31. Judas (John 13:18-30)
61 Because Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining about this, he said to them, “Does this cause you to be offended? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascending where he was before? 63 The Spirit is the one who gives life; human nature is of no help! The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus had already known from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 So Jesus added, “Because of this I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has allowed him to come.” 66 After this many of his disciples quit following him and did not accompany him any longer. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God!” 70 Jesus replied, “Didn’t I choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is the devil?” 71 (Now he said this about Judas son of Simon Iscariot; for Judas, one of the twelve, was going to betray him.) (John 6:61-71)
1 Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 So they prepared a dinner for Jesus there. Martha was serving, and Lazarus was among those present at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took three quarters of a pound of perfumed oil made of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus. She then wiped his feet dry with her hair. (Now the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfumed oil.) 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was going to betray him) said, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfumed oil sold for three hundred silver coins and the money given to the poor?” 6 (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 take what was put into it.) 7 So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She has kept it for the day of my burial. 8 For you always have the poor with you, but you don’t always have me” (John 12:1-7).
This past week my parents called from Washington State to inform us about a most unusual telephone call they had received from the city of Shelton (my home town in Washington State). The city was digging a ditch for a new, larger sewer system. In the course of their excavation, they unearthed a headstone for a grave. By law, they had to cease all work until they were assured that they were not disturbing a grave site. The name on that headstone was Timothy A. Deffinbaugh. That is the name of our son, who died and was buried in Shelton, over 30 years ago. The dates on the headstone also matched the date of Timmy’s birth and death (at the age of 3 months). Someone from the city called a relative (whose name was also “Deffinbaugh”), and she put the city official in touch with my parents. My folks were very puzzled by what they heard, and immediately went up to the cemetery where Timothy’s body is buried. The grave site was there, undisturbed, along with the headstone. We have no idea where this second headstone came from, or how it would come to be buried in downtown Shelton, a mile or so away. My parents called us to let us know what had happened, and we found the whole matter difficult to believe and impossible to explain.
I am telling you this strange story to make a point. In this life there are a good many things that are very difficult to understand or to explain. In our text, the disciples found it extremely difficult to comprehend what Jesus was saying when He told them that one of them was about to betray Him. When we read John’s account of this event in John chapter 13, we find it hard to understand why the disciples didn’t quickly grasp what Jesus was telling them. When we marvel at the “dullness” of the disciples, we forget that we read through John’s Gospel somewhat like I watch one of my favorite movies—“What’s Up, Doc?” I know that movie so well I start laughing a full minute before one of my favorite funny scenes occurs on screen. For example, I love the chase scene down the hills of San Francisco, especially the one in which the plate glass window is finally broken, after a number of near misses. And so, when that part gets close, I start warming up for it, laughing at what seems to be nothing at all. (Those of you who know me, and have been with me when I’ve played this movie, know exactly what I mean.)
We are tempted to read the Gospels like I watch my favorite movies. We know the entire story, from beginning to end. And thus, when we read any one text, we know what came before, just as we know how it all will end. We know, for example, that Jesus is going to be arrested, found guilty, and crucified—all within a few hours. We also know that He is going to be raised from the dead, and that He will ascend into heaven and return to the Father. But what is so clear to us in hindsight was not at all clear to the disciples. They heard Jesus say that He was about to be betrayed by one of them. Peter even inquired of Jesus (through John, it would seem) about just who the betrayer was. And Jesus told John that it would be the one who took from His hand the piece of bread that He dipped into the dish. Yet when Jesus dipped the bread into the dish and gave it to Judas, who took it, no one did anything. No one even seemed to grasp what Jesus had just indicated. You have to understand that what Jesus was saying was so far from what they expected, they simply could not grasp what seemed to be clearly indicated.
All of this was for a reason—a very important reason. This reason we shall see as we study our text in this lesson. There are many important truths for us to consider and to apply here, so let us listen well, and let us ask the Spirit of God to make the meaning and the application of this text clear to us.
Judas—Putting the Pieces Together
Each of the Gospel writers has chosen to include certain details about Judas and to exclude others. It may be helpful for us to begin this lesson by reviewing what we know about Judas in sequential order:255
- Judas is chosen as one of the 12 (Luke 6:12-16; Mark 3:13-19).
- Judas is sent out as one of the 12 (Matthew 10:4).
- Judas accompanies Jesus with the other 11 disciples, beholding our Lord’s character and power, and hearing Him teach and claim to be the Messiah (Mark 3:14).
- In all of this, Judas never comes to faith in Jesus as his Messiah (John 6:64-65; 13:10-11, 18; 17:12).
- Judas is put in charge of the money box (John 12:6; 13:29).
- Judas begins to steal money from the money box (John 12:6).
- When Mary anoints the feet of Jesus, Judas is incensed by her extravagance, and is distressed that Jesus would allow such “waste” when this ointment could have been sold, and the proceeds given to the poor. He apparently manages to convince his fellow-disciples, so that they verbally harass Mary also (John 12:1-8; Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9).
- [At this same point in time the chief priests and Pharisees are panic-stricken by our Lord’s growing popularity, as a result of the raising of Lazarus and then the triumphal entry (John 11:45-53, 57; 12:9-11). They wanted to seize Jesus privately, but not during the feast of Passover, lest they stir up the crowds (Matthew 26:3-5; Mark 14:1-2). They become so desperate they decide to kill not only Jesus (John 11:53), but Lazarus as well (John 12:10). The time was “ripe” for Judas to come to them with his proposal of betrayal.]
- Shortly after this incident with Mary, in which Jesus rebukes Judas and the other disciples, Judas goes to the chief priests and strikes a deal with them to betray Jesus and to hand Him over to them (Matthew 26:14-15; Mark 14:10-11).
- Judas begins to look for the right moment to hand Jesus over to the chief priests and Pharisees (Mark 14:11).
- Judas is with Jesus and the disciples during the first part of the Last Supper, apparently in the place of honor, next to Jesus (John 13:26).
- At the meal, Jesus indicates that one of the disciples will betray Him (Matthew 26:20-25; Mark 14:17-21), and then, by means of His dipping a piece of bread and handing it to Judas, our Lord indicates that it is Judas who will betray Him (Mark 14:20; John 13:21-27).
- Judas accepts the bread Jesus offers him, after which Satan immediately possesses him (John 13:27).
- Jesus dismisses Judas to carry out his terrible deed (John 13:27-30).
- Judas leads the soldiers to Jesus, where he identifies Jesus as the One they are to arrest by kissing Him (Matthew 26:47-50; Mark 14:43-46; Luke 22:47-48; John 18:1-9).
- Judas regrets his betrayal and tries to reverse his actions by returning the money, but it is too late. Judas then goes out and hangs himself (Matthew 27:3-10; Acts 1:15-19).
Judas—Who Would Have Ever Thought …
Who would have ever thought that Jesus would be betrayed, and by one of His 12 disciples? Answer: none of the 12, except for Judas. The Gospels do not really mention Judas all that often, but we do read of Judas being sent out by Jesus, along with the other 11 (Matthew 10:1ff.; Mark 3:19; Luke 9:1ff.). Imagine, Judas was used of our Lord to manifest His power over the demons, and over every kind of illness: “He called his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits so they could cast them out and heal every kind of disease and sickness” (Matthew 10:1).
Who would have ever imagined that he would refuse to trust in Jesus as his Messiah?
Think of all the miracles which took place before the eyes of Judas. He witnessed the casting out of demons, the giving of sight to the blind (even a man born blind—John 9), and the raising of the dead (e.g., John 11). He was there when Jesus stilled the storm (see Luke 8:22-25) and when He walked on the sea (John 6:19-21). He took part in the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-14) and then of the 4,000 (Matthew 15:29-39). Each of the other disciples grew in their faith at each new manifestation of our Lord’s power, love, mercy, and holiness. Not so with Judas.
And yet Judas seems to be the last one any of the disciples would have suspected of being the betrayer of whom our Lord was speaking. He seems to have been seated in the place of honor at the Last Supper, beside our Lord. He was the one entrusted with the money that was given to our Lord (John 12:6). Even when Jesus indicated that Judas was His betrayer by giving him the bread, the disciples still did not recognize him for who he really was. In this sense, I think, Judas was just like his “real father,” the devil:
13 For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is not surprising his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will correspond to their actions (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
18 “What I am saying does not refer to all of you. I know the ones I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture, ‘The one who eats my bread has turned against me.’0 19 I am telling you this now, before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I am he. 20 I tell you the solemn truth, whoever accepts the one I send accepts me, and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”
Jesus tells His disciples that what He is saying does not apply to all of them. His words apply to those whom He has chosen. The inference is clear: there is someone among them whom He has not chosen, who is not a true believer. It is to this person that our Lord’s words do not apply. But what has Jesus been “saying” that doesn’t apply to Judas? In particular, I think it is the words of verse 17: “If you understand these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
Jesus has been speaking of following His example by serving one another. They, as His disciples, are to do as their Master has shown them. But Judas is not truly one of our Lord’s own; he is not a true disciple of Jesus. He, of course, is not “clean,” as the other disciples are (13:10-11). Jesus has just said that the real blessing is not just in knowing and understanding what He has taught them, but in doing what He commands. If they (His disciples) do what He has commanded, they will be blessed. Good works are of great benefit to the Christian. They contribute nothing to his salvation, but they do evidence true conversion, and they are the basis for the believer’s rewards. Good works benefit the Christian, but good works don’t benefit the unbeliever. When good works are done apart from faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and sanctification, they are actually an insult to God. Unbelievers who work to please Him while rejecting His Son are saying, in effect, “No thanks. I don’t need your righteousness, I’ll just produce my own. And so I won’t need your Son, either.” Trusting and obeying God is a blessing; working hard to please God by our own efforts is an offense. Thus, only the Christian can be truly blessed by doing what God commands.
The things of which our Lord is speaking to His disciples are very important, and of great value to His true disciples (excluding Judas). His words are prophetic, spelling out what the future holds for Him and for Judas. The things of which He is speaking actually fulfill prophecy. Judas, who is reclining beside Jesus, and is about to take the bread which He offers, is one whose terrible betrayal has been foretold. John now cites Psalm 41:9, which says, ‘The one who eats my bread has turned against me.’
It was a very significant thing to sit at a man’s table and to eat his bread. In the ancient world, sharing a meal together was almost to make a covenant (in fact covenants were often made in association with a meal).1 You will remember the story of Lot, who invites perfect strangers into his home in Sodom, and then makes a shocking offer to the men of Sodom, in an attempt to protect his guests:
1 Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground. 2 And he said, “Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.” And they said, “No, but we will spend the night in the open square.” 3 But he insisted strongly; so they turned in to him and entered his house. Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. 4 Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.” 6 So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, 7 and said, “Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! 8 See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof” (Genesis 19:1-8, NKJV).
To share a meal with guests was to offer them not only provisions, but protection. Lot was so committed to his obligation to protect these “strangers” that he was willing to sacrifice the sexual purity of his daughters to protect his guests. I don’t pretend to comprehend this, or to defend it. I am simply pointing out that in the ancient Jewish (and perhaps more broadly, the Near Eastern) culture, inviting a man into one’s home and to his table was a most significant act. If the host made such commitments to his guest(s), one would expect the guest to reciprocate in some way. And yet the one who sat at our Lord’s table and ate His bread actually betrayed Him. What a horrible thing Judas is about to do to His Master, and immediately after eating His bread.
John wants us to see that all this was prophesied ahead of time. He wants His disciples to know that much prophecy will not be understood at the time it is being fulfilled, but in hindsight, it can be seen clearly.2 Jesus is not telling His disciples these things so that they will understand Him and believe what He has said at that very moment. He tells them these things which will occur in the future so that they will believe when these prophecies are fulfilled. Then His disciples will know that Jesus was in full control, bringing about that which the Father had purposed in eternity past. In His earthly sojourn, Jesus was always in control. He was never, a helpless victim.
In verses 19 and 20, Jesus makes it very clear that all of this is about believing in Him. Jesus tells His disciples what is going to happen ahead of time, so that when these things take place they will remember He told them beforehand and believe in Him as the Messiah.3 While Jesus is indirectly exposing Judas as an unbeliever here, His emphasis is on believing, believing in Him. This is the thrust of verse 20. Whoever accepts the one Jesus sends (and He will soon be sending them out, as we see in the “Great Commission”—Matthew 28:18-20) accepts Jesus Himself. Whoever accepts Jesus as God’s “sent One” (see John 1:1-18) accepts the Father, who sent Him. Although these words seem to be directed to His believing disciples, I cannot help but wonder if this is not also one last appeal to Judas to believe. To betray Jesus is certainly the opposite of believing in Him.
A Distressed Savior, Perplexed Disciples, and a Defiant Judas
21 When he had said these things, Jesus was greatly distressed4 in spirit and testified, “I tell you the solemn truth, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples began to look at one another, worried and perplexed to know which of them he was talking about. 23 One of his disciples, the one Jesus loved, was at the table at Jesus’ right in the place of honor. 24 So Simon Peter gestured to this disciple to ask Jesus who it was he was referring to. 25 Then the disciple Jesus loved5 leaned back against Jesus’ chest and asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus replied, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread after I have dipped it in the dish.” Then he dipped the piece of bread in the dish and gave it to Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son. 27 And after Judas took the piece of bread Satan entered into him.6 Jesus said to him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 (Now none of those present at the table understood why Jesus said this to Judas. 29 Some thought because Judas had the money box, that Jesus was telling him to buy whatever they needed for the feast, or to give something to the poor.) 30 Judas took the piece of bread, and went out immediately. (Now it was night.)
This is the third time in John’s Gospel that Jesus has been described as being “greatly distressed.” He was “intensely moved in spirit and greatly distressed” at the burial site of Lazarus (John 11:33). Later on, in chapter 12, the soul of our Lord was greatly distressed at the prospect of His coming “hour” of suffering the penalty for man’s sin (12:27). Now, our Lord is greatly distressed at the thought of one of His own followers betraying Him (13:21). As I read the text, our Lord’s distress is not self-centered; He is distressed over the spiritual condition, conduct, and destiny of one of His own. How easy it would have been for our Lord to reveal the identity of His betrayer, or at least to expose him as a thief. I can imagine that Peter would have happily used his sword on Judas, if he had known what would happen in the next few hours. But Jesus remains silent, determined to die as the Father had purposed. At the same time, Jesus was greatly distressed over the destiny of Judas. Is this not an example of what Jesus Himself had taught?
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? The tax collectors do that too, don’t they? 47 And if you only greet your brothers, what more do you do? The Gentiles do that too, don’t they? 48 So then, you be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).
Passover was a festive occasion, but our Lord’s words cast a dark shadow over the meal. The disciples were “worried and perplexed” (verse 22). They knew what He said, though they could hardly grasp its true meaning. But taking His words at face value, they knew that one of them was, in some way, going to betray Jesus. John focuses his attention on 4 of the 12: Jesus, Judas, Simon Peter, and “the one Jesus loved.” The Synoptic Gospels provide us with a most significant detail. When informed that one of them would betray Him, the 11 disciples responded one way, while Judas responded differently:
21 And while they were eating he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” 22 They were deeply grieved and each one began to say to him, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go as it is written about him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would be better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Then Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself” (Matthew 26:21-25, emphasis mine).
Each of the believing disciples asks his Lord if it is him; Judas asks the Rabbi. After all Judas has seen and heard, Jesus is still only a teacher to him.
Peter wants to find out who this betrayer is. If he had not been so far away from Jesus, he could have asked the Master privately himself. But as it was, he found it necessary to signal to “the disciple Jesus loved” (who can hardly be anyone other than John, the author of this account), gesturing to him to ask Jesus who the betrayer was. John, who must have been reclining next to Jesus, leaned back upon our Lord’s chest and asked who this person was. Jesus did not give John a name, but indicated that the betrayer would be the one to whom He would give a piece of bread, dipped in the dish (verse 26).
For the moment, Jesus focuses His attention on Judas. Jesus dipped a piece of bread in the dish and handed it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. What an incredible, defining, moment this was! Jesus and Judas must have locked eyes. Judas had to have known that Jesus knew everything. Jesus knew Judas was the betrayer. He knew Judas did not really believe in Him. He knew Judas had already reached an agreement with the chief priests. He knew that Judas would soon go to the Jewish authorities, and lead them to Him, to arrest Him. In spite of all this, Judas reached out and took the bread, knowing what that meant. It forever sealed his doom.
If Judas and Jesus knew exactly what was going on, the rest of the disciples were without a clue. That is what John makes very clear to us in verses 28-30. Jesus turned to Judas and said to him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” In effect, Jesus dismissed Judas from the table. Judas may not have intended to go out till later. It seems to me that it was necessary for Judas to leave at this time. First, it would assure that the timing of His death was right—something more important to Jesus than to Judas, or even the Jewish religious leaders. Second, it would remove Judas, so that Jesus could speak intimately and openly with His true disciples. In some ways, Judas had already been gently excluded from certain things. He was not one of the inner three: Peter, James, and John. He surely was not one of those sent to make preparations for the Passover celebration. This would have enabled him to betray Jesus at the wrong time and place. Now, Judas is excluded from our Lord’s final words to His disciples. They certainly did not apply to Judas. He does not even seem to be alive by the time our Lord is crucified (see Matthew 27:3-10). The truths Jesus is about to share with His disciples pertain to things in which Judas will not, and cannot, have any part. These are the very things on which Judas has turned his back.
The disciples watch Judas take the bread from Jesus, and they may very well hear Jesus tell Judas it is time for him to go about his mission. But no one understood what was happening. They knew Judas kept the money box. They assumed that he had left to give something to the poor (as he made such an effort to appear to do frequently—see 12:4-6), or that he was going out to buy more supplies. And so Judas took the bread, and left immediately thereafter. In John’s powerfully concise way, he sums it all up in four words, “And it was night.” So it was.
As we come to the conclusion of this lesson, let me call several things to your attention, which may serve as fuel for further thought and action.
First, Jesus is in complete control, including the one who will betray Him. In making arrangements for this meal, Jesus makes sure that He will not be interrupted or arrested—not until it is “His time.” Jesus knows that Judas will betray Him, and our Lord orchestrates every event in these last hours so that He can fully accomplish all that He has set out to do. This includes the time, manner, and instruments of His arrest, trial, and death. It includes a private time with His disciples, when He can prepare them for what lies ahead. Though it is but a few hours until His death, everything is under control—His control.
Having emphasized that our Lord is in complete control at this meal (as at all times), let it be noted that Judas is represented as a man who is responsible for his actions. Jesus did not choose Judas for salvation, but neither did Judas choose our Lord. Divine sovereignty and human responsibility are both evident in our text.
Second, this text instructs us regarding the purpose of prophecy. Many Christians look at Bible prophecy as a kind of puzzle—something that we can figure out if we’re smart enough or persistent enough. Jesus’ words in our text inform us that there are many prophecies that we do not even recognize as such until after they have been fulfilled (such as the prophecy concerning Judas in Psalm 41:9). Prophecy is not given to us so that we can know exactly what will happen in the future. Much prophecy is written so that when God brings about His plans and purposes, we will realize that He has already told us this would happen, and that it has happened just as He said it would. Prophecy is one way that God promotes and protects His glory. He tells us what He is going to do ahead of time so that when He does it, it is all His doing.
Let me attempt to illustrate this from the game of pool. (Incidentally, I am not a good pool player, and I know very little about it.) When a really skilled pool player wants to show his skill (and win the game at the same time), he or she will “call” their shot before they make it. They will tell us precisely how they plan to shoot, what they are aiming at, and in which pocket they will put the ball. I could tell people what I wanted to do, but I would seldom be able to accomplish it. Our Lord tells us exactly what He is going to do, and He always accomplishes it exactly as He said He would.
Let me say something else here. There are many things concerning biblical prophecy that we do not and will not know until they are fulfilled. What we are meant to know is that God has a plan, that He has a goal toward which all of human history is headed. Prophecy reminds us that God is in control, and that we do well to trust and obey Him. Prophecy tells us what is certain in very volatile and uncertain times, such as our own. And even though there are many aspects of a certain prophecy that we don’t understand, we should simply believe and obey the parts that we do. The disciples surely did not understand what Jesus was telling them about the future in our text, but they did understand what He was saying about loving and serving one another. They understand what they are to set themselves to be doing:
42 The Lord replied, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whose master puts him in charge of his household servants, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that slave whom his master finds doing so when he comes. 44 I tell you the truth, the master will put that slave in charge of all his possessions. 45 But if that slave should say to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the other slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 then the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in two and assign him a place with the unfaithful. 47 That servant who knew his master’s will, but did not get ready or do what his master asked, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know his master’s will and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be asked (Luke 12:42-48, emphasis mine).
Third, at a time when our Lord could have been obsessed with His own imminent suffering and death, He devoted Himself to serving His disciples by preparing them for the things which were to come. I think of Paul and Peter, as they wrote their last Epistles, knowing that the time of their departure was at hand. They did not focus attention on themselves, but upon others. They sought to prepare the saints for the time when they would be gone. That is what I see in our text. Our Lord is here preparing His disciples for what lies ahead. When one sees suffering (for God’s sake) as glory, then one need not dwell on his pain or sorrow. He or she is freed to focus on others, even in the last hours of our own life.
Fourth, our text suggests to us that there is a time when it is better for the scoffer to be removed. The Bible talks about times when someone needs to be removed from the assembly of the righteous (Proverbs 22:10; Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; Titus 3:10-11). Some folks call this “back door evangelism.” In a day when the church seems to be seeking to increase its numbers, let us not forget that there are some folks whose presence contaminates the saints, and impedes the work of God. It is time for Judas to go, and Jesus dismisses him. It was night, but only for those who rejected Him who is the source of light and life. Jesus dismissed Judas to go where he had already chosen.
Fifth, we should not think only of Judas as we read our text—Judas is but one example of many who, like him, choose to reject the light and to dwell in darkness. Specifically, Judas is a dramatic picture of the rejection of Jesus by the nation Israel. Over and over again, God had spoken to this people. Finally, God spoke to Israel through “the Word,” the sinless Son of God, Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 1:1-3). They did not believe His words, in spite of all the miraculous works He performed. They seized Him, accused Him of crimes He did not commit, and killed Him, all to further their own interests. Is this not what Judas did as well? What a tragic picture. What darkness the nation Israel is about to experience, after their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah.
It is no different today. Judas is also a picture of all who hear the gospel and cast it aside, by rejecting Jesus as the sinless Son of God, who “takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). It is possible that you may not have believed in Jesus as the “way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). You may be consoling yourself that you did not betray Jesus, as Judas did. If you have not received Him as God’s only cure for your sins, then you have rejected Him. According to the Bible, you are lost and living in darkness. As our Lord urged Judas to repent and believe, He is urging you to do the same.
Sixth, for every man and woman who hears the gospel, there is a point of no return. There is a point of no return, a point in time after which it is forever too late to repent and be saved. In the New Testament, it will soon be that point in time for Israel, as the apostles indicate by the urgency of their preaching. There is a time when you will turn away from Christ for the last time. No man knows that time, but it is a deadline you do not want to ignore. As the Scriptures say,
1 Now because we are fellow-workers, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says, “I heard you at the acceptable time, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).
I cannot miss the fact that John has placed two men in close proximity to each other in John chapter 13: Judas and Peter. Judas was an unbeliever, who betrayed the Lord of Glory. Peter was a believer, who denied His Lord. What is the difference between the two? All the difference in the world. In some ways, Judas looks like “Mr. Perfect” in the New Testament—up till the time that he betrays our Lord. But over and over again in the Gospels, Peter seems to be messing up, doing or saying the wrong thing (even as he initially refuses to let Jesus wash his feet in our text). But while Peter often sinned, each occasion of sin was for him a point of repentance and return. How quickly Peter repents of his foolishness in chapter 13. It is true that Peter failed many times, just as we do, but each failure was a point of return. For Judas, his apparent failures seem to be few, but in spite of all the opportunities he was given to repent and turn to the Lord, he never did. Far better to fail often and return to the Lord, than to appear to do well, and never turn to Him at all. What a difference there is between Peter, whose sins were a “point of return,” and this final sin of Judas, which was his “point of no return.”
May God grant that each of us is like Peter, in that our sins serve as a point of repentance and return. Would that no one who reads these words is following in the footsteps of Judas, for whom there is no hope.
0 This prophecy is from Psalm 41:9. It is a psalm of David and may not have been recognized as prophecy had John not told us so here. I find it ironic that the psalm begins, “Blessed is he who considers the poor; The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.” Judas had virtually accused our Lord of not considering the poor when He allowed Mary to anoint His feet with the precious fragrance.
4 This Greek word here rendered distressed is used in reference to the waters of the pool of Bethesda being “troubled” or “stirred up” in John 5:7. While Jesus is said to be distressed three times in John, this term is also used by our Lord when instructing His disciples not to be distressed (John 14:1, 27). How can Jesus tell His disciples not to be distressed, when He is? In the case of our Lord, He is distressed in spirit (11:33; 13:21) and in His soul (12:27). His disciples are told not to be distressed in heart (14:1, 27). This forbidden distress seems to be that of unbelief (14:1) resulting in fear and the loss of courage (14:27). The distress our Lord experienced was legitimate, while that which He forbade was not.
6 “There is no wickedness, indeed, that is perpetrated by men, to which Satan does not excite them, but the more hideous and execrable any crime is, the more ought we to view in it the rage of the devil, who drives about, in all possible directions, men who have been forsaken by God. But though the lust of men is kindled into a fiercer flame by Satan’s fan, still it does not cease to be a furnace; it contains the flame kindled within itself, it receives with avidity the agitation of the fan, so that no excuse is left for wicked men.” John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Volume 7: The Gospels (Grand Rapids: Associated Publishers and Authors Inc., n.d.), p. 821.