The Suffering Prophet—Choosing His Betrayer

“I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.” 

John 13:18

“Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.”

Psalm 41:9

The season of Lent is fast coming upon us again! 

That season of the year when the church of Christ is reminded, more than at any other time, of the passion and death of the Saviour; and which issues into the glorious and victorious resurrection of the Lord of glory! 

Most certainly we have no quarrel with those who insist that all gospel preaching for all the days of the year should have as its heart and basis the truth of the suffering, crucified, and raised Redeemer. Nor do we have any criticism of those following the custom of preaching on the passion and death of the Saviour during the annual Lenten season. It has been a custom in our churches of which we hope our people shall never tire. 

In the next few meditations we shall try to dwell on the general theme of: The Suffering Prophet Fulfilling His Scriptures. And in this first of the series we call attention to this suffering Prophet fulfilling the Scripture: In Choosing His Betrayer. 

Notice, first of all, the betrayer who is chosen! 

Judas Iscariot he is called! Literally his name means: Judas, the man of Cariot. Cariot comes from Kerioth, a town in southern Judah. Accordingly, Judas is from the tribe and province of Judah. As far as we know he was the only one of the apostles who came from this region. All the rest came from Galilee in the north. That the Scripture calls him Judas Iscariot is most probably to distinguish him from another of the apostles also called Judas, namely the brother of James. 

Judas was a Jewish nationalist, that is, one who believed in the future earthly glory of the State of Israel. He envisioned the time when his nation, now in bondage to Rome, as it had often in its history been in bondage to other nations, would break off these shackles. He believed that the time would come when Israel would rule the world in a golden age, a glorious state which would far surpass the glory of David and Solomon. 

Judas was also one of the twelve! He had followed Jesus for three long years, being instructed of Him, and an eye-witness to all His wonderful works. And he was not the least among the disciples. He was a man of energy, ambition, and ability, especially in mundane, material matters. Evidently he was a man of foresight, and a man who had ability to get things done. It was most likely for this reason that he was entrusted with the treasury of the disciple group. Obviously the other disciples had confidence in his ability and integrity, never suspecting that actually he was a thief.

Apart now from the fact that he was chosen to be an apostle, it is important to consider the question how he ever consented to be Jesus’ disciple. Evidently, he, too, had sacrificed all to follow Jesus. He must have set aside his family and friends. He must have left his earthly vocation and his possessions. The answer is not far to seek. As was said, he was a nationalist, looking for the future glory of his nation, but particularly for his .own personal interests and a place of honor in it. Evidently he conceived of Jesus as the hope of Israel and the ,promised Messiah Who would raise up an earthly kingdom and Who would be pleased to have Judas serve as His Secretary of State or of the Treasury. And when Jesus at the beginning of His Galilean ministry appeared to be so popular, Judas became most encouraged in his hopes. What a wonderful kingdom was this Man capable of establishing! Manifestly in this kingdom there would be no suffering or want, no cripples, not even death. Verily, this was the Man all the world would seek after! And as Judas followed Jesus and considered his relation to Him, his own glorious opinion of himself and his position in the Messianic kingdom grew brighter by the day. 

The impression must not be left here, however, that Judas was the only one of the followers of Christ who had this earthly conception of the promised Messianic kingdom. Fact of the matter is that they all held this view more or less, and retained it until after His death and resurrection. Do we not hear the Emmaus travelers exclaim on the afternoon of the resurrection day: “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel?” The difference between Judas and the rest was that he, in distinction from the others, was the first to conclude that the Lord had no intention whatsoever to establish such an earthly kingdom. 

This opinion began to jell when the Lord renounced earthly acclaim and popularity. He had heard the Lord rebuke the multitude for following Him merely for earthly bread; and when the Lord had confronted the disciples with the pointed question: “Will ye not also go away?” Judas began to see more than ever that there was to be no such imagined earthly kingdom. This adverse opinion reached its highest point just before the celebration of the Passover, and particularly at the occasion in Bethany in the house of Simon the Leper when there came in a woman with an alabaster box of very precious ointment and poured it on Jesus as He sat at meat. The disciples were indignant because they considered it a waste, it being their opinion that the ointment could better have been sold and the money have been given to the poor. John tells us that the spokesman for the disciples on this occasion was Judas Iscariot and that he had objected to this so-called waste not because he was concerned with the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the bag and bare what was in it. When Jesus had commanded them to be silent, informing them that the poor they had always with them, but that He would not always be with them, and that she had anointed Him unto His burial; then Satan entered into Judas’ heart and the desire to betray Christ became an impulse which could not be suppressed. Knowing that the rulers of the Jews had secretly plotted to do away with Jesus, he went to them and offered to give Jesus into their hands for what he sought to salvage out of his relation to Jesus—money. 

What we have said so far explains who Judas was and how psychologically he could and did become the betrayer. But this is not all that can and must be said on this point. 

Judas was chosen to be a traitor! 

We must not understand our text in such a way that we conclude here that the Lord, when He says: “I know whom I have chosen,” is merely saying: “I know who are truly elect among you.” Though this was true, of course, for He knew who the sheep were whom the Father had given unto Him. And He certainly knew that in even the disciple group election and reprobation was to be realized. Yet this is not the meaning of the Lord. 

Rather, the Lord means to say: “I knew what I was doing when I chose you to be My disciples. I knew what I was doing when I chose Judas Iscariot, for I chose him exactly to be a traitor who would betray Me into the hands of wicked men to slay Me.” This same thought is expressed in John 6:70, 71 where Jesus said: “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.” The Lord chose Judas to be in the company of His friends, that he with them might eat bread with Jesus, too, as one of His friends. 

That the Scripture might be fulfilled! 

God’s Prophet, the suffering Prophet, fulfilling the Scriptures and pointing to that fulfillment even in the choice of Judas! 

Christ, the anointed Servant of Jehovah, is appointed and qualified to serve the three-fold office of Prophet, Priest, and King! 

Here He is portrayed as God’s appointed Prophet to reveal all that the Father had given to Him to speak concerning the salvation God had ordained for His people through the suffering Servant of Jehovah. The end of all that long line of prophets, who, suffered as they brought to God’s people His revelation; and at the same time the One of Whom all that long line of prophets spoke. Here He is consciously fulfilling the Scripture! 

The Scriptures must be fulfilled which said: “He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.” That is the Scripture of Psalm 41:9 quoted above, the prophecy which is repeated in another form in Psalm 55:12, 13 “For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it, neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me, then I would have hid myself from him. But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance.” 

The historical reference in the Psalms is of course to the time of Absalom, the Son of David, whose plotting and conspiracy drove .David from Jerusalem into the wilderness, away from the throne and the temple, planning there to overtake David and kill him. In this conspiracy Ahithophel; David’s counselor and friend, who sat at his table to eat bread, lifted up his heel against him, having turned traitor, and connived with Absalom in the plot. Thus Ahithophel became an Old Testament type of Judas, who now had agreed with the rulers of the Jews to betray Jesus into their hands. 

The question arises here: Why were all these things foreshadowed in the Scriptures? Not merely were there the shadows of the sacrifices, and the more direct prophecies of the suffering of Christ such as that found in Isaiah 53; but there were also those shadows that were enacted by persons in the history of the old dispensation. Why was this? Was it merely for the sake of instruction of the church of that day? But this can hardly be true. How could the church of that day understand that Ahithophel was a type of Judas who should betray Christ? And again, Why must this Scripture be fulfilled? Was it only to show how the type and antitype meet in Jesus? O, to be sure, this is true. But there is much more. 

The suffering Prophet must follow the prophetic Scripture as He treads the way of suffering—all the way to the cross! 

And so, when He chooses Judas to betray Him, He was only walking precisely in the way the Father had mapped out for Him. Not only had the Lord God determined in His counsel the fact and the manner in which the Saviour should suffer, but He had also prescribed in the Scriptures all the steps the Saviour would have to follow as He descended as it were into the valley of suffering. This prescription the Redeemer had to follow in detail. Hence, the Scripture must be fulfilled! 

Now it should be remembered that when David wrote by inspiration the history of his betrayal by Ahithophel he was at the same time reflecting on the suffering of Christ. And Christ, Who understood clearly that these Scriptures were the revelation of God’s counsel concerning Himself and His way of suffering, chose Judas as the betrayer, both to fulfill the Scripture and to enter into the depths of His suffering—also into that aspect of it as inflicted on Him by Judas Iscariot. 

But why could not the Lord Jesus have been captured and crucified without a betrayal? Why must He be delivered into the hands of sinful men by a familiar friend? 

The answer is: Judas’ sin is our sin! 

We have lifted up the heel against our Friend, and that Friend is our Covenant God. Jesus must bear away in His suffering all our sin and make satisfaction for all our sin, also this sin. Let us not in pride condemn Judas, though he is to be condemned; but let us humble ourselves before the face of God and taste His salvation. 

Now the suffering Prophet may prophecy to His disciples, and to us! 

Almost a year before He had told them that one of them was a devil and would betray Him. But they had not understood. And it was well that they had not understood, for had they known they might have cast Judas from their midst. But now the Prophet must speak clearly so that the betrayer can also understand: “The Scripture must be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.” 

And the reason why they must know now is expressed in the verse following our text: “Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.” 

That ye may know that in spite of all that is about to take place, I am the Messiah; and that I am the One of Whom David did write in the Psalms. And that I am the One Who took your sins upon Me, also the sin of lifting up your heel against your Covenant Friend, the God of your salvation. 

That ye may believe! 

And believing, ye may be saved!