Rev. Dick is pastor of Grace Protestant Reformed Church in Standale, Michigan.
It is well that we recall the setting. Jesus and the disciples are in an upper room in Jerusalem (Mark 14:12-16). They are keeping the Passover (Matt. 26:18ff.). Of the exact order of events at this time it is difficult to be sure. We suggest the order that Hendriksen does, whom we quote:
1. Jesus washes the feet of his disciples and explains to them that he has given them an example to be followed (John 13:1-20).
2. He startles the disciples by telling them that one of their own number is going to betray him. Judas leaves (13:21-30).
3. He issues his “new commandment” and predicts Peter’s denial (13:31-38).
4. He institutes the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:17-20; I Cor. 11:23-26). This important event, having been fully covered by the Synoptists and by Paul, John does not repeat.
5. He tenderly instructs his disciples and commits them to the Father’s care (Farewell Discourse and Highpriestly Prayer, chapters 14-17 of John’s Gospel)” (NT Commentary, John, vol. 2, p. 241).
In this passage before us (13:18-38) is the announcement and revelation of the betrayer, Judas Iscariot. There is also the prediction by Jesus of the betrayal, of a sort, by His own disciples. For all will be offended because of Him this night (Matt. 26:31). And Peter, who boasts so of his allegiance, will deny the Savior three times (John 13:36-38).
The amazing thing about this history is how it all serves to fulfill the sovereign good pleasure of God. What is that good pleasure of God? That Jesus go to the cross! Though He be double-crossed, and abandoned, and denied—through His being double-crossed, abandoned, and denied—Jesus will go to the cross!
See here: Jesus, Lord over the double-cross! See here: Jesus, gracious, tender, longsuffering Pastor of sheep who will be scattered, and even deny Him! Jesus: showing this all in spite of and through such treachery and little faith!
Another glimpse, this, into the heart of God! Into gospel. Into grace.
For Study, Meditation, & Discussion
1. Revealing the traitor in order to work faith in the true disciples (vv. 18, 19).
Jesus had spoken of the necessity of His disciples being washed by Him, and the necessity of their washing each other’s feet (vv. 10-17). He says now that He had not been speaking of all the disciples. That is, not all would be washed by Him, not all will serve Him.
Our Savior is speaking here, obviously, of the traitor Judas Iscariot. He had hinted at this earlier (John 6:71; 12:4; 13:2,10). Now He will hint again. He says: I speak not of you all. I know whom I have chosen. That is: Jesus knew Judas when He chose even him to be in His company and to be one of the twelve disciples. He chose Judas, in fact, that the scripture might be fulfilled that the Christ should be betrayed (v. 18).
What scripture was fulfilled? What in the Old Testament is a type of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus? How will Jesus’ telling of His prior knowledge of the betrayal encourage the faith of the disciples when the deed is done (v. 19)?
2. Senders and Sent (v. 20).
Jesus speaks here, emphatically (Verily, verily!), of a very close connection between the triune God and Christ and Christ’s ministers of the Word: “He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me!”
What does this text say of Jesus? What does it say of ambassadors of Jesus—apostles then, and preachers today (cf. Matt. 10:40)? In light of this, what ought our response be to faithful preachers?
3. One of you shall betray me (vv. 21-30).
Jesus, at the thought of the betrayal, and no doubt of that suffering and cross to come, was troubled in spirit (v. 21). According to the Greek word, this meant Jesus was agitated, disquieted, struck with dread. According to our finite minds we are at a loss to explain how Jesus, Son of God, can be troubled! But troubled He was! Troubled in His human nature, which is like unto ours in all things, sin excepted. Troubled that one of His own familiar friends, one who ate with Him (cf. Mark 14:18; Luke 22:21), would be so dastardly as to betray Him. Troubled in this present hour of darkness, knowing that even His true disciples would abandon Him (13: 36-38). Troubled especially at the prospect of experiencing being forsaken by His heavenly Father (Matt. 27:46)!
“Verily, verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.” Upon this further announcement of betrayal the disciples themselves became troubled. We read in verse 22 that the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom He spoke. They were exceeding sorrowful at this (Matt. 26:22). Each began to say unto Jesus, “Lord, is it I?” Even Judas asks, “Master, is it I” (Matt. 26:25)?
What is the difference between the questions of the true disciples, and the question of Judas?
Simon Peter cannot take the suspense. He wants to know right away who it is of whom Jesus speaks. Peter asks the disciple whom Jesus loved (v. 23), who was leaning, we are told, on Jesus’ bosom as they all reclined around the table as was the custom in those days at special meals.
This disciple whom Jesus loved was John himself (cf. John 19:26,27; 20:2-9; 21:1, 20-23; 21:24,25). Does this mean that Jesus loved John more than the others? Why does John not mention his own name?
John, probably leaning back, asks Jesus with quiet confidence: “Lord, who is it?” (v. 25). Then Jesus tells that it is the one to whom He shall give the sop, or morsel of bread or meat, after He has dipped it (perhaps in the mixture of bitter herbs and/or a sauce made of fruit and other things).
It is Judas Iscariot! He is the one to whom Jesus gives the sop (v. 26)! John, thus, now knows, and Jesus had all along. Perhaps Peter found out too, that it was Judas, though we are not told.
4. Satan and the Sovereign (vv. 27-30).
After Judas had taken the sop, Satan entered into Judas (v. 27). The devil has already been directing the heart of Judas (13:2). Now he will possess him! The devil, diabolic one! Here called Satan, adversary! Arch-opponent of God, Christ, and the church! Now indwelling a son of perdition who has given himself wholeheartedly to the devil’s work. Now seeking to perform the most devilish deed since the time he had occasioned the fall of man: he will seek to fell the Son of man!
But wait! Just who is in control here? Jesus! “That thou doest, do quickly!” (v. 27). Jesus reveals the betrayer, exposes the plot. He compels Judas to go and bring the Jewish leaders and their henchmen in for the kill. He orders him to be quick about it, even quicker than he would have liked. For Judas and the Jews did not want to do their wickedness to Jesus on the Passover, lest they cause an uproar among the people. They would rather have waited. But Jesus will not let anyone take His life: He lays it down of Himself. And Jesus will also not let anyone determine when He shall die: He will die when it is determined of God. And that is tomorrow. Judas…subject of Jesus! Satan…pawn of the Sovereign!
The disciples are confused. They thought Jesus was sending Judas, the treasurer of the disciples, to go out and buy things for the feast (i.e. the feast of unleavened bread, a feast which began that Passover night, and lasted seven days), or to give something to the poor (vv. 28, 29). But we know where Judas was going, what he would do.
We know too what this means: “it was night” (v. 30). It is almost the hour and the power of darkness (Luke 22:53).
5. Glorification of the Christ and God (vv. 31, 32).
What does Jesus mean when He says that now is the Son of man glorified, and God in Him?
How do these verses show the intimacy of God and the Son of man?
6. A new commandment (vv. 33-35).
Jesus announces His impending departure. At this time He gives them a new commandment that the disciples love one another.
The commandment is not new, as if nothing like it were ever said. Where in the Old Testament do we find a similar commandment? How then is this commandment “new”? What, according to the passage, is the purpose for the disciples loving each other? How do we show this unique love in the church today? How is our love for one another in the household of faith different from our love towards unbelievers?
7. Prediction of Peter’s denial (vv. 36-38).
Impetuous Peter! He is disturbed at the prospect of Jesus’ going away. He asks where Jesus is going, and then, why he may not follow Jesus. Jesus says Peter cannot follow Jesus now, but only later. Why is Peter not ready now? Does Jesus prophesy here of the manner in which Peter shall die?
What does Peter show about himself when he declares himself ready to lay down his life for Jesus’ sake? How does Jesus rebuff him (v. 38)?
8. Perspective (John 20:31).
Reflect upon and discuss the sovereignty and also the suffering of the Savior revealed in this passage (think of the height of the one, and the depth of the latter; think also of the relation between the two: who can know it?).
How are we like Judas? Do you ever ask, “Lord, is it I”? How are we like Peter? How does Jesus here show His tender care of His disciples? Today…of you?
How does knowledge of the Christ revealed here, and of the disciples revealed here, enhance our faith in Jesus, and the richness of our life in Him?