The Night Jesus Was Betrayed, John 13:18—38

Verse 21 really helps us understand how Jesus must have felt during this, His last supper with His friends on Earth—

After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit…

Jesus was not at all surprised that Judas was going to the one to betray Him; He had announced it a year earlier—

Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!”  (John 6:70)

1.  Shame and glory, verses 18—20

Despite knowing in His mind, the fact of that His friend was about to betray Him weighed heavily on our Lord’s heart.  The verb “troubled” is the exact same verb used of Jesus’ agitation at the grave of His other friend, Lazarus (11:33) and at the request of the Greeks to see Him (12:27).

There are three aspects of this passage worth noting:

(a)  The awful cruelty of the disloyalty of Judas is shown for what it was.  Jesus quoted from Psalm 41:9 to illustrate just how cruel and shameful this act of betrayal really was—

Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.

This verse stresses the reprehensible character of the sin of betraying a close friend and benefactor.  “Eating” another person’s bread and then turning around and kicking him is the sin described in the psalm and condemned.

That is how Ahithophel treated King David, author of Psalm 41.  Ahithophel, David’s friend and counselor, had been part of Absalom’s wicked conspiracy against David.  Ahithophel was two-faced and a double-crosser.   Judas was even worse.   (see 2 Samuel 15:12; 16:23; Psalm 55:12—14).

Judas must have been the “perfect actor” and consummate hypocrite.  If any of the disciples had known Judas’ true character, he would never have left the room alive that night.  As Barclay has noted, “Judas must have had the behavior of a saint and the heart of a devil.”

(b)  This passage also stresses the fact that what was happening this night was within the will and purpose of God and that Jesus unquestionably accepted His Father’s will.  Jesus was not the victim but the master of His circumstances.  He was not going to be killed; He was choosing to die for others.

(c)  If this passage stresses the awful disloyalty of Judas, it also highlights the glory of fidelity.  Some day, in the not-too-distant future, these same disciples would take the teachings of Jesus to the world, and in doing so, they would become Christ’s ambassadors; His very representatives.

2.  Love’s last appeal, verses 21—30

The announcement of Jesus’ betrayal by one of their own startled the disciples.  Obviously they hadn’t taken His previous words about His betrayal seriously.

In order to understand fully what happened during this part of the Last Supper, we need to understand that, even up to the last minute, Jesus was trying to appeal to Judas, not condemn Him.  The seating arrangement makes this point.  The Jews did not sit at a table to eat, they reclined at it.  The table would have been a low, U-shaped, solid block, with couches radiating out from it.  The place of honor—usually the host—was in the center of the single side.  Each of the guests reclined on their left side, resting on their left elbow, leaving their right  hand free to eat with.  Sitting in such a way, a guest’s head was literally almost resting on the chest of the person to his left.  Jesus, reclining on the host’s chair, had John sitting to His immediate right, and Judas reclined to Jesus’ left.  In such a position, Jesus and Judas could have carried on a private conversation with nobody overhearing them.  In oriental custom, this is why the place to the immediate left of the host was the place of highest honor, reserved for the most intimate friend of the host.  Jesus would have had to have invited Judas to take this position.  We could well imagine when the disciples filed into the room this night, Jesus walking up to Judas and asking him to sit in the place of honor so “we can have a talk.”  Not only that, in that position, John’s head would have almost rested on Jesus’ chest and Jesus’ head on Judas’ chest.  This was an indication of the friendship shared between the hypocrite and Jesus.

Simon Peter, hearing that one their number was about to betray their Lord, appealed to his good friend, John, to ask Jesus who the traitor was.  Peter was a loyal friend and follower of Jesus who was insatiably curious.  Perhaps Peter wanted to know so he could stop the traitor, or maybe he was afraid that he might somehow be the one to betray Jesus.

Jesus said nothing definite as to who the traitor was.  He simply said this—

“It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.”  (verse 26a)

At the moment Judas took the bread, John would have known what Judas was.  He may have even indicated that knowledge to Peter.  But why did Jesus not simply come out and whisper the answer to John in the first place?  Why all the drama with the bread?  Hendrikesn:

It was in order to impress upon [Judas] the enormity of his crime, that it might serve as an additional warning.  Judas was ready to betray the One out of whose very hand he had been fed.

The devil had put at evil suggestion into Judas’ heart, Judas acted on that suggestion, and now Satan—the Adversary—had fully entered into the heart of Judas.  This is always the way Satan works.  The moment Judas dipped his bread, his heart had completely hardened; Jesus’ warnings and appeals to Judas had gone unheeded.  Jesus was now done with Judas.  How that must have broken the heart of our Savior; one of His precious lambs—the only one He called  “friend”—had to be let go.

Jesus turned to Judas as said, in effect, “What you are doing, do it faster.”  In other words, Jesus dismissed Judas from among His true friends and was now anxious to “get on with it.”

The depth of tragedy in the statement “And it was night” (verse 30)are  worth noting.  As Judas got up and left his Jesus and the disciples for the last time, the door opened, revealing the darkness of night.  John’s four words of observation correspond to what Jesus stated in Luke 22:53—

This is your hour—when darkness reigns.

3.  Four-fold glory, verses 31, 32

These verses give us a four-fold glory:

(a)  The glory of Jesus had come; that glory is the Cross.  The betrayer was now gone and the tension had dissipated and Jesus’ destiny was a certainty.  The fact that the Cross was Christ’s glory shows us something very profound:  the greatest glory in life comes with sacrifice.  The doctors that are remembered are not the ones who made the most money but the ones who gave their lives to ease the pain and suffering of hurting people.

(b)  In Jesus, God has been glorified.  How did this happen?  It was the unquestioning obedience of Jesus which brought glory to God.   There is only way a person can demonstrate their loyalty, admiration, and love for their leader:  obey them.  And Jesus did just that up to the very end.

(c)  In Jesus, God glorified Himself.  It seems strange that the majesty of Yahweh was revealed in the Incarnation and the Cross!  But in Jesus, God demonstrated that He was not aloof and far away; that He was not unmoved and untouched by the suffering of humanity.  He showed to all that He the collected prayers of human beings had gone unheard.

(d)  God will glorify Jesus Christ.  The glory of the Cross was two-pronged.  As Jesus died on the Cross, He was glorified, but that wasn’t the end.  There was the glory of the Resurrection and the glory of the Ascension to follow.  Furthermore, Jesus Christ will be ultimately glorified once and for all time when He returns in His own glory, followed by the army and the saints of Heaven.

5.  A farewell command, verses 33—35

In view of what had just happened, Jesus gives His signature teaching on love; specifically a new love—

Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  (verse 34)

The idea of “loving your neighbor” was not a new command at all; it was as old as the Law of Moses.  But to this ancient admonition, Jesus added:  “As I have love you.” Imagine what kind of love that is; Jesus’ loved had reached out to Judas who would betray Him and to Peter who would deny Him.  This new kind of love, in fact, was so new that Jesus had to invent a new word to describe it!  Eros, which is never used in the New Testament, is a Greek word for selfish love.  Philia, also a Greek word, refers to friendship and brotherly love, and is used rarely in the New Testament.  But here, the word used is agape, a very rare word, never used before the days of Paul.  This word, agape, is the word found most often in early Christian literature to describe the very special and unique love that exists within the Church, between fellow believers.  It describes the unconditional attachment that God has for His children and that His children ought to have for each other.  It is this agape love that must characterize believers; sinners should be able to look at how Christians interact and know that they are people of faith.

6.  Struggling loyalty, verses 36—38

What was the difference between Peter and Judas?  Judas betrayed Jesus, and Peter, in Jesus’ hour of need, denied Him with oaths and curses.  Yet we recoil when hear the name “Judas,” but there is something very lovable when we think about Peter.  The difference is simple:  Judas made a calculated, deliberate choice to betray Jesus.  His action was carried out in the coldest of blood.  Peter, on the other hand, was a man who was caught off guard; his denial was not planned or calculated.  Peter was literally swept away in dark moments of weakness.  The difference between Judas and Peter is this:  Judas’ sin was deliberate; Peter’s was the sin of a moment of weakness, which resulted in a lifetime of regret.

If ever there was a contrast in the different kinds of sin, this is it.  There is a definite difference between the sin which knows what it is doing and the sin that is the result of a person so weakened by fear or anxiety, or so inflamed about is circumstances, that he doesn’t know what he is doing until it is too late.

The relationship between Jesus and Peter is interesting.  People love to talk about “the disciple Jesus loved,” who was John, but the way Jesus worked with Peter bears examination.

(a)  Of all the disciples, Jesus knew Peter in his weakness because Peter demonstrated those weaknesses all the time.  Peter was always the first one to shoot his mouth off.  He was the one who told Jesus what He should do.  Peter spoke with his heart, often before using his brain.  But Jesus knew Peter was intensely loyal, yet also weak.  Jesus knew Peter as he was.

(b)  Jesus knew the depth of Peter’s love for Him.  Peter, for all his bluster and bungling, loved Jesus and Jesus knew that.  Jesus never took Peter’s hurtful behavior or unbelief personally; the real Peter loved Jesus.  We would do well to remember that.  When people hurt us or disappoint us, we often take that personally.  We must always remember that human beings, even when they are born again, are weak and sinful and sometimes their behavior will betray what is really in their hearts.  We could avoid a lot heartache if we could treat others the way Jesus treated Peter.

(c)  Jesus knew not only what Peter was, but what Peter would become.  Only Jesus can see beyond today.  Jesus knew Peter would betray Him, but He also knew Peter would become a powerful preacher and defender of the Faith.  Only Jesus can see the hero in the coward.  Aren’t you glad Jesus sees something special in you?  Aren’t you glad Jesus can make you into the kind of person He wants you to be?

Jesus came to give sinners a new life; this new life is the only way to enter into fellowship with Him.  This singular truth about salvation by grace was lost on Peter, who thought he could enter God’s presence by dying.   We all gain entrance into fellowship with Christ by giving our lives to Him, and in exchange He gives us a wonderful new life, neither deserved nor earned and an opportunity for unbroken fellowship.

(c)  2010 WitzEnd

2 Responses to “JOHN, PART 26”

  1. 1 John September 8, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    There is a saying that people have to take off their own shoes before they can take a walk in someone else’s moccasins, and similarly, when it comes to cases of The Bible vs. Tradition, one must let go of the unbiblical traditions of men in order be corrected by the truth that is demanded by the plain sight in the text of scripture.

    If you are open to biblical correction on this topic, then you can weigh the testimony of scripture that it cites regarding the one whom “Jesus loved” and may find it to be helpful as it encourages bible students to take seriously the admonition “prove all things”.

  2. 2 Dr. Mike September 8, 2010 at 7:49 pm


    Thanks for your comment (or challenge, perhaps?). Since I have been studying Scripture for most of my adult life, I am pretty sure I have read just about every “theory” as to identity of “the disciple Jesus loved.” In fact, off the top of my head I think I have 4 books in my library on that subject. It’s a debatable subject as old the early Church itself. Usually it involves dismissing the Johannine authorship of the fourth Gospel as well.

    Brother, I have to tell you, I have shadow boxed with the best of them. Iron sharpens iron, so if you want to give it your best shot, I’ll take the bait. I know you want to sell your book, and I don’t blame you, but do tell us who you think “the disciple Jesus loved” was and why, in a few well-chosen words.

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