability to save ourselves, and forces us to depend not on ourselves, but solely on God’s grace and power.
This is not what the vast majority of people go to church to hear. This is the sound doctrine which people will not endure. This is why they choose teachers who will affirm their intrinsic goodness, confirm their infinite worth, and pander to their narcissistic desires for self-gratification. Jeremiah complained to God that no one was listening to his preaching,
“To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ears are closed, and they cannot listen. Behold, the word of the LORD has become a reproach to them; they have no delight in it” (Jeremiah 6:10).
This describes the majority of the professing church today to a T.
Peter’s denial was motivated by self-preservation, which is a natural human instinct. Judas’ betrayal was motivated by greed, lust for power and influence, and self-gratification. It only took one look from Jesus to crush Peter (Luke 22:61), whereas Judas could walk right up to Jesus, look Him in the face, salute Him with a kiss, hear Jesus question his loyalty, and all without the slightest twinge of conscience. Peter’s sorrow was because he had sinned against the One he loved. Judas’ remorse was because of the circumstances his sin had created; he was guilty of innocent blood. Judas loved himself too much to live with the guilt of his sin.
Most people avoid sin because of the harmful side effects. Self-love is the motive, not love for Jesus. If they could sin without harm to themselves or their reputation, then there would be no restraint. But quite often not even personal loss is a restraint to sin. People will sacrifice their health, wealth, reputation, careers, and family just to satisfy their lust. Some even sacrifice the lives of their own children.
A member of our church plant will sometimes pose a question to people he meets. The question he asks is, “What if I was as loving, truthful, compassionate and gracious as Jesus, how do you think people would receive me?” How would you answer? Before you do, remember, Jesus came to His own and those who were His own did not receive Him (John 1:11). They killed Him. We have the same hearts they had.
So, who do you love? The Jesus of Peter or the Jesus of Judas? The Jesus of Scripture or the Jesus of your own imagination? Jesus as He is or Jesus as you want Him to be? Most love the latter and are offended and scandalized by the former because He is so unlike who and what they want Him to be. They are willing to kiss the Jesus of Judas, the Jesus who is merely the means to an end, but they hate the Jesus of Peter; the Jesus who is an end in Himself, the Jesus who makes demands on their life, the Jesus who dictates the terms of salvation, and the Jesus who commands “follow Me.”
Peter followed Jesus to the death. Judas preferred death to following Jesus. Peter loved Jesus because he knew Jesus. Judas loved a Jesus of his own imagination so he betrayed Jesus for a quick profit when Jesus proved not to be who Judas thought he was. Is your knowledge of Jesus an “even as” knowledge or just an intellectual acquaintance? Does your knowledge of Jesus reflect a lovingly obedient, intimate, fellowship with Jesus, or just a sentimental infatuation with a Jesus of your own imagination? Comparisons are important. Make sure your love for Jesus is an “even as” love.