052 John 13v18-30 Betrayal

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How many times have you begun a sentence by saying, “Things could have
been different if…”? When we speak in these terms, we can often give the
impression that we are at the mercy of circumstances, the
victims of cruel accidents. But is that the case?
When Shakespeare wrote, “there is a divinity that
shapes our ends rough hew them how we will”,
he was reminding his readers of the need to see
the hand of God at work in the most difficult of
Circumstances in order to achieve his purpose.
Jesus’ betrayal did not creep up on him
unawares. It did not take him by surprise. His
betrayal was something he anticipated and
knew would happen. Jn.6v70
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A Predicted Event
Jesus makes clear that the betrayal about to take place was a predicted event.
In this way the disciples are encouraged to have confidence in the prophetic
word of God; “to fulfil the scripture, he who shares my bread has lifted up his
heel against me” v13. Jesus cites a Messianic Psalm [Ps41], which like so much
O.T. prophecy contains a double fulfilment. David reflects upon his betrayal by
Ahithophel a trusted friend, who sided
with Absalom in his rebellion.
Jesus says, ‘David wrote not merely to
describe his own experience but mine’.
When the betrayal takes place you must
not think that God’s work has been
frustrated and say, “Things could’ve
been different if Judas…”
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A Devastating Event
Now although this betrayal was predicted, that does not mean that it was any
the less devastating when it occurred. We learn that it churned Jesus up inside
v21. Jesus’ divinity did not shelter him from raw human emotion and in this
instance against the crushing effect that treachery can produce. A ‘friend’
would betray him! One who had heard his teaching and observed his miracles
for three years. When the other disciples engaged in mission so
too did Judas. He too had preached the
good news and had been an
instrument of God in
the healing of others!
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A Devastating Event
Despite knowing that Judas would be the betrayer, Jesus had nevertheless
shown the same love towards him as he showed to the other disciples. During
the last supper John, described here as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved,’ was to
his immediate right, while Judas found himself on the other place of honour on
Jesus’ left! Judas could not complain that he was ever discriminated against by
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A Devastating Event
Judas’ betrayal was a sin against grace, against love, but more than that - it
exposed his professed loyalty to Jesus for the insincere sham and hypocritical
profession that it was. It even places him in a different category from that of
the religious leaders. Their opposition and hostility was
open and transparent but his betrayal was a furtive
abuse of trust.
The sins of those who profess to belong to Jesus,
and who have benefited from the blessings of
fellowship with God’s people, cause him more
hurt than those who are openly hostile
towards him.
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A Veiled Event
The betrayal was devastating but the language used to describe it is veiled.
Why did Jesus not name Judas? Even at this late hour, is Jesus’ language
intended to make Judas recognise the awful deed he was about to perform.
‘I know those whom I have chosen, I am not referring to all of you but… one of
you will betray me’. Did that chill the heart of Judas?
Is Jesus holding out to Judas a way back
from the precipice of disaster?
Note Peter wants John to
wheedle a name out of Jesus,
doubtless so he could take
whoever it was outside for ‘a
chat’. Use your imagination as
to how that might have ended.
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A Veiled Event
Judas is identified but not openly. Jesus engages in an act of symbolism by
handing the sop of bread to Judas - none of the others understood what was
going on v28. This symbol is more than a middle-eastern token of friendship.
It was given in the context of the communion supper where participants were
saying, “We are united to Jesus and to one another, and together we value the
share we have in Christ’s salvation as part of his body”.
By giving the sop to Judas, Jesus
highlighted the fact that Judas, by
his betrayal, was attempting to tear
apart the body of Christ of which
he claimed to be a member.
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A Veiled Event
We should not be surprised therefore by Paul’s instruction on the Lord’s Supper
to the Corinthian church, some of whose members were also guilty of the sin of
hypocrisy. They professed loyalty to Jesus and his people but by their insensitive
behaviour were beginning to tear the body of Jesus apart. Paul writes:
Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy
manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man
ought to examine himself before he eats of the
bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who
eats and drinks without recognizing the
body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment
on himself. That is why many among you
are weak and sick, and a number of you
have fallen asleep. 1 Cor.11v27-30
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A Veiled Event
How did the disciples respond to Jesus’ bombshell that one of them would
betray him? One after another they asked, “Lord is it I?” These honest,
simple-hearted men shrank back in horror at the thought that they might
betray Jesus. They were more concerned with self-examination than with the
examination of their fellows. Surly a challenge for the church today!
We are often more ready to search out the faults of others
than to search our own hearts to see how we may have
offended Jesus? Follow the Psalmist’s example and ask,
“Search me O God and see if there be any wicked
way in me”? Ps. 139v33
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A Sobering Event
Judas’ betrayal is profoundly sobering “Satan entered into him” v27. This
happened after a long process of rejecting Jesus. Judas’ agenda for discipleship
did not include honouring God, accepting his salvation or, serving others
sacrificially. Judas’ discipleship was self-centred. He was in it for what he could
get out of it. He volunteered to be treasurer in order to siphon
off cash for himself. Satan was able to enter him only because
he had left the door wide open.
Contrast Judas’ betrayal with Peter’s denial and you have
a quite different picture. Despite his overweening
self-assurance, Peter wanted to be committed to Jesus.
Satan was banging at his door but he failed to gain entry.
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A Sobering Event
Was it Peter’s strength of character that made the difference? No! Jesus said
to Peter, “Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you that
your faith may not fail” Lk. 22v31. We need this great truth of Christ’s
intercession for his people to balance the challenge of self-examination.
It is not our strength that equips us to withstand
temptation. We need God’s grace linked to
the powerful, effective intercession of Christ.
Many Christians seem ready to give up.
They say, “I can’t withstand temptation,
I don’t have the strength or courage I need.”
That is true but Christ prays for us and has
promised that no one can take us out of
the Fathers hand.
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A Sobering Event
Judas had for years concealed his true identity and the true inclination of his
heart. He was more comfortable in the dark than in the light with Christ. Like
many of the Jews he “loved darkness rather than light” Jn. 3.19. Judas had
deceived the other disciples concerning his heart commitment. You see it is
not mere words or, an outward profession but, our behaviour that reveals
where we stand. We are known by our fruits. Our passage closes with the
words “As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out and it was night.”
John is providing us with
much more than a
comment on the time of
day when Judas left the
upper room!
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A Sobering Event
The two contrasting symbols that run throughout this gospel are darkness and
light. Christ is the light and sometimes, as here, the light exposes, embarrasses
and challenges the inclination of men’s hearts. It does so in order to pave the
way for repentance and forgiveness but when The Light is
rejected all that is left is darkness.
And when Judas left that upper room he was not merely
going out into the night, he was stepping out into an
eternal darkness. He was leaving the fellowship of
God’s people and exchanging that for a spiritual
darkness that endures forever.
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Sometimes the curtains covering the windows of our lives are pulled back. We
are embarrassed when things, we thought were well hidden, are exposed.
Jesus challenges the sincerity of our commitment. He does so discretely in
order to provide opportunity for us to repent. We stand unmasked before him.
We cannot fool him. In those circumstances we need to ask,
“How will I respond”?
We can, like Judas, dig our heels
in and step out into the night,
because we have no real love
for Jesus and no genuine
interest in his sacrificial death.
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Or, we can allow the discovery to humble and break our hearts. We can pray,
“Lord have mercy on me a sinner”. Jesus will draw near not only to forgive but
to assure you of your value to him. Someone may say, “My situation is
hopeless, my sin is unforgivable”. But the very fact that when exposed to the
light of God you feel uncomfortable indicates that you have not yet stepped
out into the night. How can we know that?
Because the person who has walked
out into the night is no longer concerned
about their spiritual condition or, their
relationship with God. If you find you are
disturbed by God’s exposure then you are still
receptive to the light and will find that God is eager
to forgive and restore you!
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