by Bob Wheeler
While Jesus was in the process of washing the disciples’ feet He made an ominous comment to Peter: “. . . and you are clean, but not all of you” (John 13:10; NKJV), and then John went to explain in his narrative, “For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, ‘You are not all clean’” (v. 11).
Jesus Himself went on immediately to make it clear. Having urged His disciples to follow His example, He then said, “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” (v. 18). And then He said, “Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He” (v. 19). The quotation is from Psalm 41:9, in which David tells of being betrayed by His close friend.
What was about to happen in Jesus’ case was that Judas Iscariot would soon depart from the meal to betray Jesus. Jesus, for His part, was saying that He knew this in advance, and that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. And by telling His disciples this before it actually happened they would be able to believe that Jesus really was who He said He was. A charlatan generally does not know in advance what would happen to him, and his own plans eventually come to naught. And in Jesus’ case the idea of the Messiah being crucified by the Romans would have been unthinkable to most Jews. Surely Jesus’ betrayal and arrest would have suggested to them that He was not the Messiah. But by predicting it in advance and pointing out that it had at least been alluded to in the Old Testament He was able to demonstrate that He really had been sent from God and was about to fulfill Messianic prophecy. As the 19th Century Scottish theologian John Brown pointed out, here Jesus was “manifesting an obviously miraculous knowledge of the thoughts and feelings of another – thoughts and feelings unexpressed in actions, in words, or even in gestures, — and of a future event, in itself highly improbable, and plainly undiscoverable by any process competent to the most sagacious human mind . . .” (Discourses and Sayings of Our Lord, Vol. 2, p. 367). It is a powerful testimony to the fact that Jesus was no ordinary human being; He had indeed come from God.
Jesus went on to say, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (v. 20). At first this seems disjointed from what immediately went before it, but on closer inspection it follows logically from what He had just said. He was speaking to His disciples; all but one of them would become apostles, “sent ones” or emissaries. So the implication was that if they came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, they in turn would proclaim the message to the world. And if people respond positively to the message they are not just responding positively to the apostles, the missionary or evangelist; they are receiving Christ. And if they receive Christ they are also receiving God the Father.
John then goes on to say that Jesus was “troubled in spirit,” and said, directly, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me” (v. 21). This invoked consternation among the disciples, who naturally wondered which one of them it could be. Finally Peter motioned to John, who was positioned next to Jesus to ask Him who it was. Jesus replied to John that it would be the one to whom He would give a piece of bread that had been dipped. The “piece of bread,” as the NKJV translates it (the NASV had “morsel”), was very likely a piece of the Passover lamb, a piece of unleavened bread and some bitter herbs dipped in a mixture of nuts, fruit and vinegar to mitigate the bitter taste of the herbs (cf. Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Vol. II, p. 506). Jesus dipped the morsel and handed it to Judas. And then, John tells us, Satan entered Judas, and Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly” (v. 27). The other disciples were not sure what exactly Jesus meant by this, but Judas apparently knew, and left immediately.
Jesus then explained the significance of what had just happened. “Now the Son of man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately” (vv. 31,32). One might wonder how this might be, coming, as it were, at the most difficult moment in Jesus’ earthly ministry. It is most likely a reference back to a Messianic prophecy contained in Dan. 7:13,14, in which “One like the Son of Man” is presented to “the Ancient of Days,” and “to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, / That all peoples, nations and languages should serve Him . ..” And yet, ironically, in order for that to happen an atonement had to be made for the sins of men. And what Jesus was conscious of at that moment in time was that that was what He was about to do. The turning point in human history had arrived – but it would require His death on a cross.
And yet the text in Daniel specifically states that “to Him was given . . . glory.” Here we can see the paradox of Divine Providence. What was about to happen to Jesus was truly horrible – the arrest, the trial, the excruciating death on the cross as a condemned criminal. And yet God had a larger purpose in it all – the redemption of fallen sinners. And how is Christ glorified in this? Because He is the Savior who died to save us from our sins, and thus to Him we owe our eternal salvation. And how is God glorified in Him? Because in addition to His holiness and justice we can also see wisdom, grace and mercy, and victory over the powers of sin and hell. What a glorious God we have!
And what are the practical implications for ourselves? First of all, the example of Judas should show us how it is possible to be nominally a Christian and yet totally lost at the same time. Outwardly we may do the same things as genuine Christians – Judas had dwelled with Jesus, heard Him preach, watched Him perform miracles, and possibly even preached to others about Christ. Yet inwardly he was a cesspool of selfishness and greed. No sooner had Jesus demonstrated humble servanthood to him than he went out to betray his Master for a sum of money. How each one of us ought to take heed of where we really stand with Christ today.
But secondly, the example of Christ should show us how that God has a larger purpose in the trials and difficulties that come our way. We may suffer financial hardship or experience serious health problems. Friends may betray us. Acquaintances may reject us. And eventually, if we are fortunate enough to live that long, we become old and infirm. In such trials we may be tempted to ask “why?” And yet God has a larger purpose in it all. What that might be will vary from circumstance to circumstance. It may be to some others something form our own example. It may be simply to teach us something that we need to know about patience, humility, and gentleness towards others. And in the end if we suffer with Christ now, if we endure, we will reign with Him later forever (II Tim. 2:12). Sometimes it is hard to see all of that when we are going through the trial or difficulty, but we are called to walk by faith, not by sight (II Cor. 5:7). To God be the glory forever!