“In my dream I was carried away to a great and high mountain where I saw that great city…the Holy City of God, the New Jerusalem. Around the city, as around the earthly Jerusalem, there ran a wall great and high. There were twelve gates, north, south, east, and west; and every gate was a pearl, and at every gate stood one of the Great Angels. On the gates were written the names of the Twelve Tribes of the Children of Israel, from Reuben to Benjamin. The wall of the city stood upon twelve massive foundation stones, and on each stone was the name of one of the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb; and as I walked around the city, thrilling with joy and rapture at the glory and splendor of it, I read the names written upon the twelve stones—Peter, James, John, and all the others. But one name was missing. I looked in vain for that name, either on the twelve gates or on the twelve foundation stones—and that name was Judas.
The longest night in the history of the world is drawing to a close. The night is passing, but the day has not yet come. Far to the east, over the mountains of Moab, there is just the faintest intimation of the coming day. The huge walls of Jerusalem and the towers and pinnacles of the temple are emerging from the shadows of the night. In the half darkness and half light I can make out a solitary figure coming down the winding road from the wall of Jerusalem towards the valleyof Kidron. On the bridge over the brook he pauses for a moment and, turning, looks back towards the Holy City. Then he goes forward for a few paces and, again turning, halts and looks up towards the massive walls of the city. Again he turns, and this time he does not stop. Now I can see that in his hand he carries a rope. Up the slope of Olivet he comes and, entering in at the gate of Gethsemane, walks under the trees of the Garden. Seizing with his arms one of the low-branching limbs of a gnarled olive tree, he draws himself up into the tree. Perhaps he is the proprietor of this part of the Garden, and has come to gather the olives. But why with a rope? For a little he is lost to my view in the springtime foliage of the tree. Then, suddenly, I see his body plummet down like a rock from the top of the tree. Yet the body does not reach the ground, but is suspended in mid-air. And there it swings slowly to and fro at the end of a rope.”
This was the imaginary vision of Clarence Edward Macartney. It shows us the midnight of Judas’ life, and that he would never again wake to the sunshine of Christ’s countenance.It is a sad picture indeed.
Last week we worked through one of the brightest and most glorious passages in the New Testament, where Jesus shockingly yet humbly and graciously washed the disciples feet. He then told them what this humble action meant by instructing them to live humbly and sacrificially with one another and added that they’d be blessed if they did so. But in the midst of this there comes certain details, like v11, where we find some ominous hints of a near betrayal.And as v18 comes we’re thrust away from the high altitude of Christ’s bright love and are plunged into the subterranean caverns of Judas’ dark deed. Jesus told them He would love them to the end in v1 but in v18 we see that He wasn’t speaking about all of them. v18-30 is our text this morning. First, in v18-20 we have the foretelling of betrayal. Second, in v21-30a we have the trouble of betrayal. And third, in v30b we have the darkness of betrayal.
The Foretelling of Betrayal (v18-20)
In what had to be a moment of utter clarity Jesus spoke words that put fear in the disciples, “I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen…” Jesus has, we know, chosen His own from before the foundation of the world. This has been made clear throughout John’s gospel many times and is echoed throughout the Scriptures in many other places. And in that vein Jesus will now speak of a particular person He’s chosen for sure, but chosen for a vastly different purpose.The Scripture must be fulfilled He says, “He who ate My bread has lifted his heel against Me.” Jesus reaches back to Psalm 41 to explain Judas’ betrayal. David wrote Psalm 41, and in the immediate context David painfully traces his hurt of being betrayed by of one of his closest friends and counselors, Ahithopel, who…hung himself after betraying David. In v5-10 of Psalm 41 David describes these things saying, “My enemies say of me in malice, “When will he die, and his name perish?” And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words, while his heart gathers iniquity; when he goes out, he tells it abroad. All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me. They say, “A deadly thing is poured out on him; he will not rise again from where he lies.” Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me. But you, O LORD, be gracious to me, and raise me up, that I may repay them!”
Jesus quotes Psalm 41 in v18 to point out that though the immediate context is about the betrayal of Ahithopel, the ultimate meaning of Psalm 41 points to and finds fulfillment in the greater betrayal of Judas, who would share a similar sticky end. It’s as if Jesus was saying “Men, we have an Ahithopel in our midst.”By pointing to Psalm 41 and saying the Scripture will be fulfilled means Judas’ betrayal isn’t merely coming soon, but that it was foretold long ago by the Scriptures. Jesus implies this in v19 where He says the reason for telling them this is so when the betrayal happens they wouldn’t be caught off guard or be too shaken by this action but would rather grow in their belief in His deity and His command over all things. Literally in the Greek, that when this takes place they would believe He is ‘I AM.’ Lesson? When Judas betrayed Jesus, as the Scriptures foretold, Jesus was not a helpless victim of surprising treachery, but One sent and delivered purposely by God into the hands of those who would execute their treachery on Him for God’s redemptive purposes.
The conclusion Jesus draws from all this is in v20, “Truly, Truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives the One who sent Me.” A parallel is in view here. Jesus speaks of His disciples being sent as He has been sent and He speaks of people receiving them as they have received Him. The parallel is that the high and holy calling of Christ sent by the Father to a lowly and humble service is the same high and holy calling of the disciples sent by Christ to a lowly and humble service. That parallel is clear. But, how does this parallel link to the betrayal already spoken of in v18-19? Or, why talk of being sent after talking of betrayal? What’s the connection? Answer: as Christ has been sent by the Father so too Christ sends His own. As Christ was betrayed by those who should’ve received Him, so too, Christ’s own will be betrayed by those who should receive them. In other words, why would those who are sent out by Jesus have a different experience than Christ who was sent out by the Father? They won’t. Thus, they shouldn’t be surprised if the world hates them because it hated Christ first. Or like v16 said earlier, a messenger isn’t greater than the one sending them. They should not be surprised of these things, and neither…should…we. If we’re truly following Jesus, eventually the culture around us will turn on us…as it once turned on Him.
This makes me examine my life. Why? Because I wonder what it means if I do not experience any opposition. If I don’t, I fear I only have two options. I either fit in too much with this world, or I am not out in the world trying to win the world. Either way, if unbelieving opposition never comes my way or into my life, my life must not seem offensive to them. Therefore they must recognize me as one of their own and not as something alien to them.
The Trouble of Betrayal (v21-30a)
A very human Jesus is portrayed to us here in v21. “After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in spirit, and testified, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.’” John shows us here how Jesus is truly divine and in full sovereign command of all things, as well as showing us how Jesus is truly human and struggling with these events as they play out. Just as He was troubled before the tomb of His friend Lazarus, just as He was troubled in prayer in 12:27, so too Jesus is troubled (agitated, distressed, grieved, stirred up, and unsettled). Why? An intimate friend will betray Him shortly. Of course this trouble was only the firstfruits of agony Jesus would experience on His road to the cross, but it was agony nonetheless.Here we must recognize that this isn’t a cold action of betraying a mere acquaintance, but the betraying of a close intimate ‘friend.’Judas was one of them, he was an insider not an outsider. It’s one thing to be hated and betrayed by your enemy, but by a friend? By someone we thought we knew but turned out to only be using our ‘friendship’ to further his or her own devious schemes.That kind of betrayal carves a deep wound, a wound that some of you have felt personally (an unfaithful spouse, a thieving co-worker, or a child who continually abuses a parent’s love). Here learn that Jesus felt that wound. George Herbert aimed to expressed this grief in poetry, “Mine own Apostle, who the bag did beare. Though he had all I had did not forbeare. To sell Me also, and to put Me there: Was there ever grief like Mine?”
Imagine this hitting the ears of the disciples for the first time.They have heard Jesus speak of the grim events in front of Him for sometime now. He had told them His hour would one day come, He had told them He would die, He had told them He would depart and return to the Father. But when He told them His hour had come to die, you have to believe they we’re all kinds of mixed. They loved this Man, followed this Man, believed His teaching, and confessed Him to be God. Now He was not only about to die, but one of them would be the very ones to deliver Him to death? It was too much to bear. Jesus’ trouble it seems, troubled them.
So in v22 they all look around at one another wondering who Jesus is talking about. This is no minor detail. That they don’t immediately know who the betrayer is…shows us, not that the disciples are thick headed buffoons, but that Judas hid his deception very well. So, as Jesus is troubled by the reality of v21 so too the disciples are troubled by the reality in v21. Which is what prompts the quiet conversation in v23-25 between Peter and John. (side note: notice how John refers to himself throughout his gospel as the disciple ‘whom Jesus loved?’ This, in and of itself, tells us something of how John chiefly took delight in the fact that he, a sinner, was so marvelously loved by Christ. May we all see ourselves in such a manner, amen?!) Anywho, in his angst Peter eyed John and motioned for him to ask Jesus who the betrayer was. John nods and then leans back against Jesus and said “Lord, who is it?”
v26-27 show us how Jesus answered and what happened next. “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. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Though implicit, it seems Jesus said this quietly to John, because in v28-29 we get the small detail that no one else at the table knew why Jesus said this to Judas. Perhaps, they thought, Jesus said this because Judas was the treasurer of the group and had to go make preparations for their feasts, or that Judas went off to be generous to poor, like they always assumed he was doing. The reaction to the rest of the group to Jesus’ statement to Judas and Judas’ leaving the meal seem to show that Jesus’ comment to John in v26 was quiet, that seems clear. What’s not so clear is why John, now knowing who will betray Jesus, does nothing about it? We didn’t see him stop Judas from doing this, we don’t see him respond to Jesus, and we don’t even see him tell Peter what Jesus told him, even though it was him who wanted him to ask Jesus about this in the first place. Maybe John doesn’t do anything because in v28 we learn that no one at the table (John included) knew why Jesus was speaking to Judas in such ways. Yes Jesus (who knew and also didn’t stop Judas) told John, but it’s likely that the depth of betrayal occurring didn’t fully hit home to John.
The tragedy is unmistakable is it not? When Jesus hands Judas the morsel of bread, Judas takes it, eats it, and we read that at this point Satan entered into Judas. This is the first time we read the devil’s name in John’s gospel and that it says Satan entered into Judas leads us to believe that prior to this moment Satan had just been tempting Judas to do these things, but now has come in and taken a thorough possession of him.The devil does things like this. “First he suggests, then he commands. First he knocks on the door, then once admitted he takes complete possession, and rules the whole inward man like a tyrant.”J.C. Ryle comments on this saying, “Trifling with the first thoughts of sin – making light of evil ideas when first offered to our hearts – allowing Satan to talk to us, flatter us, put bad notions into our hearts and minds – all this may seem a small matter to many. It is precisely at this point the road to ruin begins. He that allows Satan to sow wicked thoughts will soon find within his heart a crop of wicked habits. Happy is he who believes that there is a devil, and believing, watches and prays daily that he may be kept from his temptations.”
Church, we have a need to resist the evil one, and praise the Lord, because of this betrayal (how ironic and how wonderful!), we now resist an already defeated foe!
Things have indeed played out according to God’s sovereign plan, and before our very eyes Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, has become the son of perdition. So Jesus commands him, “What you are going to do, do quickly. So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out.” Jesus is troubled, the disciples are troubled, Peter and John are troubled, and Satan, the bringer of trouble, enters Judas to cause more trouble…trouble that will ultimately bring triumph, through the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.
The Darkness of Betrayal (v30b)
v30 ends with the phrase, “And it was night.” I believe this phrase is meant to tell us of the current time at that moment (the sun had gone down so it was dark). But I also believe this phrase tells usmore. Namely, it tells of the darkness of betrayal. From the very beginning of John’s gospel there has been a theme of strife and struggle between light and darkness. Here before us is a staggering contrast. Jesus, the Light of the World, sits across from Judas, whose soul is black as night, and sent out Judas to betray Him. What does this mean? Jesus has now fully cut Himself off from the light and given Himself into the grip of utter darkness.Even here it is implied that no one takes His life from Him, He lays it down of His own accord. For who? For those in darkness, that they (by faith) would become sons and daughters of light.
The foretelling of betrayal, the trouble of betrayal, the darkness of betrayal…these have been the things we’ve seen in our text today. But I pray you’ve seen more about our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
In the foretelling of His betrayal see His sovereign plan over all things and rest in His omnipotent hands. Church, much will surprise us in this life, but O the joy of knowing that nothing, even our own sin, will ever surprise Him!
In the trouble of His betrayal see His humanity able to sympathize with us in our weaknesses. He knows what it is to be betrayed, He knows the hurt and the pain. Church, much will hurt us in this fallen world, but O the joy of knowing His hurt, of knowing His gospel wounds is where we find healing for ours.
In the darkness of His betrayal see His light shining through even then. Yes the dark would close on Him and shut out the Light of the World for a moment. Church, much of this passage today is dark and gloomy. But O the joy of knowing that it’s only against the pitch black of sin that we see the bright beauties of the gospel.
Clarence Edward Macartney, quoted in Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe – Preaching the Word Commentary, page 325-326.
R.C. Sproul, John – Saint Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 248.
D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John – PNTC, page 470.
Gospel Transformation Study Bible, notes on John 13:21-30, page 1433.
Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT, page 622.
Richard Phillips, John 11-21 – Reformed Expository Commentary, page 165.
George Herbert, quoted in Phillips, page 166 and Carson, page 476.
J.C. Ryle, quoted in Phillips, page 169.
J.C. Ryle, quoted in Phillips, page 171.