The Betrayal Foretold

Dr. John Boyd, Holywood, N. Ireland

Part 3 of 9 of the series The Lord's Passion

After the Passover, Jesus began to speak of His betrayal. You are not all clean, He said, but still He did not indicate who was unclean, John 13.10. John, looking back as he wrote, realized that the Lord was making reference to His betrayer. Sitting down, the Lord amplified His words, not all clean. He had chosen them all, but one would lift up his heel against Him in treachery, fulfilling Psalm 41. 9. The Lord said this, not that the others might know the traitor beforehand, but that they might appreciate after­wards His divine omniscience.

Jesus was troubled in spirit, John 13. 21. He was troubled, not for His own, but for Judas' sake, Matt. 26. 24; He was so troubled that He made clear what He had hinted at before; He solemnly testified, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me". Thus the Lord indicated the depths of His sorrow at such a calamity happening to one of His chosen ones. Being troubled in spirit indicated this to be one of the most deeply felt of all His troubles.

Note the effect of this pronounce­ment upon the disciples. They were exceeding sorrowful, Matt. 26.22; sorrowful at the thought of such a disgraceful act; sorrowful because one of their company could be guilty of so acting; sorrowful at the effect of the treachery on their Lord. The outcome of their sorrow was a three-fold attempt to unmask the traitor.

(1) Each began to say to Jesus, "Lord, is it I?", v. 22, as though to say, "Lord, am I doing something unknown to myself that might be construed as betraying Thee?". To their queries Jesus still replied in a general way, that one of the twelve who ate with Him would do this act, v. 23. While again emphasizing the heinousness of the crime, He did not designate the culprit. This emboldened Judas to join the chorus of the others, and to say, "Master, is it I ?", v. 25. Clearly he did this to turn away suspicion from himself. He addressed Jesus not as "Lord", the title of supremacy used by the others, but as "Rabbi", the title of cold formality. Did he think that the Lord was merely talking as though He had a premonition, but did not really know His betrayer? Nor did the Lord expose him even then. The reply, "Thou hast said", gave no clue to the others, but it showed Judas that the Lord knew his heart. Whatever the disciples may have understood by these words, they did not realize that Judas was the traitor. It may be that the conversation passed between the Lord and Judas in an undertone.

(2)   The disciples began to enquire among themselves which of them would do such a deed, Luke 22. 23. When each had cleared himself in his own mind, curiosity, or possibly a desire to get rid of the offender, prompted the question. But there was no reply to this enquiry. Judas would not confess, and the others were innocent.

(3)   Peter, determined to find the culprit, proposed to John, sitting close to Jesus, that he should question the Lord as to the traitor's identity, John 13. 23-26. Jesus simply said that the one to whom He would give "the sop" would do it. "The sop" was a technical term for three things wrapped together—roast lamb, un­leavened bread and bitter herbs. Some expositors, though not all, explain this as follows : These three ingredients tied together in small bundles, were dipped in the dish, and handed by the head of the company to each sharer in turn. Note that in John 13.26 the words, "a sop" a.v., are changed by the Revisers to "the sop". The words "a sop" would suggest that only one sop was given, and that to Judas. But the sop was handed to all, in­cluding Judas. This is the meaning of John's comment in this verse. Thus Peter and John were still without the knowledge that they sought. John's remarks about Judas taking the sop, and Satan entering into him, were written after the betrayal, and do not indicate that John knew beforehand. He expressly states that none of them knew the intent of the Lord's words to Judas, v. 28.

Thus the Lord, in love to Judas and seeking to recall him from his awful deed, did not openly reveal to all the others what He knew of Judas' heart. Note how the Lord answered mainly in general terms, (a) "one of you", still including Judas in the twelve, still giving him a chance to confess and forsake his plan; (b) "He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish", his hand is on the table, at this present meal; (c) "woe unto that man" ; woe is the antithesis of "blessed". The Lord was not pronouncing judgment, but expressing His sorrow for Judas. He mentioned the heinous nature of the crime. He regarded it all from Judas' standpoint, not from His own, as though to say, "My suffering and death are predetermined. I know I must suffer, but oh, how awful to think that one of you will suffer forever for his part in this betrayal! He will wish throughout eternity that he had never been born".

It would appear from all that transpired in the upper room that the Lord Jesus had constantly sought to dissuade Judas from his purpose. He washed the traitor's feet; He foretold the betrayal; He reminded him of the scripture predicting it; He indicated the horror of such a crime; He ex­pressed His great sorrow over it; He made Judas aware that He knew his heart; He shared the Passover meal in intimate fellowship with him; He did not reveal his secret to all the disciples. All this to spare Judas!

But the Lord's appeal failed. Satan then took full possession of Judas. This Jesus knew, for His next words to him were, "That thou doest, do quickly", John 13. 27. Here again the Lord used words that meant one thing to Judas, and something entirely different to the others, with the result that they failed to appreciate the significance of the statement. To Judas the Lord revealed His know­ledge of the awful decision that he had just made, and told him to do quickly that upon which he had set his mind, for He, their Lord, would be glorified the sooner.

A reference to the betrayal is found in the Lord's prayer following the upper room discourse, John 17. 12. Again, He did not name the traitor, but called him "the son of perdition"; one who was the very personification of perishing, whose character and in­heritance are thus portrayed; one who had sold himself to his doom. He went to his own place, the place he had chosen, Acts 1.25. He had been loved in vain!