John 13:18-30 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
21 After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, 24 so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
This is an uncomfortable passage on the way to a string of increasingly uncomfortable passages. As I know some of you know all too well, betrayal can cut deeper than just about anything else. For that reason, it’s easy to want to look away whenever we see it. Nevertheless, it is right for us to consider this passage with our eyes wide open. It is right for us to do so since it is the Word of God. God only gives us what we need. And it is right because it is a powerful picture of our own rebellion against God. If you read this passage and are only appalled at what Judas was about to do, then you don’t yet know the sinfulness of your own heart apart from the grace of God. As shocking as it might be to hear for anyone unfamiliar with the Bible, sin is in all of us such that betrayal is our nature and faithfulness comes only from God’s grace.
For those reasons, we’ll consider Judas’s betrayal from the several angles provided by John. As we do, I hope to help you see the big idea of this passage: Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him, yet He chose him anyway for the glory of God and the good of His people. The main takeaways are, therefore, seeking the Spirit’s help as we fight for humility, perseverance, and a tight tethering to the Word of God.
Several times already in John’s Gospel we’ve been given predictions and warnings concerning Judas’s betrayal.
Back in 6:70 we read Jesus’ words, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him.”
More recently, in 12:4, John wrote, “Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him)…”
And in our passage from last week, during Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet and commissioning of them, we were twice-warned of the imminent treachery of Judas.
2 During supper, … the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him…
10 And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him…
It’s a strange idea for sure that God means us to grow from considering the betrayal of another. Nevertheless, as this passage and the nature of Judas’s treachery unfold, there’s a great deal for us to learn. To that end, we’ll begin with the fact that Jesus chose Judas to be one of His disciples even though He knew Judas would betray Him.
Jesus Chose Judas Even though He Knew Judas would Betray Him (18)
As I just mentioned, in the verses immediately preceding ours, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples (including Judas’s) and charged them to follow His example. He ended His instruction to them with this promise: “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (13:17). Our passage begins with an important clarification from Jesus.
18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen.
To be blessed, Jesus gave two requirements: (1) know His teachings, and (2) do them. Jesus knew that Judas would not be among the blessed, for He knew that Judas would only complete the first half of the requirements for the blessing. Although Judas heard the content of Jesus’ teaching along with the rest of the disciples, unlike them, he would not do it. Jesus revealed His foreknowledge of this fact for the first time here. What’s more, Jesus provides some of the reasoning behind this.
Before we get there, though, let’s not miss this vital, even if familiar, lesson (especially those who grew up in the church). Knowing what Jesus has said and done are vitally important if we want to be blessed (with forgiveness and freedom and reconciliation and peace), but it is never enough. It is only those who hear and do Jesus’ commands, who receive and trust in Jesus’ promises, who see and savor Jesus’ teaching, who are truly blessed. Again, as we return to Jesus’ reasoning behind this, may we learn from Judas to continually seek the Spirit’s help to be a people who hear and obey.
With that, let’s get back to Jesus’ reasoning behind the fact that He was not speaking to all the disciples: “I know whom I have chosen”.
On the surface, it might seem like Judas was not going to be among the obedient-blessed because Jesus had not chosen him for it. Or, conversely, it might seem like Judas would not be among the obedient-blessed because Jesus had chosen him not to be.
More than likely, however, neither of those possible readings are what Jesus had in mind. Instead, Jesus was probably speaking in the same sense as He was in 6:70–71, a passage we read earlier, “Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.’ 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.”
In other words, the main point of the opening words of v.18 is not about Judas betraying Jesus because He was chosen to do so or because he was chosen not to remain faithful. It is, rather, about Jesus having chosen all twelve disciples in spite of the fact that He knew one, Judas, would betray Him.
Judas was chosen to walk with Jesus, talk with Jesus, eat with Jesus, see Jesus’ miracles, hear Jesus’ teaching, share in the disciples’ confidence, and have his feet washed by Jesus, even though Jesus knew he would eventually betray Jesus. Jesus chose Judas in full knowledge that Judas would one day turn Him over to be crucified.
Thus, when Jesus spoke of the blessings of obedience, He made sure to make it known that not all of them would receive those blessings. This leaves us with the question of why Jesus would do so. The answer comes quickly.
Jesus Chose Judas to Fulfill Scripture and Strengthen Faith (18-19)
Jesus gives two explicit reasons why He would do such a thing. First, He did so to fulfill Scripture.
18 … But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’
Here Jesus quoted Psalm 41:9, which reads, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” As is often the case when the NT authors speak of Jesus as the fulfillment of an OT passage, it’s hard to get our heads around much beyond the basics. And the basics are that Psalm 41 is a Psalm of David and the heart of verse nine is and expression of David’s grief over the betrayal of his closest friends. David’s friends, ones he was close enough to eat and drink with, to invite to his table, betrayed him to the point of seeking to stomp on David, to violently harm him.
All of these things paralleled what Jesus was enduring at the hand (foot) of Judas. And Jesus told His disciples that, unknown to David, David wrote Psalm 41:4 for a dual purpose; both to express his own grief and hope in God through his trials and to give words to what Jesus would endure.
Grace, I hope it’s easy for you to see that this is a remarkable expression, both of the sovereignty of God over all things and the fact that the Bible records one grand story of redemption. Rightly appreciated, this ought to comfort us in our own affliction, stir us to worship God, and help us read our Bibles more carefully.
The second reason Jesus chose Judas to be one of the Twelve even though He knew Judas would betray Him, was to further strengthen the faith of the eleven (and all who would hear of this story).
19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.
John records Jesus saying/doing this several times. Jesus consistently revealed things to His disciples in advance so that when they came to pass, the faith of the disciples would be strengthened. In this way, Jesus chose Judas and foretold his betrayal so that His followers would have yet another example of the mighty power of God. As heart-wrenching as this must have been for Jesus (see v.21), He did it (along with all it entailed) as a blessing for us!
It’s like Babe Ruth pointing to the stands, or the golfer walking to the hole as his put approaches the half-way point, or the basketball player walking back on defense as her three-pointer is still in the air. Jesus was calling His shot. But instead of doing it moments before, in a simple game, and for selfish glory, He did so centuries before, in the course of world events, and to help the disciples behold the unmatched glory of God and to strengthen their faith for all that was to come.
Grace, our God is a gracious God, powerful and mighty. And He loves His people with unparallel, servant, sacrificial love. Humble yourself before Him, marvel at Him, and Trust in Him!
Sending and Receiving (20)
Verse 20 seems to be a somewhat parenthetical expansion of Jesus reasoning for telling the disciples about Judas. Jesus had just revealed to the disciples that He chose Judas in spite of His certain knowledge of Judas’s betrayal, in order to strengthen the disciples’ faith when it came to pass, in order (according to v.20) to help them endure the mission He was sending them on.
With those things in mind, listen again to v.20, and hear that in it Jesus offered yet another strengthening promise.
20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
In other words, in doing the things Jesus called them to do, in serving one another and proclaiming the gospel to the nations, the disciples would encounter stiff opposition. And to help them persevere in faith through that opposition, Jesus offered three specific gifts. First, He explained that His own experience fulfilled scripture (v.18). Second, He foretold certain events (v.19). In so doing, He meant them to remember His promises when they came to pass and therein find refreshment in their trust in His sovereign plan. And third, here in v.20, He promised that their mission was from God Himself. Jesus was about to send the disciples out to a mission of certain suffering and intended them to stand firm when hardship came, armed with the knowledge that they were going in the name, and according to the will, of both Father and Son.
It’s one thing to be sent on a hard, but good mission. It’s another to be sent on a hard, but good mission, marked by breadcrumbs of grace, by the Creator and Sustainer of heaven and earth.
Betrayal Still Stings Even When We Know God’s Will and Believing in the Goodness of God’s Will (21)
To this point, Jesus’ logic and kindness are evident. His logic is that although He knew that Judas would betray Him, He chose him anyway for the glory of God (to display His power and plan) and the good of His followers (to strengthen their faith for persevering obedience). Jesus’ kindness, of course, is in the fact that He chose to endure Judas’s betrayal for the good of His followers, at great cost to Himself.
Can you imagine willingly spending so much of your life that close to someone you knew would treacherously hand you over to your death? It’s a special measure of kindness in Jesus to endure that for our sake.
As we saw a few weeks ago, however, perfect logic and kindness—indeed, perfect righteousness—does not take away the sting of sin, and especially not the sting of sinful betrayal. For that reason, for the third time in John’s Gospel, we’re told of Jesus’ troubled soul (11:33 Lazarus’s death; 12:27 the thought of the cross).
21 After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit…
I pressed on this to a significant degree a few weeks ago in my sermon on 12:27, so I won’t reproach that sermon here. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake not to remind you of the simple, yet profound significance of this. In His troubled spirit, Jesus perfectly demonstrates two things: (1) True godliness is always troubled by evil, and (2) True godliness is troubled by evil in a distinct way.
It is a false understanding of Christian maturity that teaches treachery against us (or those we love) ought not affect us. It is a lie to suggest that the most God-honoring response to being betrayed is not to be hurt by it. At the same time, not every expression of hurt is equally godly. A sinful response means being hurt primarily on a horizontal level, it means responding to that hurt with sin of your own, and it means being hurt to the point of despair (hopelessness, ruin). A godly response means being hurt, but being mainly concerned with the glory of God being disguised and the one who hurt us being lost in sin. And Jesus perfectly displayed a godly response.
Judas would betray Jesus, Jesus knew it, yet chose him anyway for glory and good, and yet His heart was greatly troubled at the thought of the imminent betrayal.
The Disciples Didn’t Know Who Jesus Was Talking About (22-25, 27-29)
You may have noticed that although Jesus knew from eternity past and John wrote his Gospel with the benefit of hindsight (which we’ve already seen a few times in his Gospel), at the point of John 13:21, none of the disciples (except Judas) knew that Judas would betray Jesus. Expanding on what He meant when He said, “I am not speaking of all of you…”
21 … Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
Have you ever had to long endure news of significant suffering (a cancer diagnosis or the loss of a loved one)? Have you ever had to walk around with a heavy heart while interacting with others ignorantly going about their ordinary lives? If so, you know how difficult that is.
We can only imagine the weight Jesus was carrying at that point. We can only imagine how it impacted His interactions with His followers to have such a rightly troubled soul. He’d been upfront about the fact that He would be killed (although the disciples still didn’t quite get that). But this is the first time He’d revealed to any of His disciples that His crucifixion would come about through the betrayal of one of His closest followers, through one of them! This had to have sent shockwaves through the disciples. Can you imagine hearing such a thing?
What really stands out to me, though, is the fact that in spite of all they’d been through together, none of them seemed to have any idea who Jesus was referring to.
22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, 24 so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?”
Two things are especially worth noting: (1) The appearance of godliness is not the same as godliness, and (2) Humility recognizes that it is God’s grace alone that ends and prevents our betrayal.
1. The appearance of godliness is not the same as godliness.
It’s remarkable that no one had any idea who Jesus was talking about. Even at this point, three+ years into Jesus’ ministry and mere hours before the betrayal, the disciples didn’t even suspect Judas.
It’s clear that there was a good deal of confusion on a lot of things, it’s also clear that most of the disciples struggled to act in ways that were consistently faithful, but the fact that Judas was able to completely blend in is sobering on a lot of levels.
It’s sobering to recognize that wolves can be in our midst undetected for so long. That is, it’s sobering to recognize that someone can have every appearance of godliness with a heart that is satanically wicked.
To further drive home the point that they really didn’t suspect Judas, we find this exchange in vs.27-29.
27 Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out.
Even after being entered by Satan and dismissed by Jesus to betray Him, the disciples still only assumed goodness of Judas. Again, we ought to be sobered by Satan’s ability to mask his evil and disguise his intentions. That Judas could have been undetectably entered by Satan prevents us from thinking of evil in exclusively recognizable ways. He can look like a fiery dragon, a mass murder, and a child trafficker. But he can also look like a kindly grandma, a pious pastor, and a well-intentioned disciple.
The appearance of godliness is not the same as godliness. That leads to the second aspect of the disciples’ confusion that is especially worth noting.
2. Humility recognizes that it is God’s grace alone that ends and prevents our betrayal.
In John’s account, it’s clear that none of the disciples suspected any of the other disciples as the obvious betrayer. What’s more, though, as Matthew makes clear, all of them wondered if they were the betrayer.
Matthew 26:22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?”
Maybe the most shocking thing of all is the fact that when they were told that one of them would betray Jesus, each of the disciples wondered if it was them! I said at the beginning that “if you read this passage and are only appalled at what Judas did, then you don’t yet know the sinfulness of your own heart apart from the grace of God.” I said that in large measure because of v.22. Not only did they not know it was Judas who would betray Jesus, they also did not know if they were the one who would.
From this, we must learn humility. The beginning of the good news of the gospel is the terrible news that we have betrayed God; that we are all Judas from birth. That’s what it means to acknowledge the Bible’s teaching concerning the sinful nature of mankind. We must learn that betrayal is in our nature until the grace of God comes upon us. What’s more, even after the grace of God has led us to recognize, despise, and confess our betrayal, turn from it, and place our trust in Jesus Christ alone, it is still the grace of God that keeps us from turning back to our Judas ways.
As I just mentioned, Judasness looks different in everyone, but it is in us all until by grace, through faith, in Christ, we are forgiven and freed.
Satan Entered Judas (26-27)
In our text from last week, in v.2, John wrote these words, “During supper, …the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him [Jesus].” In our passage for this week, in v.27, John described the continuation of Satan’s work in Judas, “So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him…”
The main thing for us to see is that Satan gradually worked on Judas to the point that Judas had chosen to fully cooperate with Satan. There is nothing worse that could be said of us and nothing worse that could be done by us. God would use even this for His glory and the good of His people. Indeed, God would use this to accomplish the greatest glory and highest good as it is what sent Jesus to the cross to die for our sins. And yet, this was real, vile, damnable evil by both Judas and Satan. What’s more, they were, in this moment of treachery, functioning with a oneness that God made for His people to have with Him. The kind of oneness God made for good, Satan and Judas conspired together to use to commit high treason.
As dramatic as it sounds, this is a chose we all face every day as well. Will we align ourselves in oneness with the God of Glory, in faith in His Son who died for our sins, through the power of the Holy Spirit, or will we align ourselves with Satan, the evil one? Satan’s work in Judas helps us to see that it is not always easy to see and that he is never content with a little bit of destruction. He is a master of disguises and He is always seeking to completely devour.
It Was Night (30)
Finally, and even more ominously, John closes the scene with the declaration that, “30 … [Judas] immediately went out. And it was night.”
For John, the contrast between day and night, between light and dark, is one of the key features of his Gospel. His primary reason for writing his gospel was that his readers might believe in Jesus and therein find life. A critical piece of that story is that we are all born into the darkness of sin, unable to see the light of the glory of God in Jesus. It is as if we live in perpetual night. In contrast, Jesus came that mankind might come into the light of day, which is found in Him alone. That’s why we read…
John 1:4-5 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 3:19-20 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 9:5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
John 11:9-10 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”
John 12:46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.
I hope this makes it clear that John’s closing statement, “And it was night,” is full of important symbolism. Indeed, it symbolized two main things. First, it symbolized the fact that Judas, in walking out of the house to betray Jesus, was forsaking the light of life for the last time and fully and finally embracing the darkness of death. And second, it symbolized the fact that the light of the world (Jesus) was about to willingly plunge Himself into darkness, in order to fully and finally overcome it.
More than merely making a factual statement about the time of day (which will become an important part of the backdrop as Jesus is forced to unlawfully endure several sham trials at night), John was letting his readers know that things would get horribly worse before they got infinitely better.
The big idea of this passage is that Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him, yet He chose him anyway for the glory of God and the good of His people. And from that, we ought to earnestly seek the Spirit’s help to fight for humility, perseverance, and a tight tethering to the Word of God. And to help us in that fight, we turn now to the Lord’s Supper.