Breaking Bread and Betrayal

Posted: October 4, 2015 in John

John 13:18-30, “Breaking Bread and Betrayal”

Have you ever been betrayed?  Stabbed in the back?  Do you know what it’s like to have someone you’ve loved and trusted turn around and act as your enemy?  You’re not alone.  If online sources can be trusted, one 1997 journal reported that at least 30% of all married individuals engage in infidelity (www.truthaboutdeception.com).  And that’s only one specific kind of betrayal.  Friends turn upon friends, family upon family…betrayal is sadly far too common, and nearly everyone will experience it at some point.

With all that said, what if you knew about it in advance?  What would you do if you not only knew you would be betrayed, but also who would do it & how it would be done?  Would you try to stop it?  Sabotage it?  Perhaps try to act out first, as a sort of pre-revenge?  We can imagine ourselves in all kinds of scenarios, save one: submit to it.  If you knew you were going to be betrayed, along with all the details of the betrayal, would you go through with it?  Jesus did.  And it’s a good things too – for without Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, we would have no Passover arrest.  No arrest = no fulfillment of prophecy = no Messiah.  No arrest = no crucifixion = no resurrection.  Any way you look at it, it’s bad.  It had to be done, so Jesus went through with it.  The worst, most sinful act of betrayal in human history took place the night Judas became a traitor to Jesus – and praise God Jesus let it happen.  This was all part of the plan of God for our salvation.  Judas was certainly guilty for his own sin, and Jesus continued to give him opportunities for repentance right until the end – but God was in control the whole time.  God turned this heartless act of sin into the method by which He showered His grace upon the world…just as He planned to do from the foundation of history.

Jesus know what it is to be betrayed, and He willingly subjected Himself to it…all so that you and I could be saved, being reconciled back to God.  Praise the Lord!

We pick up on the night of the last supper.  After 3 years of ministry, Jesus had finally come to the end.  The hour of the cross was at hand.  Though the gospel of John continues for several more chapters, Jesus is mere hours away from His trial, torture, and crucifixion.  Before all of this began, Jesus had one final supper with His disciples, celebrating the Passover meal.  As the evening got under way, Jesus took the most unusual step of washing His disciples’ feet.  This wasn’t so much an act of sanitation, as it was an example of His coming sacrifice at the cross.  There on the tree, Jesus would humble Himself to the ultimate extent as He served mankind by becoming our substitute – our sacrifice for sin.  He put Himself in our place, all in a grand demonstration of love & act of service.  Jesus previewed all of that in the foot washing.  The disciples needed to be cleansed by the work of Jesus if they were to take part with Him at all.  So they did (even if reluctant).

Yet even as Jesus washed the feet of all 12 disciples, He knew that there was one who would not receive this service in faith.  This disciple would not go out and follow Jesus’ example.  This disciple would betray Jesus to death.  Jesus knew of His betrayal – Jesus knew who would betray Him – and Jesus allowed Himself to be betrayed anyway.  Such is the love of Christ for you & me!

John 13:18–30
18 “I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.’

If it sounds like we’re picking up in the middle of a thought, we are.  Chapter & verse numbers are convenient, but they are not part of the original inspired text.  Vs. 18 comes out of the immediate context of vss. 14-17.  Jesus had given the disciples an example by washing their feet, and He was sending them out as His servants to go & do likewise.  They would not be able (nor expected) to die upon the cross for anyone else’s sins, but they could indeed love others to the point of laying down their lives in service of the gospel.  Those who did would find themselves extraordinarily “blessed.”

With that in mind, not everyone in the room would actually follow Jesus’ example.  There was one in particular who would not: Judas.  Jesus knew it, and did not include Judas in this blessing.  It’s not that Judas never had the opportunity – he just would not ever take it.  Jesus knew this & predicted it perfectly.

And it wasn’t only the Son’s prediction.  This had been prophesied in the Scripture long ago.  Psalm 41:9, "Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me." Seemingly referring to his own betrayal by his trusted counselor Ahithophel, King David wrote how his friend stabbed him in the back.  Ahithophel had backed the rebellion by David’s son Absalom, helped the kingdom be stolen from him, and gave the advice that had his concubines sexually humiliated by his own son.  David was likewise familiar with betrayal!  Ahithophel serves as a prophetic type (symbol/representative) of Judas not only in his treachery, but also in death, as both men hanged themselves in suicide after their deeds.

What David initially wrote concerning himself was actually prophecy concerning his Greater Descendant, Jesus.  Jesus would likewise have a familiar fried betray Him.  One who shared not only the Passover meal with Jesus, but every meal for nearly three years would callously sell Him to the priests for a pitiful sum of cash.

Don’t miss the face that Judas was a friend (per the Psalm).  Specifically in Jesus’ words, Judas was someone “chosen” by Him.  Jesus chose Judas, just like He chose all of the other 11 disciples.  Jesus knew of Judas’ coming treachery all along, and yet he was still chosen by God the Son (Jn 6:70-71).  How amazing is that?  If we knew someone to be an enemy, we would likely keep them as far away from us as possible.  Not Jesus – at least not in the case of Judas.  With Judas, Jesus kept him incredibly close – so close that he was considered among the most trustworthy of disciples.  Even while knowing the future sin of Judas, Jesus gave him every opportunity to be saved.  He heard every sermon – witnessed every miracle – had far more access to Jesus than the typical 1st century Jew – and still he turned away.  But the fault was Judas’; not Jesus’.  Jesus reached out with salvation; Judas denied Him.

  • Jesus may be reaching out to some people here.  He might even have been reaching out repeatedly.  Don’t be a Judas!  Don’t blind yourself to your opportunity to be saved.

19 Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He.

Notice why Jesus quoted the prophecy: it would serve as a testimony to Him.  It’s one thing for Jesus to predict He would be betrayed – it’s another for the Scripture to say the same thing.  Jesus’ own testimony is reinforced by the testimony of the Bible – specifically from a passage that was written centuries earlier.  Fulfilled prophecy is a powerful testimony to Christ.  Over 300 prophecies from the OT were directly fulfilled in Jesus’ 1st Coming.  The odds of that taking place randomly are astronomical.  Fulfilled prophecy is truly a powerful witness as to the truth of the gospel – to the truth of Jesus’ identity.

And who is He?  He is the great I AM, the Lord Yahweh.  Notice the italicized “He.”  This is an indication the word is assumed by the translators.  A literal translation of the clause might be, “in order that you may believe (when it may become/occur) that I am.”  Jesus calls their attention to the prophecy in order that they may have faith, believing Him to be God.

  • That’s the way prophecy is supposed to work.  It’s designed to point us TO Jesus, not distract us from Him.  That’s true regarding prophecies, miracles, and any other act of revelation.  If our attention is all on the supposed prophecy & not on Jesus & His glory, then it’s a pretty good indication the prophecy is false.

Jesus wanted the disciples to believe – to have faith.  When?  When the prophecy came to pass.  And it wouldcome to pass.”  Jesus would indeed be betrayed unto death.  Yet that was not an indication of His defeat, nor even a sign of weakness.  This was all part of the foreordained plan of God.  Although many Jews knew the prophecies about Messiah’s victory, few paid attention to the prophecies about Messiah’s betrayal and death.  Jesus called the disciples’ attention to it so that they would have the full picture, and so that they could maintain faith even as it came true before their eyes.

  • Again, all of this was designed to increase their faith, just like ours.  The trials we experience now as Christians are things Jesus told us to expect…so have faith!  Let those trials increase your faith, as you witness the words of Jesus coming true.

20 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”

After all of this prophecy regarding Jesus’ betrayal, we might be excused for what Jesus is saying here.  How does this relate to anything Jesus has been talking about?  Remember that this comes in the context of a larger statement by Jesus – we need to go back to 13:16 to find the original thought.  Jesus was sending His disciples out to serve the world in the power of the Spirit & with the message of the gospel.  Now He speaks of their possible reception by the world.

What He says here is actually a repeat of a statement that Jesus made when first sending out the disciples early on in His ministry.  Matthew 10:40–41, "(40) “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. (41) He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward."  At that time, Jesus sent the disciples on a practice run.  They took the gospel all over Judea, with the full knowledge that they would report back to Him.  This time, Jesus was sending them out on a permanent basis.  His presence would never leave them, and He promised to send the Holy Spirit to them (as we’ll see in Jn 14) – but even so, it would be vastly different.  Bodily, Jesus would be gone.  They would not be coming back to Him.  But the mission was unchanged.  They would do now exactly what they did earlier: preach the gospel of Jesus.

  • Their mission is our mission.  We have been sent into the world by our Lord & Savior.  People need to hear the good news of salvation.  Are we prepared to go tell them?

Note the relationships here.  There is unity between Father, Son, and Church.  Those who receive the apostles sent by Jesus receive Jesus Himself.  Those who receive Jesus receive the Father.  Each was sent by the authority of the other, and there is a chain of unity/fellowship between each.  Thus, what the apostles taught and declared were not the ideas of men, but the truth of God Almighty.  To receive or reject Biblical/apostolic doctrine is to receive or reject the One True God Himself.

  • How have you received the apostles?
  • How have you treated the apostolic gospel?  Have you valued it as being of God?

21 When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.”

With Jesus saying what He did about the disciples’ mission, He now gets back to the idea of His betrayal.  He, more than anyone else, realized what lay ahead that night, and He was “troubled” by it.  The Greek word speaks of being stirred up, being unsettled, even having an inward turmoil.  Question: If Jesus was so sure of all of this happening, including all of the details & the fact that it was part of the perfect plan of God – why was He troubled?  Why did Jesus experience all of that turmoil?  Answer: Jesus was human.  As much as Jesus is God, Jesus is also Man.  He is the perfect man, but still man, with all of the emotions that other people have.  Jesus knew He was going to be betrayed by Judas, but that doesn’t mean that He liked it.  He knew the heart of Judas (just like He always did), but that doesn’t mean He was happy about it.  Think about it: a close friend – someone personally chosen by Him & someone with whom He spent the last three years – someone with whom He shared countless meals & conversations & prayers – this friend was about to betray Him in the worst way to torture and death.  Who wouldn’t be troubled?

And knowing the love and character of Jesus, we have to wonder if He was troubled only for Himself, but also for Judas.  Judas no doubt deserved his punishment, but we all do.  God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to die for us.  He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked…surely that included Judas as well.  Just as surely as Jesus knew His own future, He also knew what Judas faced in the coming days & into eternity.  That would have troubled Him as well.

  • Jesus loves us!  Jesus has compassion upon us!  How do we know?  Because even as Jesus knew all of this, and was even troubled by it, He still went through with it.  Even knowing us for the sinners that we are, He still endured it all for us.  Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  What amazing love from our Savior!  Have you thanked Him for it lately?

Don’t overlook how Jesus makes it personal for the disciples.  Earlier that night, Jesus spoke of His betrayal in general terms.  Now He narrows the field and bring it close to home: “one of you will betray Me.”  This isn’t a Pharisee – this isn’t a Roman spy – this is one of the 12.  Unthinkable!  By this point, they would have trusted each other implicitly.  They could hardly conceive of the idea that the betrayal would come from within their own ranks.  Vs. 22…

22 Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke.

They were bewildered, confused – completely shocked at the bombshell Jesus just laid on them.  Of course, it’s not as if this was the first time Jesus told them of this.  Jesus had prophesied of His death & resurrection many times, including the details about His betrayal.  They just hadn’t believed Him.  They didn’t want to believe Him – at least, not about this.  There were many promises of Jesus to which they would cling, but this wasn’t one of them.

  • Ever find yourself doing the same thing?  Every word of God is true; not just the ones we want to pick & choose.

It’s only natural at this point that they’d want to know the identity, but no one had the guts to ask Jesus openly and directly.  The Synoptic Gospels show each of the disciples asking Jesus in turn, but it seems they asked quietly & privately, with no one in the room receiving the public answer.  They weren’t able to piece things together until later.  Peter tried to find out the answer someone discreetly – see vs. 23…

23 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke. 25 Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, “Lord, who is it?”

Culturally it was not unusual to sit on the floor to a table for eating, especially for the Passover meal.  Jesus, being the host of the feast would have been seated in the center (that part is accurate), and the disciples would have been on either side of Him.  The two disciples on either immediate side of Jesus would have been considered in a place of honor, and apparently John had one of those seats.  Incidentally, this is the first time in the book that John refers to himself as the disciple “whom Jesus loved.”  That disciple is never directly named by John, but it is widely assumed to be.  No one but Jesus and the 12 were present for the Passover that night, and this “beloved” disciple is consistently shown to be part of the inner circle of Jesus.  Since James died prior to the gospel being written, Peter was obviously seated across the table, and the apostle John is never once directly mentioned in the book itself, the wide consensus throughout church history is that the beloved disciple is John’s humble designation for himself.

  • Why did John refer to himself this way?  He never says, but it’s not difficult to imagine: Jesus loved him.  He never got over the fact that the Son of God loved him enough to die for him & choose him as an apostle.  He never stopped being amazed at the love of Jesus for him.
  • Have you?  Have I?  It’s so easy to take for granted!  We get used to the idea.  Don’t get used to it…be amazed by it!  You are a person, “who Jesus loves.”  Amazing!

So John is leaning back against Jesus – not an unexpected occurrence in a crowded room with 12 grown men seated on the floor – and Peter gets his attention to ask Jesus about the elephant in the room.  Who is this man who would betray Him?

26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.

The answer of Jesus has been subject to countless scenarios.  Did He say this to the whole room, or just to John?  Did John clearly understand the sign at the time, or was he confused considering that Jesus had shared the dip with everyone else by this point?  Was this the moment that Judas asked if he was the one to betray Jesus & Jesus agreed with him, or did Judas even know what was going on?  Did the room fall silent, or was it just part of dinner?  There’s much we don’t know…John gave us many intimate eyewitness details of that night, but he didn’t describe everything.  At the very least, Jesus told him enough for John to be able to put it together later when Jesus rose from the dead.  Judas was clearly identified, although it’s obvious the disciples didn’t understand everything at the time.

One detail that does come across is the fact that even at a table with 12 men, Jesus was able to easily hand the piece of bread to Judas without causing a lot of disturbance.  If John was plainly seated on one side of Jesus, it’s highly suggestive that Judas was seated on the other side.  IOW, Judas had a place of honor at the table.  Simply the act of receiving bread from a dinner host was considered honorable, so if nothing else, Judas was publicly honored by Jesus just from that.

Let’s consider that for a moment.  You’re at a dinner with someone who is going to betray you, and what do you do?  Eat with them – wash their feet – give them a place of honor.  What’s Jesus doing here?  He’s showing Judas His grace!  Jesus is giving Judas every opportunity possible for Judas to turn from his sin, confess it to Jesus, and be saved.  By this point, Judas had already cut a deal with the priests to betray Jesus, but at any moment he could have changed his mind in repentance.  Judas had full unfettered access to Jesus, more so than even Peter at this point.  Jesus even extends His hand to Judas in friendship as He gives Judas the bread.  And how does Judas respond?  He hardens his heart.

27 Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.”

Judas had previously been Satanically inspired to betray Jesus (Lk 22:3); now he was Satanically directed by him.  He was fully possessed, his life given over to the devil.  Judas had toyed around with sin long enough, denying the lordship of Jesus in his life – so now he had a new lord & master, the devil.

  • BTW, demons are real.  Not every demon people encounter is actually Satan – he is just one demon who is limited by time & space.  (Unlike God.)  In regards to Judas, Satan was personally involved – but his armies of demons are active all over the world.  They are not to be played with or written off.  The Bible makes it clear that we are involved in a spiritual war that we cannot see, and that we do not battle against flesh & blood, but against powers & principalities of the spiritual world. (Eph 6:12)  These acts of murder and other terror around the world are ultimately inspired by Satan, who prompts people to act out on their worst sinful impulses.  This war is spiritual, and it needs to be fought by spiritual means, empowered by the infinitely more powerful Holy Spirit of God.

Whatever choices had been offered to Judas for repentance are now apparently shut down.  His heart is hardened – his mind is Satanically overrun, and Jesus tells him to get on with it. “What you do, do quickly.”  Don’t delay – whatever it is that still need to be done, just do it & be done with it.  Question: to whom was Jesus speaking?  Commentaries overwhelmingly refer to Judas, but I’ve got to wonder if Jesus was actually talking to Satan.  Textually speaking, “Satan” is the immediate antecedent to Jesus’ statement.  Maybe (just maybe) the Son of God was commanding the devil to get on with his evil work.  God is fully in control of all things at all times – even over the devil.  There is nothing the devil does that God does not first allow.  Satan is certainly powerful, but he’s leashed by God.  God had to even allow the devil permission to attack Jesus to the cross.

  • Whether or not Jesus was speaking to Satan is unclear, but the reality of God’s power over the devil is certainly true.  And that ought to give us a lot of hope.  There is true evil and suffering in the world, but it doesn’t mean that things are spinning out of control.  God is still sovereign, and His plan is still at work.  Every act of horrific evil is something for which God has an answer.  He is sovereign, and He works all things for good for those who love Him & are called according to His purpose. (Rom 8:28)

What happens when Jesus sends Judas out of the room?  Jesus has just submitted to His own betrayal. That’s the point when most of us would have run the other direction, and Jesus walked straight ahead.  He knew the clear plan of God for Him, and He willingly submitted Himself to it, sovereignly allowing Judas (and Satan) to betray Him to torture and death.

  • Is it even possible for us to wrap our minds around this?  Who would do such a thing?  Who would love in such a way?  Jesus.  It’s one thing to rush into the heat of a battle & place yourself in harm’s way for someone else – that’s truly a heroic thing to do.  Yet as great as that is, how much greater is it when bullets aren’t yet flying, but you know they’re going to come anyway?  Jesus knew what was coming His way, and He could have done any number of things to avoid it.  He had the right to do so, because He was innocent.  He had the power & knowledge to do so, because He’s God.  Yet not only did He refrain from walking away, He allowed it to take place with His own command.  And the only reason He did so was so that the plan of God would be fulfilled.  He gave His life so that we could be saved.  He gave His life for the glory of God, and out of love for you & me…and that love is immeasurable!
  • How have you responded to the love of Christ?

28 But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him. 29 For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor.

This gives credence to the argument that not even John nor Peter understood what Jesus did with the bread, although they specifically asked for a sign.  Even after Judas was identified by Jesus as being the betrayer, no one thought any different about him.  As Judas left the room, no one questioned his motives.  No one thought he was engaged in anything less than innocent.  They didn’t know why he was leaving, but it never crossed their mind that he was possessed by Satan and was engaged in the deepest of evil.

Consider that for a moment: Judas looked innocent.  Right up till the moment that he kissed Jesus on the cheek in the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas outwardly appeared like every other disciple.  He was so honorable in his reputation that he was entrusted with the money box, and the other disciples just as easily wondered if they themselves would betray Jesus rather than accuse Judas Iscariot.  False converts aren’t always obvious.  In fact, they rarely are.  They look like Christians, sound like Christians, and act like Christians.  They know the words to say, the radio stations to listen to, and everything else a “good” Christian would do.  But they also know the truth.  Inwardly, internally, they know they aren’t saved – and they know that Jesus knows they aren’t saved.  They don’t have true abiding faith that Jesus is the Son of God who died for them at the cross and rose from the grave.  They haven’t personally received Jesus as their Lord & Savior, surrendering their lives to Him as their God.  It doesn’t matter how much someone looks like a Christian on the outside if they are dead on the inside.  To that point, they’re just like Judas.

  • But you don’t have to remain that way!  If that describes you, you can be saved today.  Take all of those things you know about Jesus superficially, and make it real.

30 Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night.

This was just as true spiritually for Judas as it was chronologically.  For him, “it was night.”  Darkness reigned in his heart as he bid his last farewell to the Light of the world.  And it would only get darker from there.  Events were set in motion, and it would ultimately lead to two deaths: Jesus’, and his own.  Yet only one of those deaths was permanent…truly it was dark for Judas.

Conclusion:
Judas was the traitor – the one who betrayed Jesus to His death.  He was there in the upper room that night, partaking of the same supper as everyone else.  Jesus even placed him in a seat of honor, and washed his feet, just like Jesus washed all of the other disciples’.  Jesus loved Judas till the end, giving him every opportunity to be saved…something which Judas completely denied.  Judas allowed his heart to be given over to Satan, and he left to commit the most infamous act of betrayal in history.

Jesus knew it, and He allowed it.  He knew that the Scriptures had prophesied that He would be betrayed – He know who would betray Him – and He knew how it would all take place.  And still, Jesus allowed it.  He humbly submitted Himself to the plan of God, and allowed it all to come to pass.  Jesus demonstrated His love for us long before He actually was nailed to the cross – He was demonstrating it at the very time He set the wheels in motion to take Him there.  He knew what it was He had come to do, and He was going to do it – no matter the cost.

John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends." This is exactly what Jesus was about to do…in fact, it is what He was doing at the very moment.  By allowing His betrayal, Jesus was in the process of laying down His life for His friends.  He was laying it down for the disciples – He was laying it down for you & me.

Christian, when was the last time you were overwhelmed by the love of Jesus?  When was the last time you considered yourself to be the “disciple whom Jesus loved”?  You are!  He loves you immeasurably, despite all of our sins and failings.  Despite our own inconsistencies, He is steadfast in His love for us.  Don’t take Him for granted – don’t grow cold or indifferent.  Be amazed by it, and allow the reality of His love for you to be your motivation to go share the news with others.  The same love Jesus has for you, He has for the entire world.  They need to know, and we need to be ones that tell them.

Do you know the love of Christ for you?  Have you received of it?  Jesus could not have done more than what He did – either for Judas or for you.  He’s reached out in love & grace, and offers to forgive every sin of the past.  He offers to make you a new creation & to give you a new future – one in which you’ll spend eternity with Him in heaven.  But you’ve got to do what Judas did not: respond in repentance.  How many times has Jesus already reached out to you in His grace?  How many times have you refused Him in the past?  Refuse Him no longer.  Take the step Judas never did, and receive Him as your Lord.

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