Studies in the Gospel of John
Lesson 37: “The Darkest Night”
One of the most enigmatic and misunderstood characters to cross the stage of history must be Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of the Lord Jesus. Christians see him as the ultimate spiritual failure – a man who was in the very presence of Christ Himself for more than three years and yet never really believed. Even unbelievers think of him as one of the great traitors of all time. But one of the greatest demonstrations of the love that Jesus had for His followers – including us – is the fact that He loved Judas right up to the very end of his life – and would have given him salvation at any point along the way. By way of outline we have divided chapter 13 into three parts: In verses 1 through 17 we have An Example of Humility. Then in verses 18 through 30 we have an exposure of hatred. And finally in verses 31 through 38 we have an exposition of heavenly principles.
In our last lesson we looked at “the example of humility” which Jesus gave in washing His disciple’s feet in verses 1 through 17, But now we have to look at the exposure of hatred that comes in verses 18 through 30. And the first thing we will see in that regard is the revelation of prophecy that we find in verses 18 through 21. When Jesus had finished washing the disciples’ feet, and had sat down and explained something of what He meant by it, and how He wanted them to follow His example, the whole atmosphere must have been charged with emotion. The hearts of the disciples must have been touched to the breaking point by His loving humility and pierced to the core as they remembered their own striving for prominence shortly before. They probably felt ready to serve Him and each other for the rest of their lives.
However, that was not true of all of them – and Jesus knew it. He knew that He had to prepare them for what was going to be revealed to them within the next few hours. The subject of the prophecy is given in verses 18 through 20. Something was about to happen within the very core of their little band. In these verses Jesus begins to ease the disciples into a revelation that He knows will unnerve and startle them. So to make sure they understand as fully as possible He begins with some “hints” of who and what He is talking about. So He begins by speaking of the closeness of the person involved in verses 18 and 19.
“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.” (19) Now I tell you before it comes to pass, that when it does come to pass you may believe that I am He.”
It is hard to understand the cruelty and treachery that Judas maintained in the very center of the loving atmosphere of the last few verses. To the Eastern mind, no treachery is worse than to eat at a person’s table – a sign of true friendship – and then betray him. Judas must have been a perfect actor and an accomplished hypocrite when we consider that he had lived intimately with the other disciples through those months and years. It is amazing, too, that as suspicious and jealous as the disciples were, not a single one of them suspected anything wrong with him! Jesus was the only one who knew anything.
Not only his closeness, however, but his callousness is demonstrated in verse 20.
Most assuredly I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives me; and he who receives me receives Him who sent me.”
There was really only key ingredient missing in Judas’ life, however, – he had not “received” Jesus Christ. And this demonstrates again that it is possible to be in the very presence of Jesus Christ and His people for a lengthy period of time and yet not have a personal relationship with Him! Do you have one? As Judas demonstrates, it is possible to deceive the people around us, but we cannot deceive Jesus.
That leads us, then, to the actual statement of the prophecy
When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.”
We have to be careful to realize that this does not mean that Jesus “ordained” this for Judas. Second Peter 3:9 says that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Judas became a hypocrite and a traitor by his own choice. Prophecy said that someone would betray Jesus, but it didn’t say that it would be Judas. But over the months and years Jesus saw this pattern developing in Judas. When Jesus spoke of His betrayal in verses 18 and 19 He was actually making a last appeal to Judas Matthew recorded His statement about it in this way:
The Son of man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had never been born.”
So that is the revelation of the prophecy. But in verses 22 through 26 we see the reaction to the prophecy.
The first reaction was confusion in verse 22.
Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke.
So that led to the investigation in verses 23 through 25:
Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples whom Jesus loved. (24) Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke (25) Then leaning back on Jesus breast, he said to Him, “Lord, who is it?
In that middle eastern culture, they didn’t sit at a table; rather it was a low, solid block with cushions on the floor around it. The host would occupy the place of honor in the center of the table and the guests would recline on their left side with their left arm on a cushion for support and their feet stretched out behind. This meant that the head of each person was near the chest of his neighbor on the left. And apparently John was the one whose head would be nearest to Jesus, so he asked the question. And so in verse 26 we see the revelation.
Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it “And having dipped the bread He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.
When Jesus spoke of His betrayal in verses 18 and 19 He was actually making a last appeal to Judas – he was the only one who would have known what Jesus was talking about. A part of the Passover feast was for the host to dip bread in a juice made up of boiled fruit and give it to one or more of the guests. When Jesus gave it to Judas it was his last appeal. If Judas had been like Peter, with his true faith and love, it would have melted his heart. Even this late in the game, Judas could have asked for and received, forgiveness. But instead, he yielded to the power of Satan, who possessed him from that point forward. And so, in verses 27 though 30 we see the realization of prophecy:
Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “what you do, do quickly.” (28) But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him (29) for some thought that, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. (30) Having the piece of bread; he then went out immediately. And it was night.
Verse 28 points out that the other disciples didn’t understand the whole situation. It is interesting to see how God “protects” the fulfillment of prophecy – if they had understood what was going on, think of the chaos that would have erupted. With impulsive Peter and James and John, the “sons of thunder,” Judas would have hardly left the room alive! But as it was they thought that Jesus was sending him on some “Passover business” – getting supplies, or taking a gift to the poor, in verse 29. But thinking about it later, John realized that when he had received the piece of bread “Satan entered into him.” And John poignantly remembered that “it was night.” – verse 30
The warning that the life and death of Judas should give to us is found in his motives for following Jesus. Of course no one can know the thoughts and motives of another person, so we can only speculate, but apparently he did not come to Jesus because he desired forgiveness of sin, the bread of life, and yearned for righteousness in his heart. No doubt, as Judas saw the miracles that Jesus performed, and heard him teach the people, he came to believe that He might have been the Messiah. Instead, he probably came to the conclusion that he was a unique person who would eventually become a powerful leader of some kind, and decided to join His group to see what he could get out of it. However, it may be that as time went by and Jesus didn’t “make his move” he became more and more exasperated and disappointed by the Lord’s words and actions – look at Mark 14:4 and 5, (the story of Mary anointing Jesus for His burial)
But there were some among them who were indignant among themselves, and said, “why was this fragrant oil wasted? (5) “For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply
Now skip down to verses 10 and 11:
Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them. (11) And when they heard it they were glad, and promised to give him money. So he sought how he might conveniently betray him.
Apparently Judas decided that it didn’t pay to follow Jesus. The authorities were against Him, Jesus and the disciples were poor and He even turned away a rich young ruler who might have shared with them all. On another occasion Jesus had escaped from a crowd so that they wouldn’t make Him their king.
Verse 6 shows that Judas hated to be poor.
Why was not this oil sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor? This he said, not because he loved the poor, but because he was a thief and had the money box; and he used to take what was put into it.
At the same time Luke 22:3-6 shows that the Pharisees flattered Judas and gave him money. He probably even enjoyed having the power to give the signal to arrest Jesus. But, too late, he realized that he had tried to “save” his life for his own agenda, and he lost it all. This should challenge every one of us to examine the motives of our hearts in serving Jesus. Is it for the “comfort” of friendships with Christians or having social opportunities in a church? Or is it because, as Peter said in John 6:68,69, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we know and believe that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
The purpose of these studies is to help people come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Romans 3:23 says that “All of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” “And Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” And John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. If you will sincerely ask Him to forgive your sins and give you eternal life He will readily do so. Having trusted Him as your savior it is my hope that the lessons will help you grow in grace and bring others to know Him as well. If you would like more information you may contact me at “firstname.lastname@example.org