The Darkness of Betrayal
John 13, verse 30, speaking of the betrayal of Judas says, "Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night." John records something for us there many years after the fact that a burning, vivid image that stayed with him every time he remembered that night…that night in which Judas showed who he really was. The hypocrisy now removed, the real Judas coming forth. Even that night, John did not understand what Judas was up to, but later certainly he did. And the one scene he remembers, Jesus has told Judas, "Whatever you do, do quickly," and Judas takes that piece of bread, and he leaves, and he opens that door. And John sees as he goes out that it's dark it is pitch black. Judas leaves the light.
The theme of John's Gospel so much that Jesus was the Light come into the world, and what a contrast that Judas chooses the darkness…that he has been with that Light, he has been with the other sharers of the Light, but he chooses the darkness. In church circles, in fact in many circles, we speak of hypocrisy…hypocrisy from that old Greek word that spoke of the actor's mask. The idea that you're pretending to be something you're really not. The ultimate dark end of hypocrisy is betrayal. It is thinking that a person is one's friend, one's close friend, only to discover that that close friend is actually that person's enemy.
Betrayal is the most hurtful of the feelings that you suffer when that truth is unveiled. It is that portion of the discovery of unfaithfulness in a couple, the betrayal, the sense that you thought there was a trust, there was a closeness that really wasn't there. It is that sense when you discover that someone has been cheating you, has been financially robbing you or a company you own or whatever the endeavor might be, someone you trusted…not a stranger…but someone has betrayed you.
Now Jesus knew His betrayer. He knew what Judas was going to do, but the impact of Judas' actions was so powerful on all of the disciples that you cannot find a really flattering word about Judas in any of the gospel accounts. He is always mentioned as the one who betrayed Jesus. That night of betrayal in fact was so powerful that even the apostle Paul who wasn't there that night, when he is writing a letter later on to the Corinthians who have misused and abused the Lord's Supper, had turned it into something other than the memorial of the sacrifice Jesus had made for them, when he was trying to, I believe at least subtly, point out to them that they were being hypocritical in their observance of the Lord's Supper, that they came not to fellowship or to share in this meal but really to divide off into different groups…the wealthy over here, the poor over here…that they were in it for themselves and not for the memorial it was designed to be, even the apostle Paul notices that. And when he describes the Lord's Supper, 1 Corinthians 11, he describes it this way: "On the night in which Jesus was betrayed, He took bread."
Oh betrayal! Betrayal just undermines so much of what would otherwise be good Christian effort, good Christian ministry. It undermines the focus the disciples had, the focus Paul wanted the Corinthians to have, and the focus we all need to have. Such is the darkness of betrayal.
This morning none of us here feel as though we're the betrayer, but certainly we may feel we have suffered betrayal. And in whatever side of this word you stand on this morning, I want us to look at how Jesus dealt with it. I want us to look at the One who never betrays us, the One who is always faithful and true, how He deals with those who are less than they say they are.
It is the night when Jesus has washed the feet of the disciples. They are enjoying the Paschal meal of the Passover. They're gathered in a U-shaped, low table, sitting on the floor with their left elbows on the table as they surround this U-shaped table, their feet sticking out from behind the table or away from the table. And with their left elbows on the table, they're able to use their right hand to eat the meal and to drink and so forth. It also means they're just slightly angled toward their right side, and they sort of line up that way all the way across. Jesus most likely is in the base of the U, perhaps in the center position…that is, the place of the host. And Jesus serves as the Host at this meal. He is the One blessing and breaking the bread which is the role that the host would do.
There are two honored positions there at that portion of the table. There is the most honored position. And actually the most honored position is to the left…just to the left and actually just slightly behind Jesus is the place of highest honor. And to the right of Jesus is the place of second highest honor. And then on it goes as the disciples wrap around this table in this upper room on this fateful night.
We pick up the story in verse 18 of John, chapter 13. Jesus is speaking and says, "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.' Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me."
Jesus begins with the statement, "I want you to understand this," so when the future events transpire that Jesus knows are just imminently in front of them, that "When they happen, you'll understand I am who I said I was. That I am He. And that you in receiving Me have received the Father, and that you've not made a mistake on this. There are going to be events, in other words, that are about to take place that will cause a lot of confusion. Things aren't going to be going in a positive direction. And just looking and judging on circumstances, you'll be tempted to think you've made a terrible mistake. You'll be tempted to think that because of the present and temporal circumstances that you were wrong about the Messiah. So I'm going to tell you ahead of time what is about to happen so that when it does happen, you'll know that I am He and your belief in Me was secure."
He says in verse 18, "I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled." Jesus says, "I know every one of you. I know your heart. I know what you're thinking. I know what you're planning." Now Judas has already met with the Pharisees. He's already made his deal with them. For 30 pieces of silver he is going to point out who Jesus is.
And just as a sideline, that in itself is a testimony of Jesus because Judas would have been well paid if he would have just told some dirt on Jesus, if he could have just let the Pharisees know of some things Jesus did in private that were less than messianic, if they could have just shared a dirty joke Jesus told, or that Jesus acted inappropriately in a certain way, or that He was blasphemous to the Father in a certain action He took, or that He did something that was less than stellar. But the only thing Judas could do was point at Jesus. The only thing he could do to give the Pharisees anything to grab a hold of was he could just simply identify who Jesus was.
There was nothing in Jesus' character, there was nothing in His history, there was nothing in His private conversations with the disciples that gave any indication of any secret tendencies or any subterfuge on His part, any plans to be profitable in what they were doing to do it for their own personal gain. No! All he could do was just point to Jesus. And for that they would give him 30 pieces of silver…the price of blood.
Jesus said this was to fulfill prophecy. And it's so important the prophecy He speaks of. It's actually out of Psalm 41 and verse 9. It's a statement of David who by the days of Jesus even became a type of the Messiah. And the event that David is referring to is the betrayal of Ahithophel's following after David's son Absalom as he has usurped the throne of his father David.
When David would reflect on that, in Psalm 41 and verse 9, David said, "Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me." This is the verse Jesus quotes…the last half of it at least. And I wanted to bring your attention to the first half that set the context of this prophecy. "My…friend in whom I trusted." How powerful would those words be to Judas, a Jew who knew the Psalms, who knew the setting, who knew he was the Ahithophel on that fateful night.
And this wasn't just an enemy. This wasn't the working of just a Pharisee. This wasn't some people from the outside who were trying to attack and arrest and capture Jesus. No, this was the work of someone who was close…His close, close friend. And thus the betrayal.
That is what happens to us. That is why betrayal is so awful. It's one thing to expect someone who we're in competition with. We can put up our defenses. We can even accept those disappointments when they gain victories. But when it's our closest confidant, when it's someone we have broken bread with, how difficult. And how dark that moment really was. So dark…as I said…the disciples never got over that betrayal. They didn't get over the betrayal. They weren't the ones Judas pointed to, but they so loved the Lord that even though this was part of the plan of God, they couldn't get over the betrayal.
Listen, you may be involved in an insidious work, you may be just hand in hand with Satan himself, and God may be using that very thing to bring about His glory, but it doesn't excuse you at all! It's still betrayal if you are betraying the trust of someone so close to you.
Verse 21 of John 13: "When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit." I stopped at that phrase as I studied. That is used a few times. It's used of Jesus' response to how He sees the people grieving at the death of Lazarus. This is more than just a perfunctory knowledge on Jesus' part. He realizes His own death that is imminent in front of Him, and He realizes the awful nature of sin itself that it has its tentacles right in His own group.
My friends, if a disciple of Jesus Christ can so turn toward Satan that he betrays his own Lord, we need to humble ourselves and realize that this is not a message for somebody else. This isn't something that is going to just befall other people, but that this is something we're all subject to, that we're all better be careful that we don't fall prey to ourselves. If a close disciple of Jesus can be led to betrayal because he misunderstands the picture of who Jesus is, then we can do the same thing.
We may have a picture of Jesus that is based on something other than just Scripture…that is based on tradition, that is based on movies, that is based on our need at the time. And when Jesus doesn't fulfill our picture of what a Jesus ought to do and how He ought to be and how He ought to help us, we're ready for Satan to use to betray. We're ready to be used, if we're not careful, by the enemy in order to betray those who are close to us, and to betray our Savior most of all…to betray our Savior most of all.
How does that happen? It happens when we wear that mask on Sunday morning, but behind it are other plans. Behind it is selfishness. It's greed. There is a hatred there. There is a "things aren't going in my life the way I want them to. I'm going to smile here, but I have my own plans of how things are going to happen, and Lord, You'd better watch out. You'd better watch out."
It says in verse 21, "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.' Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke." Now I've shared this before, but I just always want to share the fact that isn't it amazing? Jesus has several times mentioned there would be one who would betray Him. Jesus has known, my friends, as sovereign God all along who was going to betray Him. He said, "I know whom I have chosen," and yet none of the other disciples had a clue. Jesus never treated Judas any differently than He treated any of the other disciples. As far as they knew, Judas was just one of the group. They were perplexed over who could in fact this be.
Verse 23: "Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved." Now to lean on Jesus' bosom at this table means what? It means the disciple whom Jesus loved was to His right. In order for Him to be able to lean back, he would lean back onto the chest of Jesus. Jesus, as I said remember, is leaning on His left elbow, and His right hand is free. The one to His right is the one who can lean back, and that, we know, is John. John describes himself as the one whom Jesus loved. It says that he was sitting to His right then.
Verse 24: "Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke." Simon Peter is over here where he can make eye contact with John, and Peter is saying, "Find out who this is. Who is He speaking of?"
Verse 25: "Then, leaning back on Jesus' breast, he…" and this is John, "…said to Him, 'Lord, who is it?' 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." In that day, and if indeed this is the Paschal meal, it's very likely they're dipping bitter herbs into a puree of sweet things, like raisins and dried fruits that make a puree, and that was part of the bitter and sweet portion of the Passover meal.
They would take a piece of bread, and they would dip it into a bowl, and they would grab a hold of…kind of like my granddaughter likes to do…the best thing in the bowl. And they would sort of use that like a fork to grab a hold of it. And with that morsel, that really good, extra-good morsel that they got out of there, they would then hand it to someone as a gesture of hospitality. And that is what Jesus does, and He hands this good morsel, this gesture of hospitality, this gesture of friendship, to Judas.
But now the question becomes…Where is Judas? Well, if you're leaning on your left elbow, and John is to your right, and you're going to reach someone with your right hand, there is only one place left, and that is to your left…the seat of honor. Judas was sitting at a seat of honor. It'd been one thing if Judas was in the back of the table. It'd been one thing if Judas…you know, they'd had to pass it down. But Judas is there, as far as everyone is concerned, in a place of honor that night. Here is John. Here is Judas. Here is Jesus. Nobody has any expectation. In fact, Jesus so doesn't disrespect Judas that He has him right there beside Him, and He is able to say to him, "Judas, whatever it is you have to do, get on with it. Let's get it done."
Verse 27: "Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, 'What you do, do quickly.' But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him. For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, 'Buy those things we need for the feast…'" Remember after the Passover, the feast of Unleavened Bread that lasts for eight days was about to begin. Perhaps they needed bread to be bought.
The other thing that would happen in that day, on Passover night, beginning at midnight, they would open the doors to the Temple, and would allow the homeless, essentially the beggars, to gather in the doorways of the Temple. And there was a custom in that day that part of your Passover celebration was to give alms to those who were in need…to give money to the poor. And so many people would come by and would find a congregated group of beggars and would be able to give them alms. So they began to open the doors to allow them to do this, to have a place to gather.
They thought, "Well maybe that is what Judas has gone to do. He has the money. Maybe he is supposed to go down to the Temple and to do that ceremonial function that was part of the Passover meal by that time." They didn't know why he was going. The last thing they thought was that he was the one betraying. Perhaps Jesus didn't say it loud enough for everybody to understand, but even if He did, they didn't get it. They didn't understand it, at least not at that moment.
But then again in verse 30: "Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night." It was night. Jesus shows me how to handle betrayal. And the way to handle betrayal is the way that Scripture has always talked about handling betrayal. And that is to trust in God and to trust in God's plan.
There was an event back in the Old Testament, in Genesis, chapter 50, where Joseph encounters his brothers…his brothers now; his flesh and blood brothers who decades earlier had sold him off to some slave traders who were headed to Egypt. They sold him off because they were sick and tired of him. They thought he was the father's favorite, and they wanted to get him out of the way. And this was a quick plan that came up.
And so he gets sold off into slavery. If you know the story, they tear up some of his clothing he had, and dip it into some animal's blood, and say he was ravaged by wild animals. They tell his father Jacob that, and Jacob lives in that lie for years and years and years until a famine comes into the land of Canaan. And that small family of 60 or 70 by then travel into Egypt because they heard there was a prime minister in Egypt who had managed through the famine, and had actually gathered up quite a bit of wheat and food stuff in order to provide for those who were around him. And so they come into Egypt as a result.
Now this is all God's plan! God is quite well aware. By the way, God is the One who brings a famine. And so He sends…He uses that famine in order to bring them right under the shadow of their brother Joseph, now the second-in-command in all of Egypt. Well long story short: the brothers discover that this benefactor, this Egyptian ruler, is in fact their long lost brother. They cry to one another. And then the brothers come to that place where they need to apologize to him.
And so they apologize to Joseph, and Joseph makes this statement in the very last chapter, chapter 50. Beginning back in verse 19, "Joseph said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.'"
"What you did was wrong. What you did was evil. But God is so powerful that you need not be afraid of Him. He is able to take what you intended for evil, and He turned it into good because it brought you down here. If I hadn't been arrested, if I hadn't been sold into slavery, I wouldn't have been there to interpret God's dreams and to make this provision available for you to come. But God in His great foreknowledge and His powerful sovereignty took the evil that you did…and it was evil…you meant it for evil, but He turned it for good."
So too with Judas. Judas meant it for evil. He meant it for selfishness. There is no minimizing the evil that Judas perpetrated, but God saw it in His sovereignty. He saw it in His foreknowledge. He intended that Jesus would die on the Cross. He used Judas' evil for your good and my good that many people might be saved. Just as the coming of Jacob and his family resulted in the salvation of Israel, so too the betrayal of Judas resulted in your salvation and my salvation.
Betrayal. We don't minimize its evil, but we serve a greater God. You may be suffering through a betrayal…betrayal in a relationship. You may be here today and you don't know what you're going to do tomorrow. You don't know to even trust the rest of this day. Betrayal is such an insidious thing because it tears away that one fragile thing that keeps us with other people…and that is trust. And it shatters it, and it leaves us not knowing what we're going to do, but through the example of Jesus, even betrayal has another side. Even betrayal has a tomorrow. Jesus shows us that "When you see these things take place, remember that I told you they were going to happen so that you will believe in Me."
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