Did Jesus fellowship Judas?
The answer to this question is unprovable, if by "fellowship"
is meant merely the technical participation in the "Last Supper". A reasonable
reading of the four gospel narratives leads to the conclusion that Jesus did
indeed break bread with Judas, knowing full well his traitorous intentions.
Brothers Thomas and Roberts both subscribed to this view, as their writings
show. But nowhere do the records specifically spell this out.
The partaking of the emblems, however, is not the actual
issue. We know that Jesus would have broken bread with Judas, even if it is felt
that Judas in fact excused himself and went out before that point in the
evening's activities. We know this because Jesus did wash the feet of Judas, as
well as the other eleven. We know that because Jesus offered the sop to Judas.
(This was traditionally a mark of great love and esteem, for the host to give
the choicest morsel in the common bowl to a special guest.) Indeed, we know this
by the simple observation that for more than three years Judas ate and slept and
traveled with Jesus and the other apostles, and never once did Jesus do or say
anything that might have led the others to suspect that Judas was the one who
would betray him. These were all instances of "fellowship" just as much as the
symbolic common partaking of bread and wine; all together, they show that Jesus
had admitted a man whom he knew to be a hypocrite into the innermost circle of
his companionship for an extended time.
In 1847, after learning the Truth and being baptized, Brother
John Thomas was the subject of certain charges made by the hierarchy of the
Campbellite ("Church of Christ") congregations. They demanded that Brother
Thomas leave the "fellowship" of their congregations, because his "Confession
and Abjuration" (written March 3, 1847) implied that many members of those
congregations did not believe the full gospel. At such a demand Brother Thomas
became highly indignant and fired off the following reply:
"Without comparing you [some of the Campbellite "brethren"] to Judas, I would
inquire, Was not he in his sins when Jesus broke the loaf with him as well as
the rest of the twelve? This will be a sufficient quid for your quo, that I
necessarily abjure churches, because there are those among them who on my
principles are in their sins... There are many in the American reform-churches
who believe in... the 'immortality of the soul'. We have learned, however, the
important lesson of bearing and forbearing with one another, in hope that all
will come to see the real truth....But your dogma is that I ought to reject
them... We, however, do not think so" (From a personal letter, quoted by Robert
Roberts in "Dr Thomas: His Life and Work", p
We must not, of course, suppose that Brother Thomas retained
such a "liberal" view of "fellowship" for the rest of his days. There did come a
time when it was desirable from his viewpoint, as well as those who made him
their enemy, that he no longer be affiliated in any sense with the "reform"
churches. But we might note with care that this was at least two years after his
true immersion into the hope of Israel. And at any rate his point about Judas
may be well taken, as far as it goes, even by us today. We see Brother Thomas as
a man much like the apostle Paul, willing to recognize holders of false doctrine
as "brethren", so long as there was reasonable expectation of their further
enlightenment and reform.
Robert Roberts, in his "True Principles and Uncertain
"Judas was a thief and Jesus knew it, but tolerated him till he manifested
himself. Was Jesus responsible [i.e. for Judas' sins] while he fellowshipped
him? Certainly not" (Xd 92:417).