“Midweek March 18”
Lenten Midweek 4
Bowl of Tears: Jesus Reveals His Betrayer
Betrayal—it’s one of the reasons our prisons are full. When crimes are committed by two or more people, and one of them gets caught, chances are the one who’s caught is going to betray his partners in exchange for leniency. Of course, if you get off, but your partner in crime goes to jail, you better watch your back when he gets out. The cost of betrayal in crime can be high.
As it can be in marriage. There’s an old saying, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” (William Congrieve 1697) I’ve provided some pastoral care to scorned women considering divorce. Do not do this, gentlemen!
Obviously, betrayal is a bad thing. Jesus died as a result of His betrayal by Judas. And Judas, filled with remorse, later committed suicide. But ironically, as we learn in the account of the Last Supper, this betrayal leads to salvation.
First, let’s consider the betrayal. The disciples have gathered for what’s going to be the Last Supper with Jesus. It’s the Feast of Unleavened Bread, or the Passover, the annual celebration recalling Israel’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt. In the Last Supper, Jesus teaches His disciples the true meaning of the Passover. The Passover Lamb is really Jesus. He is the one whose death and shed blood cause the angel of death to pass over all who believe in Him. But as yet, Jesus has not been crucified, and the disciples are still confused and unwilling to believe Jesus will die. So the Supper didn’t make much sense to them until after Easter.
A great deal happens at this last meal together. Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, teaching them to be servants. He institutes the Lord’s Supper, taking bread and wine from the table, blessing it, tells them it is also His body and blood in-with and under), giving it to the disciples to eat and drink, and telling them this is a meal of forgiveness and remembrance. As they all partake, He reveals the dark secret of betrayal lurking in the heart of one of their own.
Matthew tells us that when Jesus breaks the news that one of them is a betrayer, the room explodes with emotion. Our text says, “They were very sorrowful” (Mt 26:22). They were far more than just sad. When Jesus breaks the news, they don’t just dab at the corner of their eye with a hanky. There’s anger, shouting, finger-pointing, weeping, suspicion, accusation!
One after another the disciples ask Jesus: “Is it I, Lord?” (v 22). All ask the same question—all but one. Finally, Jesus answers, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me” (v 23). Then He gets even more specific, since probably all of them had dipped their hand into the bowl with Him. In John’s Gospel, he says, “ ‘It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.’ So when He had dipped the morsel, He gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot” (Jn 13:26). He gave the bread to Judas.
Notice the things we learn about Judas in the way he responds to news of the betrayal. First, he doesn’t join in with the other disciples, asking, “Is it I, Lord?” (Mt 26:22). He already knows the answer. His silence when the others protest convicts him! Only when Jesus gives him the bread does he ask, “Is it I, Rabbi?” (v 25). Even the form of his question tells us something about him. How do the others address Jesus? They call him “Lord.” But what does Judas call Him? “Rabbi.” “You’re just a teacher,” he’s telling Jesus. “You’re not my Lord.”
What brings about this change in Judas from faithful disciple to betrayer? We can’t say for certain, but this is what John’s Gospel says, “Satan entered into him” (Jn 13:27).
Satan is always behind lies and betrayal. Satan is the one who convinces us that we’ve been dealt an unfair hand and deserve better, that we have the right to vengeance or theft to get what we think we’ve been denied. As soon as we buy Satan’s argument and act on it, he controls us. One evil deed leads to another in rapid succession, just as it did with Judas.
Why does Judas leave in such a hurry after Jesus points him out? John says, “So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night” (Jn 13:30). I think part of it was he knew he was guilty, and he didn’t want Jesus looking at him. I think the other thing is that Judas knew the other 11 were mad. He may have left in a hurry so the others couldn’t pound the snot out of him. They were probably upset enough that they could have killed Judas. Peter was quick-tempered and armed. Not only did Judas have business to take care of, he may have feared for his life.
Do you know what betray means? It means “to deliver up,” “to give over,” “to reveal,” “to expose.” Judas is going to deliver up Jesus to murderers—Jesus, who had done nothing but love him! Every emotion that betrayal arouses—from rage to deepest sadness—was present in that room that night when the disciples learned it was Judas who was going to betray Jesus. I’d run too.
But there’s good news here as well. Besides the bad news of the betrayal, there’s the Good News of salvation’s joy. Two great promises are spoken by Jesus in the Last Supper, promises that provide the solution to all our hurts. Neither of these promises could ever be fulfilled had Jesus not been betrayed. One promise is forgiveness. Though Jesus is betrayed by one of His closest friends, though His betrayal results in unspeakable torture and death, it brings you and me forgiveness of all our sins.
Sin is ultimately the cause of all our hurts. But in God’s plan, the evil intent of others becomes the way of our salvation. Judas, in his treachery, betrays Jesus into the hands of sinners. But as we read in the Book of Acts, it was all in God’s plan. Peter said, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death” (Acts 2:23–24).
Why was all this in God’s plan? So that everyone would repent of sin, be baptized in the name of Jesus, receive forgiveness, and experience the promise of the Holy Spirit. And not just believing adults, but their children as well (Acts 2:38–39).
But that’s not all. Along with the promise of forgiveness, there’s the joyful certainty of being with Jesus in heaven. As the Last Supper ends, Jesus tells His disciples, “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Mt 26:29).
Do you know what that means? We’re going to see Jesus someday! We’re going to feast with Him at what the Book of Revelation calls “the marriage supper of the Lamb” (19:9)! In heaven, where we’ll be gathered to Jesus, where we’ll see Him, where we’ll feast with Him in joy, never again experiencing embarrassment, betrayal, suffering, death, or any other effect of sin. They’ll all be gone. There’ll be no fear, no hatred, no anger, no sorrow, no viruses—only joy! Jesus Himself will be there to wipe away every tear of sin or sorrow that ever stained our face. Something to remember as we make our way to Good Friday, and Easter.
In Jesus’ Name.