Summary: To show how betrayal is in us all and but it need not be the end of a relationship with God


JOHN 13 V18-30

I don’t know anyone who has called their child ‘Judas.’ That name is synonymous with betrayal and treachery. We sometimes hear people being called ‘Judas’ and it is not a term of endearment. Sometimes football fans will shout it at a former player or manager. Usually it means that a person is considered to have ‘sold out’ or ‘sold their principles’ for some earthly gain. So the name Judas will not be found high on the list of what to call a newborn son. However I want this morning as we come close to holy week and Easter to look a little more closely at Judas and his betrayal of Christ. Turn with me to John 13.


Let me set the context of our bible reading this morning. Jesus and his twelve disciples have been travelling around Galilee and Judea for 3 years. These 12 men are his closest companions. These 12 men had shared intimately his life for the past 3 years. They are now in an upper room and Christ has just finished washing their feet, much to their embarrassment. They are now reclining around the table. Each of the disciples is resting on their left side with their right hand free to lift food from the communal bowls of food. Please put out of your head any idea that the last supper is like the famous depiction by Leonardo de Vinci. From the account in John’s gospel we know that John was on Christ’s right side upon a close reading of the text it would appear that Judas was only an arms length away, probably on his left side.


They are all enjoying food and fellowship together when the atmosphere is pierced by the words of Christ in verse 18. Jesus quotes from Psalm 41.9. The phrase ‘lift his heel against me’ was in the ANE a sure sign of contempt and disrespect. Just as showing the sole of your feet is still considered an insult in the Middle East today. It reflects the unexpected and vicious kick of a horse. Jesus has shattered the peace of the evening again. His washing of their feet had embarrassed them. His rebuke at Simon’s refusal to have his feet washed had embarrassed him and them. Now he makes this statement – verse 18 and follows it in verse 19 by telling them that he is not taken by surprise by this turn of events. You know when you look back through John’s gospel you realise that Jesus had often warned his disciples about this very moment arriving – 6.71; 12.4; 13.2 and 13.10. He repeatedly warned them of the treachery amongst them. Stop there for a moment and realise what he is saying to them. 12 intimate friends amongst whom there is a traitor. They are in fact a mixed bunch. There is an ambiguity in their midst and they fail to see it. Only Christ can truly reveal the heart of those who claim to be his followers. We see from the passage that the other 11 disciples did not suspect Judas, hence Peter asking the ‘beloved disciple’ to ask Jesus who it is that he is speaking of. I want us all to note that this morning. Within the body of Christ there will always be a mixed multitude. There will always be those who appear genuine disciples who will in fact betray Christ. But I want you to note also this morning two things:

1. Jesus did not treat Judas any differently from the rest, and as we shall see gave him one last opportunity to repent.

2. Judas’ betrayal did not hinder the work of Christ or the purpose for which he had come.

Verse 21 – although Jesus is not surprised by what Judas is about to do he is ‘troubled in spirit’ by it. This phrase ‘troubled in spirit’ is exactly the same phrase used to describe Jesus’ reaction at the tomb of Lazarus. How fitting and appropriate because betrayal is in fact a death – the death of a relationship and it is equally as painful as death to Christ. Normally traitors are effective because they are unknown and go undetected. They go about in secret betraying that which they have been entrusted with. How different in the case of Judas. He is known to Christ. In fact one year earlier Jesus had predicted this very moment – John 6.70-71. What one year earlier seemed remote has now arrived but still Jesus reaches out to his betrayer.


Many of us love those ‘who done it’ programmes. CSI being the latest big hit in that area of TV programmes. John tells us that the disciples are disturbed by what they have just heard from the lips of their master, but intrigued o know who it is. There is stunned silence around the upper room. Even Peter is not as forthcoming as he normally is. We read in verse 24 that he asks ‘the beloved disciple’ (most likely John son of Zebedee) to ask who Jesus is speaking of. In verse 25 John leans back and resting his head in the chest of Christ he asks ‘who is it?’ Friends what a moment has arrived in this upper room. All eyes are fixed on Christ. All ears are attentive to what he is about to say and yet only John, Judas and Jesus hear and understand. Look at verse 26. Jesus leans over the table, dips a morsel of bread in wine and hands it to Judas. As he does so he tells John the significance of what he is doing. Now I want you to hear what I am about to say now because it is of eternal importance this morning. The manual act of taking a piece of bread at a meal, dipping it in wine and handing it to a guest was a sign of respect, courtesy and great honour in the society Christ. Think what Christ has just done for Judas Iscariot. John “Who is it master?” Judas’ heart begins to race and he fixes his eyes on Christ. Christ could have exposed Judas there and then but he protects him this one last time. He could have made it plain to the 11 it was Judas and we know there were two swords, at least, in that room and we know the reaction we could have expected from Simon Peter. Instead Jesus shows favour and honour to Judas by handing him the bread. The rest of the disciples fail to understand the significance of what has just been played out in front of them. The sad, eternal, thing is that it was not lost on John, Judas or Christ. John always refers in his gospel to Judas as the one who betrayed Christ.

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