Summary: How should we view the person of Judas and what he did.
The Devil is in the Details
There has been a great attempt in recent times to redeem the character of Judas. In “The Passover Plot”, the recent writings of Dan Brown, and others, modern man have tried to present Judas in a different light. Some would say that Judas was trying to force Jesus’ hand into becoming the earthly Messiah. Other see Judas reacting to the disappointment with Jesus’ actions. Others see Judas and Jesus conspiring together, with this plot backfiring and leading to the death of Jesus and Judas. Judas gets to sing his bitterness of Jesus in the song “Jesus Christ, Superstar”. However, does this modern reappraisal of Judas line up with what Scripture teaches? Has Judas gotten a bad rap from history? Let us see.
Exposition of the Text
Verse 18 begins on an ominous note. He again reminds the disciples that the washing of the feet of the disciples and the subsequent lesson was not for everyone. This picks up from verses 10 and 11 in which Jesus tells them that they are not all clean. By this Jesus is telling them that He knows every human heart. All 12 had washed themselves before the Passover on the outside. And after the foot washing, they all had clean feet. On the surface, no distinction could be made concerning any of the disciples.
In this verse, Jesus asserts that there is a distinction. One of them did not belong to Him. The Greek word for “choose” is in what is called the middle voice and has the meaning here “I chose for myself”or “I myself chose”. But one of them was not chosen. Jesus is perfectly aware of this situation. The disciples are caught by surprise, but Jesus is never in the dark about the matter. As far back as John 6:70, Jesus, having heard Peter speaking for the twelve who remained after the crowds deserted Jesus and said there was no one else to turn to, that Jesus was the Christ, said “Did I not choose the twelve of you? Yet one of you is a devil.” The Greek there uses the same middle form of choose, and Judas is included in the ministry of Jesus as one of the twelve but is also set off. One of the twelve is “a” devil, perhaps “the devil”. Judas was partaker of the earthly ministry of Jesus. But his share in the ministry was now at an end. The words of comfort and promise he was about to deliver were not for Judas. It was time to separate the goat from the sheep.
In last week’s sermon “Is Foot Washing a Sacrament” we learned from the text which said that “He loved them to the end” about the Greek word, telos, which indicated the completion of something according to plan. We have the same idea here in this verse which the necessity of fulfilling the Scripture is the cause of what is about to happen. What we call the Old Testament reveals God’s ultimate plan for the universe including its redemption. Even Jesus who is the Lord of Scripture places Himself under its necessity. This is reflected in the strong Greek word which is translated “but” in some English translations, The Scriptures which John cites here that must be fulfilled is from Psalm 41:9, in which David laments the treachery of someone David trusted, who had eaten at his table. There were many who fit that bill in David’s life, but perhaps he is referring to Ahithophel who had been David’s trusted counselor who betrayed him and joined David’s own son’s Absalom in the attempt to overthrow King David. Whatever it might have meant to David, the ultimate intent of the Holy Spirit was meant to point to the betrayal of Jesus. This was one of the details of the plan that was about to reach its telos, or planned completion.
In verse 19, Jesus elaborated further. He wanted to tell this in advance to show that what was about to happen was no accident. It was not a matter of Jesus being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Rather, Jesus was in the right place at the right time, and everything was working as planned. By telling the disciples in advance, it would build their faith. Rather than looking for an explanation of what happened and then trying to find rationale for it in the Scripture, Jesus interprets it in advance. It also served to offer Judas one more opportunity to repent. It is significant also that Jesus uses the intensive form of I AM. He was no ordinary prophet. He then goes on to say that whoever will accept the message of someone He sends, presumably but not limited to the eleven here, id accepting Christ and His Father. This is said with the solemn double amen. It is not stated here, but the opposite is also true. Whoever rejects God’s messenger is rejecting both Christ and the Father.