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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
Title:Christ’s Betrayer
Text:John 13:18-30 (View)
Occasion:Easter (Good Friday)
Topic:Christ's Suffering

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Christ’s Betrayer

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, when I was in grade school I enjoyed reading and studying about the American Revolutionary War. One of my favorite characters was a frontiersman by the name of Ethen Allen – he led a group of fellow frontiersmen called the Green Mountain Boys.


It turns out that one of the men who fought alongside Ethan Allen at the Battle of Ticonderoga was an American General named Benedict Arnold. At that point Benedict Arnold was considered to be one of the heroes for the colonial army. But as some of you may already know, later on Benedict Arnold changed allegiances and fought for the British Army. In the end, he became one of the most famous traitors in American history.


But even though Benedict Arnold’s name is synonymous with that of a traitor, there’s one name that even surpasses his. There’s one name that’s even more notorious, more legendary, more evil and sinister and that is the name Judas: Judas Iscariot. No other name in history is more despised, more disgraced, more repugnant than the name of the disciple who betrayed his own Lord, His own Master, our Lord Jesus Christ.


In fact, in the Bible, wherever the full list of disciples is given, Judas’s name is always listed last, and each list ends the same way: and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him (see Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; and Luke 6:12-16). Undoubtedly, what makes Judas’s betrayal so heinous, so shocking and sinister is that Judas was among those chosen by Jesus; he was handpicked as one of the 12.


He was with Jesus every day, and sometimes every minute of every day. He ate with Jesus, talked with Jesus, walked with Jesus.  He heard Jesus teach, preach, and pray. He watched Jesus heal the sick, cast out demons and raise the dead. You’d think that anyone so closely associated with Jesus, anyone who spent that much time in such close proximity with the very Son of God -- and who was exposed to the message of salvation again and again, that there would be no way that such a person could even think of rejecting him – much less betraying him into the hands of sinners. Yet that is exactly what happened. This morning we are going to consider the passage where Jesus Reveals the Identity of His Betrayer.

  1. The Purpose for this Revelation
  2. The Manner in which this was Revealed 


The Purpose for this Revelation

As I mentioned at the outset of the scripture reading, the scene before us is the last Supper. Jesus is with His disciples in the Upper Room. In fact, everything John records from chapters 13 to 17 happens right here in that room as Jesus is gathered with His disciples. It is after this that Jesus leads them out to the Mount of Olives (the Garden of Gethsemane); and that is where Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss and he was arrested and led away to Caiaphas the high priest. 


And immediately preceding the passage we have the account we considered two weeks ago where Jesus (in an act of self-less love and humble service) washes the feet of his disciples. We said how that was not only a foreshadowing of the spiritual cleansing which Jesus would provide on the cross, but it was an example for them to follow. They were to learn from Jesus that the greatest in the kingdom of God is the one who humbles himself and serves others.


And there’s something else about that foot washing that was significant. Jesus washed the feet of all 12 of his disciples -- even the feet of the man who was about to betray him. And that shows us something truly remarkable, truly amazing about our Savior.


Even though Jesus was well aware of what Judas was about to do, he did not treat him any differently. Jesus didn’t shun Judas or treat him with disdain. Jesus didn’t give him any reason to hate him or turn against him. Jesus remained gracious and kind, loving and compassionate. He showed love even to those who did not love him – even to his enemies.


But now, getting back to our text, notice what Jesus says about his imminent betrayal. In verse 18 Jesus says: I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me’.

Jesus is speaking about the promise he just made in verse 17 – that if the disciples follow his example of humility and Christian service then they will be blessed. But what Jesus indicates in verse 18 is that not all of them are going to be blessed. One of them, in fact, is cursed.


One among the chosen 12 was going to ‘lift up his heel’ against Jesus; one of them was going to betray him. This was not the first time Jesus had hinted about this. Already in John 6:70 Jesus said: Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)


This means that from the very beginning Jesus chose Judas knowing full well what Judas was going to do. In fact, Jesus actually chose Judas for this purpose. He chose Judas to fulfill the prophecy of Scripture: He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.


That’s a reference to Psalm 41: 9 where David is crying out to the Lord against those who were whispering hateful and vile things behind his back; who wished him to be dead so that his name would be forgotten. In verse 9 it says: Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.


There is a kind of betrayal that is most hurtful, scandalous and wicked and it is the betrayal of a close friend; of someone who is loved and trusted; of someone you have confided in and broken bread with. That is a heartache unlike any other – comparable to the betrayal of an unfaithful spouse, or to that of a son or daughter who would speak hateful words about a loving parent.         


That is what Jesus is experiencing here – and it’s probably the reason Jesus says what he does in verse 21, that his spirit is troubled within him. There is a deep anguish and pain and shame that accompanies a friend’s betrayal; yet this is one more thing that Jesus must endure and suffer for the sake of our salvation. This is one more prophecy of Scripture which Jesus came to fulfill. 


This also helps us to see and understand that when it comes to God’s choosing, when it comes to God’s election -- if we can use that term here -- not all election, not all choosing is unto salvation. There is also a choosing that is unto condemnation, and Judas is proof of that. He was the one appointed by God to betray Jesus Christ. But it can hardly be said that Judas was a pawn in the hand of God, an unwilling participant in some kind of divine or spiritual chess match.  


As we learned back in John 12, Judas was driven by greed; he was stealing from the money bag of the disciples, and he was upset that the Lord allowed Mary to (in his view) waste her perfume ( a year’s wages) when she poured it out on his feet. You see, Judas acted on his own sinful impulses. God did not tempt him nor did God force him to act against his own will and desires. 


In that light, I’m reminded of what Paul writes in I Timothy 6.10: For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.  I never quite understood the full meaning of that passage until I read it in the context of what happens here to Judas. His love of money gave way to the greatest evil imaginable. And in the end, his evil filled him with so much grief that he took his own life.


Now, looking at verses 19-20 of our text, we see that Jesus had a very important purpose in revealing all this now – before it happened. It was crucial that the disciples knew and understood that what was about to happen was not a surprise; that this was not only known by Jesus, but it was (in fact) ordained by God.


There are tor two reasons: the first we already mentioned. The disciples had to know that Jesus chose Judas realizing that Judas would betray him and all so that the Scriptures would be fulfilled. The second reason (close to the first) is so that the disciples would not lose heart; that their faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, would not falter.


I don’t think we can begin to imagine the shock and shame and disappointment which the disciples suffered when they realized that one among them had actually turned against their Master. Remember, they didn’t yet understand why all this had to happen. They wouldn’t understand it fully until after Jesus rose from the dead and explained everything to them (and Luke 24: 45 even says that he opened their minds so that they could understand the Scriptures.


But at this point the disciples have no idea what is all about to take place. And if Jesus would let this all transpire, and say nothing to them about Judas, then it could cause them to doubt that Jesus was truly the Christ – for how could the Christ not have known this would happen? How could Jesus claim to be the Christ and yet choose as his disciple the very man who would betray him? So that’s what Jesus is addressing here.


He’s showing once again his deep pastoral love and concern for his disciples. He is preparing them for all that is about to happen, so that they would remain faithful and not become discouraged and lose hope.  And in saying this, Jesus continues to demonstrate his selfless love and devotion to his people.


Here, he is about to be betrayed; he is troubled and upset and smitten deep within his heart and soul. The hour of his death is upon him, yet as Jesus will show again and again in these final hours of his life, his concern is not for himself. His concern is for those he came to save. His concern is for the spiritual welfare and safety of his flock. As it said right at the outset of chapter 13, having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.


What an amazing Savior we serve. Christ’s concern is always for us, and His suffering and death on the cross is the greatest proof of that as Christ took upon Himself the very wrath and punishment of God that we deserved.


But even beyond that, the love which Christ has for us is manifest in the fact that Jesus has given us His Word, the letters of the Apostles, even the book of Revelation which I preached about at our Ascension Day service, so that we would not be afraid; so that we would not lose heart; so that our faith in God and in His perfect plan would not falter; so that we would be prepared for all that is about to happen (and stand our ground) as we reach the end of days. 


The Manner in which it is Revealed 

So that is the purpose for this Revelation. Now, notice secondly, the manner in which this is revealed. In verse 21 Jesus comes right out and reveals what he has been hinting at thus far.  He says I tell you the truth one of you is going to betray me.


The reaction of the disciples is exactly what you would expect. They are stunned, shocked and embarrassed. I’m sure that the room was completely silent as the disciples all stared at each other (as it says): at a loss to which of them he meant.


Judas, of course, knew very well that he was the betrayer, but as he had done so successfully in the past, he continued to hide this truth from his fellow disciples. But now something has changed. Now Judas knows that Jesus knows. Now Judas knows that Jesus knew this all along, and that what he thought he was hiding from men was known unto Jesus because Jesus was God; because Jesus knows what evil lurks and lies in the hearts of men.


And what I want you to see is that right here, at this very moment, opportunity is given for Judas to repent. Right here at this very moment, Judas could turn to Jesus, confess his sin and ask for Christ’s forgiveness, and forgiveness would have been granted. After all, Jesus has just told him that he knows what’s in his heart; he knows what he’s about to do, so this is his last chance to come to Jesus. (We don’t really talk about this very much – but it is important that we understand this. That even Judas, Christ’s betrayer, had a chance to repent. Peter sinned when he denied Christ three times, but he repented and was forgiven. Judas had that same option).  


But there is no confession of sin. There is no admission of guilt. Instead of having a broken spirit and a contrite heart for his sin, Judas hardens his heart against Jesus even more. He continues to hide his guilt and play the role of the hypocrite. In fact, Judas comes to the table with his Lord; and he sits down to sup with Christ as if all is well; as if he is at peace with his Lord.


And yet, we know what the Apostle Paul had to say about this in I Corinthians 11, right? He who comes to the table of the Lord without rightly examining himself, without giving thought to his own sin and guilt, and the wrath of God upon it; he is the one who eats and drinks judgment unto Himself.


And that plays out here at the Last Supper. It was Peter, the leader of the 12 who asks John (who refers to himself here as the disciple whom Jesus loved) to ask Jesus who it is. This most likely meant that John was sitting near or even beside Jesus. And apparently, Peter and John spoke very discreetly for it seems that no one else, not even Judas, was aware of the question that was asked, nor of the answer which Jesus gave.


And Jesus told John, It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.  Then dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon.  Now, it is generally believed that this meant that Judas was sitting very near to Jesus, quite possibly even at his left side, at the seat of honor. This would explain how Jesus could pass him the morsel of bread after it was dipped.


And there’s something else we need to understand about this scene. I know that we generally feed ourselves. We’re not in the habit of having someone break off some bread, dip it in the gravy and hand it down the table to us. Especially not if you’re a germaphobe. But remember these were different times, and Jesus was the host; Jesus was serving them Supper, Judas was literally eating out of His hand.


And so what Jesus does here for Judas is an act of courtesy; an act of love. I want to share with you how one commentator described this scene (I’m paraphrasing quite a bit). He wrote that what Jesus does is an act of love that essentially pushes Judas over the edge. It brings him to awful and decisive moment of judgment; to the point where he moves away from the light, and toward outer darkness.


At this moment we are witnessing the sifting of Judas, that terrible and terrifying moment of separation and judgment. This final gesture of affection by Jesus becomes the occasion for the final surrender of Judas to the power of darkness.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.


And then we’re told that as soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. What a terrifying verse this is! And what a powerful warning and reminder to all of us who like to flirt with sin; who like to live on the edge; who are tempted to think that because we live in close association with God, or because we still go to church, that we can sin without consequences; that we can sin and get away with it so to speak (or sin because Christ has paid the price).


We’re reminded that temptation is the first step toward falling into sin and falling away from God. Satan desires to have us, as he desired to have Judas. And when we give in to sin, when we give the devil a foothold, we see that he does not stop; he does not give up; he wants more than a foothold. The Devil wants a stranglehold on us, so that we give ourselves over to Satan fully and completely – body, mind, and spirit.


That’s what happened to Judas. He did not resist the devil. He did not pray to God for help. He did not cry out to the Lord for deliverance. Instead, he hid his sin in his heart and he gave himself over to his sinful thoughts and desires, until Satan finally owned him and took full control over his heart and actions.


Here again is proof that Judas did nothing that he did not desire to do all along. As James 1:14-15 says each one is tempted when, by his own evil desires, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.


That is the way sin is born in the heart and soul of man; it is the way sin was born in the heart and soul of Judas. Everything he did, he did out of his own sinful and selfish ambition, out of his deep-seated hatred and rejection for Jesus Christ. And the reason we do well to be warned by this is so that we do not think ourselves to be beyond the reach of the evil one or incapable of such hatred or rejection. 


Today we’ve been called to examine ourselves. To use the imagery of the Psalmist (Psalm 139) we’ve invited the Lord himself into our hearts so that he might do a thorough search and root out the sin and evil that he finds. Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!


If God’s Word convicts you today of being a hypocrite, of being someone who (though you claim to be a child of God) is living a lie, then come to the Lord in your brokenness. Come to the Lord confessing your sin. And talk to your parents, or talk to your friends; or talk to your pastor or to your elder and tell them of sin that you have hidden in your heart, so that you might finally break free from that sin; so that you might be set free from the power of sin and Satan.


And remember as well, that this is why Jesus gave himself up on the cross for us. He died for our sins so that by His grace He might gain for us not only the forgiveness of sins, but also the victory over temptation and the sinful desires of our flesh.


As Titus 2:11-12 says For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 





* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2018, Pastor Keith Davis

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