Please read John 13:18-32 in your favorite Bible. I used the NIV (1984) to prepare these remarks.
While watching the Olympics recently, I saw that one of the networks has jumped on the recent live musicals fad to offer “Jesus Christ, Superstar” on Easter. Personally, I don’t recommend watching it.
Since its first performance the rock opera “Superstar” has fueled debate about its portrayal of the biblical events. We don’t have time to get into all that this morning, but I mention it because one of the failings of the musical is that it is about Judas, not Jesus, and it mistakenly portrays him as being politically motivated to betray Jesus.
The Bible, on the other hand, gives two motives for Judas’ actions. One is greed. He embezzled from the group’s purse and asked for a bribe to turn Jesus over to the leaders who wanted him dead.
The second motive is one we will see in today’s passage: the evil influence of Satan. Judas acted in free will but he eventually became so committed to betraying Jesus that he actually sold out to the devil. Judas’ character is a startling contrast to Jesus’.
Jesus’ gentleness to His betrayer is an example for us to follow.
1. Jesus predicted His betrayal. (13:18-21)
Verse eighteen shows two things about Jesus. One, I KNOW THOSE I HAVE CHOSEN means He knew the hearts of His disciples and loved them anyway. Remember, He washed 12 pairs of feet.
The depth of Jesus’ love is powerfully illustrated in his treatment of Judas. Jesus blessed the disciples in verse seventeen. However, lest Judas think that he was part of that blessing Jesus said, “I AM NOT REFERRING TO ALL OF YOU.” Judas’ betrayal was not worthy of blessing. Just the opposite; he is cursed. In Matthew 26:24 Jesus said, “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
Two, it was part of His mission to fulfill prophecy. Jesus fulfilled prophecy by His choice to be obedient to God’s will and Judas by his choice to disobey.
Jesus quoted Psalm 41:9 to give the disciples insight into His emotional state. He quoted all but the first part; EVEN MY FRIEND, WHOM I TRUSTED. In this Psalm, David complained to God about his enemies, including his own son, Absalom, who betrayed him. Jesus is saying that this Psalm has both historical and predictive elements.
He elaborated by using the most dastardly deed done by a trusted friend. There are two seemingly contradictory phrases in verse eighteen:
SHARES MY BREAD indicates friendship, family, intimacy, and hospitality.
LIFTED UP HIS HEEL refers to an Eastern expression for showing contempt to another. These insights reveal the striking and emotional nature of Jesus’ words.
In verse nineteen Jesus paradoxically revealed His betrayal in order to help His disciples understand who He was: “SO THAT WHEN IT DOES HAPPEN YOU WILL BELIEVE THAT I AM HE.” In this sense, verse nineteen is a word of prophecy. When it comes true, the disciples are to consider it proof that Jesus is who He claims to be: the Son of God.
In verse twenty Jesus revealed that He and the Father were one and the disciples would join them in that unity of character and purpose. Thus, anyone who accepted the disciples, accepted Him and anyone who accepted Him accepted God the Father.
Verse twenty-one shows the human side of Jesus’ nature. The fact that His heart was TROUBLED may indicate a hope to receive comfort from His disciples. This would be a natural expectation from a human being. Moreover, the text says Jesus was DEEPLY TROUBLED; that is the same word used to describe Jesus’ emotion in 11:33 when he saw the grief of people at Lazarus’ tomb.
2. Jesus revealed His betrayer. (13:22-26)
As plain as Jesus made the “big reveal,” the twelve still didn’t get it (22). HIS DISCIPLES STARED AT ONE ANOTHER: This is the kind of detail an eye-witness would mention. It is how you would expect folks to react to such a surprise. They were AT A LOSS TO KNOW WHAT HE MEANT. This happens a lot in the Gospels.
In verses twenty-three to twenty-five, questions were raised. Notably, by THE DISCIPLE WHOM JESUS LOVED, who has traditionally been identified as John.
Simon Peter’s rush to know specifics fits with what we know of his character. Making use of his being next to Jesus, John simply asked Him, “LORD, WHO IS IT?”
Judas is unmistakably identified in verses twenty-six and twenty-seven. Jesus’ answer was confusing at first.
At a time when bread was used in place of tableware, it was customary to use bread to scoop up meat or some other dish as one ate. (As our Ethiopian brothers and sisters do today.) It was also customary for the host of a dinner to make a point of giving a special morsel to honor a guest.
When Jesus chose this means of identifying His betrayer, it seemed that He was honoring and exposing Judas at the same time. I believe Jesus is showing grace to Judas, showing him love, and maybe offering him one last chance to repent of his decision.
3. Satan entered Judas. (13: 27)
The phrase SATAN ENTERED INTO HIM is extraordinary. Let’s explore what it means.
Don’t miss the detail in verse twenty-seven; AS SOON AS JUDAS TOOK THE BREAD, SATAN ENTERED INTO HIM. Judas’ willingly receiving the bread is his way of accepting his role, the moment of his decision to accept the role of betrayer, and his ultimate sell-out to Satan. There was nothing “magical” about the bread; it is the act of accepting it when Jesus had specifically imbued it with meaning that has Judas crossing a line that demarked the “point of no return.”
This phrase marks a clear break between Judas the disciple and Judas the betrayer. Judas gave up on any “second thoughts” or temptation to back out for any reason. It means that Judas gave himself fully to the evil purpose that was the devil’s will. Back in 6:70-71 we read, THEN JESUS REPLIED, “HAVE I NOT CHOSEN YOU, THE TWELVE? YET ONE OF YOU IS A DEVIL!” (HE MEANT JUDAS, THE SON OF SIMON ISCARIOT, WHO, THOUGH ONE OF THE TWELVE, WAS LATER TO BETRAY HIM.)
In Mark 5:12 and Luke 8:30 this phrase refers to evil spirits being sent into a herd of swine, which then drowned themselves. Talk about spiritual evil and its deadly effects!
Jesus dismissed Judas with the words, “WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO DO, DO QUICKLY.” I can think of reasons for Jesus to send Judas away. One is to make the rest of the Last Supper time spent only with the eleven. The other is to get the sequence of events leading to His crucifixion started.
Judas wasted no time: AS SOON AS JUDAS TOOK THE BREAD, HE WENT OUT. The mention of NIGHT is historically accurate, but also symbolic; in John’s Gospel, NIGHT describes moments when evil reigns.
4. Judas left to enact his betrayal. (13:27-30)
Verse twenty-seven makes it clear Jesus understood fully Judas’ role in what was to happen that night. He had already predicted many times that it would happen. Jesus knew when He would be betrayed, who would betray Him, and why it was necessary He be betrayed. But now time was running out; He needed to get Judas going to move events along.
Skip ahead to verse thirty. Did Judas feel exposed and that’s why left quickly? Did he worry about reprisals or being restrained by the eleven? Was their any guilt or shame in his heart or had the devil pushed all that away?
His emotional/spiritual condition aside, by getting up and leaving, Judas made a further choice ally himself with the devil’s purpose and committed himself again to the course of betrayal. Ironically, this was one occasion where he was obedient to Jesus’ command.
Go back to verses twenty-eight and twenty-nine. For their part, the disciples still didn’t get it: NO ONE AT THE MEAL UNDERSTOOD WHY JESUS SAID THIS TO [Judas].
They thought Jesus had sent Judas on a typical kind of errand SINCE JUDAS HAD CHARGE OF THE MONEY. It was customary to give offerings to the poor as a means of observing the Passover. They rationalized; maybe Judas went out TO BUY WHAT WAS NEEDED FOR THE FEAST or TO GIVE SOMETHING TO THE POOR. These events happened during the most holy of Jewish holy days; the Passover, which was a feast day. It’s human nature to find the ordinary in things we don’t understand.
5. Jesus spoke to His glorification. (13:31-32)
The key word here is NOW (verse thirty-one). Our Bibles separate verses thirty and thirty-one into different sections; I think this is incorrect because the word NOW links them. This means there was something about Judas’ going forth that glorified Jesus as God the Son and also God the Father.
GLORY is the presence of God manifest in one or both of two ways: in light (a supernatural radiance visible to the eyes) and/or in acts of divine power; miracles. In this situation, Jesus promised His disciples God’s presence was going to be revealed in a way they had been warned about but still did not expect: Jesus’ resurrection.
Jesus’ response to Judas’ betrayal was gracious and dignified. We must be characterized by such behavior when we deal with those who oppose or persecute us.
As He did in other teachings (17:22), Jesus is directly attesting to the unity between Himself as God the Son and God the Father. The chain of acceptance (verse twenty) and the chain of glorification (verse thirty-two) both explore aspects of the unity present between God and His people, also between members of the Trinity.
Jesus’ gentleness to His betrayer is an example for us to follow.
So there you have it. Whatever else may have been rummaging around in his head, Judas betrayed Jesus for money. He was so sold out to the idea of betraying Jesus that the devil became his partner.
This depth of betrayal is too stunning for us to take in. That’s one reason some people have sought to make excuses for Judas; to humanize him or at least make his decision a more ordinary thing.
Another mistake we make about Judas is thinking we’re nothing like him. The Bible makes it plain that every sin is an act of betrayal. It is rebellion against God. Every sin carries the same deadly consequences as Judas’ treachery.
The good news is that Jesus has shown us the same tender mercy He showed Judas in the upper room. He gives us multiple chances to repent and resist the devil. He offers forgiveness that is complete and eternal.