The Gospel of John, Jesus' seventh sign, part 15
Jan 16, 2020
John 13:21, 22 says,
21 When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit and testified and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.” 22 The disciples began looking at one another, at a loss to know of which one He was speaking.
John has prepared the reader many times for this moment of revelation. By writing his gospel many years later, he wrote from a clear perspective. But as we see here, when the time actually came for Jesus to expose Judas, the disciples (including John) were “at a loss” and seemed to be clueless. They trusted Judas with the finances, because Jesus Himself seemed to trust Judas, and they probably did not even know that “he was a thief” (John 12:6) until Jesus told them later.
Yet John had been preparing his readers for this moment, letting us know that Jesus had hinted of this betrayal earlier. John 6:70, 71 says,
70 Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” 71 Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot; for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.
It seems strange that so plain a statement would not make them suspect that one of them was “a devil,” that is, an accuser. The latest hint, of course, was in Jesus’ explanation of the foot-washing, where He quoted the prophecy: “He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me” (John 13:18). It seems that none of the disciples understood what He was telling them.
Judas, the Preacher and Miracle Worker
Recall that Judas had been one of those who had performed miracles in Jesus’ name.
Mark 6:7, 13 says,
7 And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs and gave them authority over unclean spirits…. 13 And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.
Judas had preached the gospel of the kingdom and probably had cast out demons and healed the sick. We wonder, of course, who his partner was, since the twelve were sent out in six pairs. Whoever it was, that disciple had no clue that his partner would eventually betray Jesus.
This is perhaps the most striking example of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7:22, 23,
22 Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” 23 And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”
It is natural for us to think that performing miracles prove the genuineness of a preacher or an apostle. But the most we can say is that it proves the name of Jesus through which the miracle is accomplished. In fact, the name of Jesus can work even through one who ultimately betrays Him.
The Disciples’ Positions at the Table
The twelve looked at each other with some confusion as it finally became clear that one of them was really going to betray Jesus. We wonder if in that moment some of them connected this revelation to Jesus’ earlier statements.
Lightfoot tells us that customarily people reclined on a couch while eating. He says,
“They were wont to eat leaning on the left side, with their feet to the ground, every one singly, upon their distinct beds.” (Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, Vol. III, p. 391)
He then tells us more specifically that when there were many people reclining as they ate…
“the worthiest person lay in the middle; and the second lay above him, and the third below him… So that while Christ and His disciples were eating together, Peter lay at the back of Christ, and John in His bosom; John in the bosom of Christ, and Christ in the bosom of Peter. Christ, therefore, could not readily talk with Peter in his ear (for all this discourse was by way of whispering). Peter, therefore, looking over Christ’s head towards John, nods to him; and, by that, signs to him to ask Christ about this matter” (p. 392).
As they reclined at the table, John was in the most honored positioned in front of Jesus, while Simon Peter was directly behind Him in the second most honored position. Our first question is why John was in the position of honor, rather than Peter. We are told many times that John was the disciple that Jesus “loved.” What does this mean?
Lightfoot shows from 2 Chronicles 18:2 that Israel’s King Ahab “persuaded” (KJV) or "induced" (NASB) Judah’s King Jehoshaphat to become allies and to go with him to Ramoth-gilead. The Greek translation in the Septuagint uses the term agape, “loved,” instead of epeise, “persuaded.” In other words, Ahab gave Jehoshaphat special favors and showed him kindness in order to persuade him to ally with him against the Syrians. This is described in Greek as agape, “love.” Lightfoot says,
“He loved him, that is, did him all good offices, and showed him tokens of great kindness. So Jesus, earnestly beholding this young man… persuaded him, encouraged him, used all mild and gentle words and actions toward him, that he might urge and stir him up to the ways of godliness.” (p. 394)
Many think of “love” in terms of an emotional attachment, with some unbelievers even accusing Jesus of being homosexual to promote their political agendas. Lightfoot, however, shows that in the culture and language of that time, it meant that Jesus wanted to “persuade” and instill in young John the way of godliness.
The Burning Question
Peter, being the boldest of the disciples, wanted to know who it was that would betray Jesus, but yet he did not want Jesus to answer the question aloud.
John 13:23, 24 says,
23 There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24 So Simon Peter gestured [neuo, “nods”] to him and said to him, “Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking.”
Peter did not speak aloud but “gestured” to John with a nod. John knew what he meant, because this was the obvious question on everyone’s mind. John 13:25, 26 continues,
25 He, leaning back thus on Jesus’ bosom, said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus then answered, “That is the one to whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.
John only had to lean back a little to whisper his question to Jesus. Jesus did not tell him directly but revealed it through an act that served as a prophetic signal. Jesus knew the Scriptures well and did according to what the prophets had foretold. In the matter of His crucifixion, Jesus relied mostly upon the prophecies of David in the psalms.
The Morsel Given to Judas
In John 13:21 Jesus had quoted Psalm 41:9,
9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.
For this reason, Jesus chose to give Judas His bread to drive home this very point that His betrayer would be one who ate His bread. Bullinger tells us in his notes,
“It was a mark of honor for the host to give a portion to one of the guests. The Lord appealed to the conscience of Judas in v. 21, now He appeals to his heart.”
We are not told what type of “bread” was being eaten at the time. Alfred Edersheim suggests that it was the same as what was used at the Passover meal after all the leaven was removed out of the house. He writes,
“Pieces of the broken cake with ‘bitter herbs’ between them, and ‘dipped’ in the Charoseth, were next handed to each in the company. This, in all probability, was ‘the sop’ which, in answer to John’s inquiry about the betrayer, the Lord ‘gave’ to Judas.” (The Temple, p. 242)
The “Charoseth” was like a dipping sauce, “a compound of dates, raisons, etc. and vinegar,” which Edersheim describes on page 237 of the same book.
It appears that Jesus honored Judas by dipping the morsel into the Charoseth and giving His bread to him. Apparently, Jesus thought it was important first to claim the bread as His own by taking it in His hands before giving it to Judas. Hence, Judas took His bread and ate it. Thus, Psalm 41:9 was more literally fulfilled.
Lifting up the Heel
The Hebrew idiom set forth in Greek language says that Judas “lifted up his heel” against Jesus. This idiom reminds us of the story of Jacob, whose name literally means “heel catcher,” which in turn came to mean “deceiver” or “usurper” and thus even a betrayer. Judas, then, was compared to Jacob prior to his change of heart when his name was changed to Israel.
To be a “Jacob” or even as “Judas” is to be positioned somewhere between an unbeliever and a friend. Jacob was a believer all of his life, even prior to his name change. Nonetheless, as long as he was named Jacob, he was not yet an overcomer, for he was yet of the opinion that he had to help God fulfill His own word. Only after He wrestled with the angel did he receive the revelation that God is sovereign, for Israel is a testimony that “God rules.”
Satan Enters Judas
Up to this point, Judas planned to betray Jesus and had already made contact with the chief priests after his humiliation at the supper with Simon the leper (Mark 14:10). Yet it was only after he ate Jesus’ bread that “Satan then entered into him.” John 13:27 says,
27 After the morsel, Satan then [tote] entered into him. Therefore, Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.”
Was this some sort of demonic possession? Whatever it was marked a specific moment in time that put Judas on an irreversible path toward betrayal. Jesus gave Judas the opportunity to leave the room without causing concern and without explanation. It appears that at this point in time only Peter and John even knew that Judas was the betrayer, for they had not yet had time to discuss it among themselves.
John 13:28-30 says,
28 Now no one of those reclining at the table knew for what purpose He had said this to him. 29 For some were supposing, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus was saying to him, “Buy the things we have need of for the feast”; or else, that he should give something to the poor. 30 So after receiving the morsel, he went out immediately; and it was night.
Some disciples thought that Judas was being told to “buy the things we have need of for the feast” (i.e., for the coming Passover meal). In other words, that evening’s supper was not the actual Passover meal, for otherwise, they already would have made their preparations the previous afternoon on the Preparation Day. The Last Supper was held the previous evening, which, by Hebrew time, was the beginning of Abib 14.
Jesus’ after-dinner table talk, giving Jesus’ final teachings and instruction, took place after Judas had departed. They would not see Judas again until he led the chief priests to the Mount of Olives to identify Jesus at His arrest.