John 13:20 – “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 our last post, Jesus was revealing to his disciples that one of them would be his betrayer.  Jesus told them about this betrayal before it happened, so that his true followers would not be caught off guard.  Because they knew in advance what to expect, their faith was actually strengthened when events unfolded exactly as Jesus predicted.

Nevertheless, Judas did an enormous disservice to the gospel message.  He opened the door for scandal; he gave unbelievers reason to dismiss the gospel message.  After all, if one of Jesus’ apostles (who presumably knew him better than anyone) didn’t believe in him, why should anyone else?  What did Judas know that the public had not discovered?  Was Jesus really a fake like the religious leaders had been proclaiming?  Would the world now hold the other 11 apostles in contempt because of the actions of Judas?

In order to reassure his true followers, Jesus gives them a truth to hold onto in the days and years to come.  A servant/messenger/ambassador is never greater than his master.  Because he and the master are in unity, he will be treated the same way the master is treated.  This is why Jesus says when someone receives the messenger he sends, it is the same thing as receiving Jesus himself.  And receiving Jesus is the same as receiving Father God, for he was sent by the Father.

The opposite is true too.  There will be unbelievers who reject those that share the gospel message with them.  When this occurs, we are not to be distraught; this is actually a rejection of Jesus and the one who sent him – Father God.

Furthermore, we would expect there to be some who bring treachery into the circle of believers, just as Judas did.  They will try to discredit the gospel message.  And sure enough, we have seen it in our day.  You can probably recall some of these public scandals yourself.      

But when that occurs, true Christians can rest assured that they are operating under divine orders to share the gospel message, and they will be successful at it.  Despite the influence of scoffers, betrayers and traitors, unbelievers will still hear and receive the life changing gospel message.  They will be sealed by Holy Spirit until the final day; they are safe within the fold of the kingdom of heaven.  

Although we will definitely experience profound sorrow and hurt, true believers are not to lose hope over this kind of behavior.  Satan was not able to destroy the gospel through Judas, and he will not be able to destroy it today, even if he finds traitors to the gospel cause.     

John 13:21 – After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”

From the disciples’ point of view, things are going from bad to worse. 

Passover should have been a joyous celebration of the nation’s freedom from slavery.  They should have been enjoying this time with their master.  But things are not going as planned.  Jesus has just made them very uncomfortable by washing their feet and giving them some somber instruction regarding humble service. 

The atmosphere in the room is anything but joyous.  Their master is troubled.  Something isn’t right.  Things get worse when Jesus reveals that he will be betrayed.  And as if that were not bad enough, now the disciples are stunned to find out that his betrayer will be one of their own circle!  

From Jesus’ point of view, things are swiftly progressing towards ultimate victory.

Jesus knew that Passover was not simply a celebration of the freedom from Egyptian slavery.  It was symbolic of spiritual freedom from the slavery of sin, purchased by his  own blood.   

Jesus was troubled in his spirit, but not because of being betrayed.  His whole reason for coming to earth was to offer himself up as the fulfillment of the Passover sacrifice.  He was going to wind up on the cross, no matter what.  What difference would it make if he surrendered himself to the Jews or if Judas betrayed him?  The end result will be the same for Jesus, but not for Judas.

Much of the profound sorrow/pain that Jesus felt was for his beloved disciple. Judas had walked with Jesus for years.  He was a witness of his life and miracles. He had heard the words of truth from Jesus himself.  He had seen example after example of God’s love.  He had multiple chances to repent of his sin. 

But Judas chose Satan over God.  He threw his salvation away for the false riches of this temporary world.  Jesus was grieved/troubled in his spirit for this lost lamb that stubbornly refused to be rescued and led into the fold of eternal peace and safety.

John 13:22 – The disciples looked at one another uncertain of whom he spoke.

The word ‘uncertain’ denotes the kind of anxiety that you feel when you are perplexed –  confronted with something complicated and difficult to understand; not knowing what to say or do.  This perfectly describes the reaction of the eleven. 

On one hand, it was utterly inconceivable that one of their own number would betray the master they loved.  But on the other hand, if Jesus said something, it was undoubtedly true.  What was going on? 

The other gospel writers help give us a more complete picture of this scene.  Try to picture the depth of emotion and confusion in the room at this time:   

  • Matthew tells us the disciples were ‘exceedingly sorrowful’; they were deeply hurt, shocked and troubled by the news that there was a traitor in their midst (Matthew 26:22).
  • Luke tells us that the disciples began to ‘inquire among themselves who had done this thing’.  Each one wondered if they had missed some obvious signs among their fellow apostles, which the others had picked up on.  In other words, they started questioning each other to try and find out who the culprit was (Luke 22:3).  
  • Mark tells us that one by one they began to ask Jesus if they were the guilty party (Mark 14:19).   The eleven knew they were innocent as of that moment, but they were terrified at the possibility that at some point they could fall away from Jesus and betray him.  Naturally, each man’s main concern is himself – could ‘I’ be the one to betray my master?   

Matthew also tells us that at this time, Jesus added:

Matthew 26:24 – “The Son of man goes as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

At that point, the eleven were probably sick with worry.  But what about Judas?  He was probably worried too – worried that his plans and intentions would be discovered by the others.  In order to keep suspicion from resting on himself, he too asked Jesus if he was the traitor (Matthew 26:25), which added further confusion to the situation. 

John 13:23-24 – One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at the table at Jesus’ side, so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking.

The description ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’ always refers to the apostle John, the writer of this gospel.  It is important to note that none of the other gospel writers mention that John enjoyed any special treatment from Jesus.  Nevertheless, John was particularly dear to the Savior.

Now, let’s briefly review the concept of ‘reclining at the table’.  Despite what Leonardo Da Vinci represented in his famous painting, we can be sure that at the last supper Jesus and the disciples did not eat sitting upright at the table.  In fact, none of the Jews did.  At the time of Christ, the custom was to recline on cushions or couches while eating.  In his commentary “Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible”, Mr. Barnes gives us the following information:

The table was made by three tables, raised like ours, and placed so as to form a square, with a clear space in the midst, and one end quite open.  On the sides; of them were placed cushions, capable of containing three or-more persons.   On these the guests reclined, leaning on their left side with their feet extended from the table, and so lying that the head of one naturally reclined on the bosom of another.  To recline near to one in this manner denoted intimacy, and was what was meant by lying in the bosom of another. 

As the feet were extended from the table, and as they reclined instead of sitting, it was easy to approach the feet behind, even unperceived.  Thus in Luke 7:37-38  while Jesus reclined in this manner, a woman that had been a sinner came to his feet behind him, and washed them with her tears, and wiped with the hairs of her head.    

So our Savior washed the feet of his disciples as they reclined on a couch in this manner. Whenever we read in the New Testament of sitting at meals, it always means reclining in this manner, and never sitting as we do.  The chief seat, or the uppermost one, was the middle couch at the upper end of the table.  This the Pharisees loved, as a post of honor or distinction.

It appears that John was reclining next to Jesus at the table, as he normally did.  If he leaned back to speak to Jesus, his head would have been close to the chest of Jesus.  Since he was in that position, Peter signaled to him to ask Jesus the name of the one who was going to betray him.

While Peter certainly wanted to make sure it was not him, he was also the most likely one to single out the traitor and ‘circle the wagons’ around Jesus to try and protect him.      

John 13:25-26 – So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?”  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.

It appears that John leaned back and quietly asked Jesus the identity of the traitor.  Likewise, Jesus quietly answered John without the others (including Judas) knowing what was said.

Interestingly, Jesus does not directly name Judas.  Instead he identifies the traitor as the one who eats the tasty morsel of bread that Jesus will serve him. 

Romans 12:20-21 – Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him drink: for in so doing you shall heap coals of fire on his head.  Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Not only does this action fulfill the prophesy of Psalms 41:9, it shows that Jesus exhibited nothing but kindness and love to those who made themselves his enemy.  

John 13:27 – Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him.  Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”

At first glance, this verse makes it seem like Satan had no influence or power over Judas until this moment, however that is not the case.

Think of it this way: when you first believed the gospel message, you received it by faith.  But ever since that day, you have been increasing in faith, because you are filled with Holy Spirit, who continuously leads you into greater depths of understanding/belief/faith.   

In the same way, Judas had decided at some point in the past to listen to the voice of Satan.  Ever since that day, he has been increasing in wickedness and evil.  Because he has rejected the truth of God, the lies of Satan are all he has left.  Eventually, as he takes the morsel from Jesus, he reaches a point where he is filled with or fully committed to Satan.  We would describe him as having a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28).

It is important to understand that as Jesus gave the morsel to Judas, he was not giving Satan an opportunity to have Judas.  It was Judas who, having received the morsel, willingly gave himself up entirely to Satan and hardened his heart against God.

Although Jesus has given Judas numerous opportunities to repent, he has rejected them all.  Now that Judas has made his final choice and wholly sold himself to Satan, Jesus will no longer try to dissuade him from his course.  Therefore, Jesus admonishes him to immediately move forward with his plans; there is now no reason to delay.

John 13:28-29 – Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him.  Some thought that because Judas had the money bag Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast”, or that he should give something to the poor.

This statement confirms that Jesus had revealed the traitor only to John, not the entire company. 

The eleven were still unaware of what was transpiring.  They mistakenly thought that Jesus had instructed Judas to take the money bag and buy supplies for the rest of the feast, which would have lasted seven days.  But obviously, if they knew Jesus had called Judas out as a traitor, he would have no reason to then assign him a task which concerned the group (like buying supplies).

Let me offer you some encouragement:

In today’s post, we found that the disciples experienced a brief time of uncertainty; they were anxious when confronted with a situation that was difficult to understand.  During this time, they did not know what to say or do.

At that time, John leaned back and asked Jesus who was going to betray him – and Jesus answered.

All of us experience times in our Christian walk where we are uncertain.  Perhaps we don’t know how to properly react to a situation, or perhaps we are confronted with a decision with no obvious answer.  Regardless of the circumstances, we can follow the example of John.  We can just lean into Jesus through prayer, and ask him to reveal the unknown.  We can rely on him to give us the answer we need, or to lead us to the correct choices. 

If you are facing such a dilemma today, I strongly encourage you to seek the advice of Holy Spirit, not your friends and family.  Only he knows the future and heavenly plan for your life.

Let me offer your some relief:

Let’s talk about betrayal for a moment.  One of the definitions of betrayal is to prove faithless or treacherous to someone.  Judas certainly fit that description when he betrayed Christ. 

The question is, are we any different?  All Christians at one time or another have been faithless to the commands of our Lord and Savior, even after he forgave us of our sin.  So in a sense, we have all committed spiritual betrayal.

Satan would love to keep you bound in guilt and shame.  He wants you to think that you are unworthy or unqualified to do anything for the kingdom of heaven, because of your past sins.  

But don’t believe that lie!  If you have sinned, let Jesus wash your feet (that is really all you need) and restore you.  Cast those satanic thoughts of unworthiness away and ‘get back in the game’ of Christian service.    

Let me offer you some strength:

I am sure there were times when the disciples felt like evil was winning in the world.  This was especially true when they discovered their Master would not only be betrayed, but betrayed by one of their fellow apostles.

There are also times in our generation when it looks like evil will overcome good.  It sometimes looks like Satan is winning the battle for planet earth and the souls of men. 

But during those times, you can take strength knowing that no matter how thick the darkness is and no matter how impenetrable it seems, Jesus is the light of the world –  and the darkness cannot cover up or put out the light of the gospel message (John 1:1-5). 

God has called/commissioned us to spread the gospel to every nation.  Because of that, he will also give us the strength, opportunity, wealth and intelligence to make it happen.  In short, he will not allow us to fail in our mission, as long as we are faithful to him. 

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