Address 43 The Traitor Exposed

John 13:18-30

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. Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor. He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.

The central theme of this particular section is the treachery of Judas. When one considers the privileges that Judas had enjoyed and realizes how little impression they made upon his heart and mind and what the final result was, these things might well cause each one of us individually to examine ourselves and search our hearts in the presence of God. Here was a man, who, for three-and-a-half wonderful years, walked with the blessed Son of God. He had opportunities to see His wondrous works of grace, heard the marvelous things that came from His lips, saw His life (he could see what others could not see), and surely must have known that here was one who was evidently a superhuman person moving among them. John said, you remember, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Judas had the opportunity of thus beholding Him. He must have had many a quiet talk with Him, and he must have been highly esteemed by the rest of the disciples. Yet all the time he had never yielded his heart to the Lord Jesus Christ.

You remember the Savior said, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:70). He did not say, “one of you shall become a devil,” but, “one of you is a devil.” And when He speaks to the Father, as in the seventeenth chapter, He says, “Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled” (17:12). We might think perhaps, reading that verse carelessly, that He meant, “Those that thou gavest me I have kept and have only lost one, the son of perdition.” But that is not what He said. The son of perdition was not one of those who had been given to Christ by the Father. He was in Christ’s company but he was never of that company. It is quite possible to have an interest in Scripture, to be exercised to a certain extent about a needy world, to act and talk like a Christian, and yet never be born of God. This ought to challenge us to face the questions, “Have I ever honestly come to God as a repentant sinner? And have I put my trust in Him, and yielded my heart and life to Him?”

I said a moment ago that Judas was evidently very highly respected by the disciples. You might ask, “On what do you base that supposition?” He was the chosen one to be the treasurer of the little company. When you choose a treasurer you always want a man of probity and of integrity, of good reputation, one whom you can confide in as one above suspicion of dishonesty. So the impression that Judas made on the disciples in those early days, at least, was that of a man of absolute reliability. We may almost say, in fact, Judas was the real gentleman of all the Twelve. Most of them were hard-working men. They came from the region about the Sea of Galilee where the poorer class of people dwelt. But Judas came from Judea from a town called Kerioth, and he was perhaps the most distinguished man of the entire apostolic company. And yet he was the one man whose heart Jesus never won and whose conscience Jesus never truly reached.

In our last message we noticed that Jesus said, “He that is [bathed] needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all” (13:10). And the Holy Spirit explains why He said that, “for he knew who should betray him, therefore he said, Ye are not all clean” (v. 11). That is a marvelous thing. The Son of God saw through this man during those three-and-a-half years, and He sees through hypocrites today. He sees into the very heart of people who are not real. Outwardly they may appear to be true and genuine, but Christ sees into the heart and knows if any are not clean.

He tells us in verse 18, “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.” He knows all those who have put their heart trust in Him. Judas’s treachery was foreknown, but this does not mean that he was foreordained to do that dreadful thing. Nothing of the kind. There is a great deal of difference between God’s foreknowledge and God’s foreordination. He looked down through the ages and knew what Judas would do, but He never foreordained it. If you can think of a man as free who is led captive by the Devil, Judas was free. He was free to yield to Christ or to Satan, and so you and I can choose. We should not blame our failures and sins on any predetermined fate. God has never decreed that any man or woman should live in sin, or that anyone should be lost. The Lord Himself said, “Ye will not come to me that ye might have life” (5:40). To all men He says, “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). So Judas could have been saved, but he would not trust Jesus. God foreknew this, and so his sin was spoken of beforehand in the book of Psalms. The Lord Jesus knew it. All the time He was with him, Jesus knew what was going on in his heart, and He knew he was to be the agent of the Devil to deliver Him to wicked men.

He said, “Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he” (13:19). In other words, He says, “I don’t want you to think that I was helplessly put into the hands of my captors, that I was taken by surprise. I have foreseen all this. I know what is going to take place. I must be crucified.” But He told them that the third day He would arise again from the dead. “When that time comes,” He says, “you will understand that I am.” Again He uses the divine name, “I Am.”

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me” (v. 20). It was of comfort for the apostles, as a little later they were to commence the work of the evangelization of a lost world. They were to go as His representatives. Paul said in after years, “We are ambassadors for Christ.” An ambassador speaks for his government, and as Christ sends His servants into the world they go out to witness for Him. That’s why He could say, “Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained” (20:23). This is not some peculiar priestly function, but it means that every servant of Christ can go to any sinner and say, “I come proclaiming the remission of sins if you come to Christ, and if you refuse to come to Christ for the remission of sins then they cannot be remitted.” This authority have all His servants. Whosoever receives them, receives Him.

“When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit” (13:21a). Though He was God, our Lord was a true Man. He was not only God but God manifest in flesh. In becoming man He took a human spirit, a human soul and a human body. Here we read, “He was troubled in spirit.” As He looked forward to what was ahead, He groaned in anguish as He thought of the judgment that the treachery of Judas was to bring down upon that guilty man. No soul will ever be lost without filling His soul with grief. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me [one of you who has been so close to Me, who has shared so many things with Me, one of you who has failed to believe Me and trust Me]— one of you shall betray me” (v. 21b). Oh, I wonder if He looks down from heaven today and if His holy eyes can discern here and there among those who read these pages one who is unreal and hypocritical. I wonder if He is saying, “One of you shall betray me.” For, if one professes the Christian name only and does not have genuine heart trust in Him, there is no telling to what depths of iniquity he may sink.

The disciples were troubled, and doubted of whom He spoke. They could not trust themselves. They each wondered, “Could it be I?” They asked one of another, “Is it I?” On His bosom was leaning one of His disciples, John, the human author of this book, who never refers to himself by name. He was the youngest of the apostles. One of the early church writers, Tertullian, says John was an adolescent when called by Jesus. This lad was very dear to the Son of God. Oh, how Jesus loves to see young men and women giving themselves to Him, yielding themselves wholly to Him. Young people, there is nothing greater on this earth than to bring your young lives to Christ. You can be sure of this, that He will indeed love you as an individual. You remember that young man who came to Him with his question about eternal life, and Jesus put him to the test: “Sell all that thou hast,… and come, follow me” (Luke 18:22), and the young man turned away sorrowful for he had great possessions. Jesus, looking upon him, loved him. He saw the possibilities in that youth. He saw what might be if he would yield himself to Christ.

Here was young John whose affectionate heart went out to Christ in a way that older ones perhaps would not have felt like expressing. He lay with his head upon the bosom of the Lord. Simon Peter beckoned to him and said, “Ask Him to tell you of whom He speaks.” “[John] saith unto him, Lord, who is it?” (John 13:25). And Jesus, in a very low voice, said, “He… to whom I shall give a [morsel]” (v. 26). It was customary in those days to hand a morsel to some special one as a token of real affection. And Jesus said, “John, notice the one to whom I give this morsel. He is the one who will betray Me.” So Jesus dipped the morsel and handed it to Judas. Judas! Will he receive it? Judas had the impudence to reach out and take it from the One for whose arrest he had already been bargaining.

And we read, “After the sop Satan entered into him” (v. 27a)—in a new way now. Judas, by this further act, had put himself absolutely under the domination of the Devil. Now it is all over with Judas, and there is no more possibility of repentance. Jesus recognized that he had crossed the deadline. So the Lord Jesus turned to him and said solemnly, “[What] thou doest, do quickly” (v. 27b). As much as to say, “Judas, you have sold yourself to the Devil. You have despised every opportunity of mercy. You have trampled on My love and grace. You have hardened your heart against the goodness of God. Now, Judas, make an end of it. What thou doest, do quickly.”

No one at the table understood what He meant. Some of them thought because Judas was the treasurer of the company that Jesus may have meant, “Go buy those things that we have need of against the feast.” They did not know that the traitor was about to sell the Lord for thirty pieces of silver. Some thought perhaps Jesus had told him to give something to the poor. Is not that interesting? Would they have thought that if such had not been a common thing in the life of our Lord? Don’t you see, He was accustomed to do that. He always thought of the poor. He said, “Ye have the poor always with you” (Matt. 26:11). It was very natural for them to think, “Now He has learned of some poor needy one, and He is sending Judas out to minister to him.” That was the heart of the Son of God. Oh, what a contrast to the heart of Judas! His heart was filled with covet-ousness. He was going out to line his purse with the silver that came from the sale of the Son of God.

“He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night” (John 13:30). It is always night when people turn their backs on God. It is always night when they trample the goodness of Jesus beneath their feet. And if you are doing that today, the sun may be bright outside, but it is night inside your heart until Jesus, the light of life, comes in. For Judas, there was never again to be light. He went out and it was night in his poor dark soul, and, for him, the beginning of the blackness of darkness that goes on forever. Oh, how many of us can thank God that in the riches of His grace, He has won these poor hearts of ours. Why did Judas trample on all His love? We cannot understand it, but we may be sure He had every opportunity to be saved.