Did you ever notice when Jesus met someone how he didn’t see them as they were at that moment, but he saw their potential, or he looked not at their actions but their character? Take for example the first time he meets Simon, the brother of Andrew (John 1:4-42). Jesus changes his name from Simon to Peter, which means rock. What was it about Peter Jesus saw that would prompt him to change his name? Of course, we know through the Scriptures what Jesus saw. Peter went from someone who denied Christ to someone who helped to establish the church as we know it today. But Jesus didn’t tell him why he changed his name or what he would do or become. He also did not rename any of his other disciples. He did have pet names (if you will) for his cousin’s James and John. He called them the Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17). When he met Nathanael, he saw his character right away and said, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” Nathanael asked Jesus how he knew him and Jesus told him that he saw him under a fig tree before Philip called him. Now at that time, Nathanael was making fun of anyone who came from Nazareth. Jesus knew this but didn’t fault him for it. And Nathanael (also known as Bartholomew) was amazed and declared Jesus to be the Son of God right then and there (John 1:45-51).
Other disciples were either known by their character, their individuality, their parents or their professions:
The remarkable thing of course about all these disciples is how Jesus came to select them as his apostles. He spent the entire night praying about them, and he chose men who would ultimately be in charge of building his church. He knew that one would betray him, one would deny him, and another would doubt he rose from the grave. A ragtag bunch to be sure – just like the rest of us humans.
The fact that Jesus chose Judas Iscariot, knowing he would betray him is a hard one to get around. Jesus knew Judas’ character. He even called him a devil (John 6:70), and yet he made him the group treasurer. John called him a thief because he knew Judas used to help himself to the money he was in charge of keeping (John 12:1-8). They knew he stole, yet no one called him out on it, nor did they place anyone else in charge of the money. I have no doubt most of the disciples (Jesus included) saw Judas as someone who needed “saving”. He NEEDED Jesus. So they tolerated him in the hopes that he would change and listen to what Jesus was saying. Jesus knew he wouldn’t, but his disciples didn’t. Is it possible Jesus had other plans in mind when selecting Judas? Perhaps his disciples needed to learn forgiveness first hand. Unfortunately, Judas’ character betrayed him. His remorse for his evil deeds came too late, and instead of seeking forgiveness for his sins from his friends and God, he went out and hung himself in shame.
I think sometimes we see our sins, our past mistakes, our flaws, or the hurts we’ve caused others and we, like Judas, are unable to forgive ourselves for the choices we’ve made in life. The beautiful thing is that Jesus sees past all that. He sees our potential, our real character – what we can become and will become, not what we are right now. Jesus only sees redeemed people, because his blood has covered over all our sins and mistakes.
And I have a hard time dealing with that. I can only see my sins. They are ever before me. They can haunt me if I let them. They could bring me as low as Judas. But Praise the Lord! Jesus’ death and resurrection let me know that I am forgiven, saved, redeemed by His blood, sanctified and blessed – free!
And knowing this can help us when we meet rude or demanding people, or when we hear about another terrorist attack on TV, or even when we disagree with someone politically. We need to start seeing people as Jesus sees them, not their flaws or their sins, but their potential. In an age where everyone seems to be “angry,” we as Christians need to be a light in that darkness. We need to step back and see what Jesus sees - the potential for a saved life, changed by the blood of the Lamb forever. If we can learn to look past each other’s failings, political views, sins, etc., and remember that Jesus loves even the Judas’ of the world, we could change the world for the better. And isn't that what we are supposed to do anyway?