A Lesson from Jesus About Confrontation

“But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was going to betray him) said, “Why wasn’t this oil sold for three hundred silver coins and the money given to the poor?” (Now Judas said this not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief. As keeper of the money box, he used to steal what was put into it.)” – John 12:4-6 NET

Confrontation is something as Christians most of us know about – and most of us know about it first hand. It can be a very painful experience – well, not can – it mostly IS, but sometimes it is better than others. It might depend on the way the person confronts you, if you even really know them (having a relationship with someone really helps a lot, regardless of how they say it), or it might depend on our own attitude – whether or not we are willing to admit that we might possibly have sinned, or have a pattern of sin in our lives.

But this all aside, I wanted to share something that my Greek Exegesis professor shared with me. First read John 12:4-6 if you didn’t already.

Now, isn’t it interesting that Jesus never confronted Judas over his thievery? You might say, “Well, Jesus probably didn’t know about it.” And I reply, take a look at John 1:47-48 – “Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and exclaimed, ‘Look, a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘How do you know me?’ Jesus replied, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’” (there are other places, but I think that goes far enough)

I think a lot of times we make confrontation the first option. We see a brother or sister sinning and we go over and “Matthew 18” them. Would I not have confronted Judas? Would I not have had some “truth” to tell him? “Thieves go to hell. Repent!”

But is that how Jesus lived? Did Jesus go around confronting all the “sinners” around him? Who did Jesus confront – who did Jesus not confront? Who do I confront? Who do you confront? Have you ever confronted anyone? Did Jesus ever confront someone? The answers to these questions are quite telling – and questions I had never thought to ask until recently.

I fear I must evaluate my own practice. I do much because of the “Christian” culture around me – and I do very little because I have learned to do it directly from my Savior.

I must seek to learn from Christ – to imitate him, to become like him, to speak as he spoke, and to act as he acted. I am a far way off – but it is my goal, for God’s grace is abundant and now because of Christ, I can follow him – even in imperfection – most definitely in imperfection.



  1. Since I would lump Judas into the “non-Christian” category of things, I would have to say that confrontation inside and outside the church is a bit different. It is obviously a little much to demand the world to live out an obedient life to Christ. A common adage for what most of us want (and by us I mean most churches and Christians out there) is to clean the fish before we catch it. A lot of the time we don’t trust God to do the hard job of cleaning out someone’s heart. Now obviously that person must first come to a knowledge of the gospel and a saving trust in Jesus Christ… which obviously Judas did not have.

    An interesting side note as I was doing some studying on the character of Judas as he is portrayed in the gospels. I believe that he is never mentioned apart from being referenced as the one who would betray Jesus. And, it is obvious that John added in the comment about Judas in the narration. I think that this (both John’s comments and the title that Judas received in the gospels) is to protect the reader from seeing Judas as a person to be emulated. If you think about it… he did everything right on the outside. He said the right things “like in the passage above – about selling to give to the poor”… he went out on the “missionary journey” like in Matthew 10, he was one of the apostles – Luke 6 – so he was seen as a leader among the other disciples (the larger group of people who followed). But, he obviously did not have any sort of restoration of the heart. I think that this may be a common symptom in the church… I am not equating anyone to Judas, but I am just trying to point out that we often desire the right look of people on the outside because it is easy to measure, and neglect the focus of the scriptures on the renewal of the heart.

    About confrontation: I hate confronting people, so if anything I have the reverse problem of the person who would call someone out in the “Matt 18” standard.


  2. I would agree to some extent about your evaluation of Judas – but the problem is he was associated with Jesus – I think I would put him more as like a regular attender of church or even a full blown member. When people saw Judas do something they would associate what he did with Jesus.

    Do you really think Judas had the right perspective in regards to the poor? If he did – why did Jesus correct him? I agree for the most part though as far as the other things he did (obviously, because at the last supper, Judas’s name did not come up – he had everyone but Jesus fooled).

    I personally think I confront people without direct words – it comes close to judging – they do something that I think is wrong (or even unbiblical) and they know I disprove – I am not loving nor compassionate as Jesus was. I have much room to grow.


  3. Yep – I do the “non-confrontation confrontation” thing, too. I do my best to avoid outright confrontation, however. It’s very difficult for me. I need to learn to “speak the truth in love”.


  4. I don’t think he had the right perspective in regard to the poor at all… but outwardly (because of what he said) people thought he did. His spiritual life was all outward and not inward at all – thus making it not really spiritual. However, if people judged his fruit it may have been convincing (except to the post-resurrection disciples who wanted to make sure that no one could think of him in such light).


  5. And by judging his fruit I mean the whole “pre-betrayal thing” (Matthew 10 – being sent out… “saying the right things”… being part of Jesus’ leadership circle, etc). Anyways my point is that this is why I think that the NT writers always referenced him as the betrayer continually – so that no one would think that he should have been emulated.


  6. Confrontation. I had an interesting thought about that the other day … of course, everybody works different ways. What is effective in disciplining / exhorting one person may fail with another. I just thought that the person who is cruelly judgmental and the person who doesn’t confront you at all is the same kind of person expressed in different ways. Neither of them take the time to understand you, and neither of them care enough to restore / encourage you. This may seem obvious, but I realized that a lot of times I just want people to understand what I’m saying / thinking and interact with it, even if that response is critical. How can you love a person that you don’t understand, except in a very general sense?

    Christ of course took some interesting approaches. I would lump his confrontation into three categories: Judas, Pharisees, Peter.

    Judas: Hands off. Lets nature take its course.

    Pharisees: Open rebuke, though he does not expect them to respond. This is partly, at least, for the sake of others (to protect them from the “leaven”).

    Peter: His confrontation is for Peter’s sake. This does not always make it pleasant, but Jesus understands Peter, and what he needs to hear.


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