18 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’
19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”
21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”
22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”
25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.
So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.
(John 13:18-30 NIV)
Jesus has just settled an argument about who was the greatest among His disciples. He ended this argument, not by declaring the greatest, but by demonstrating to them what greatness is – serving others. His object lesson? Taking on the lowliest servant’s job and washing His disciples’ feet.
Jesus had just told His disciples to follow His example and serve one another as He had served them. In today’s passage, John provides great detail about Judas’ betrayal of Jesus.
In verse 18, Jesus says His command to serve one another does not apply to everyone around the table. Jesus then quotes Psalm 41:9, indicating that one of them whom Jesus counts as a friend is going to betray Him.
In verses 19 – 20, Jesus is preparing His disciples for the events about to take place. Jesus’ goal is not to ask His disciples to take up arms and defend Himself, but to keep them connected to and believing in Him as Messiah.
In verses 20 and 21, Jesus twice utters His oft-repeated phrase, “Very truly I tell you…” (KJV, “Verily, verily I say unto you”). After Jesus speaks the phrase the first time, John records that Jesus “was troubled in spirit.” There was a noticeable shift in Jesus’ countenance – His facial expressions, His posture, every part of His body language. It’s as if Jesus could no longer hold in what He was about to say, and just blurted it out: “One of you is going to betray Me.”
Verse 22 indicates the mood around the table changed in an instant.
Silence. Everyone was in shock and disbelief.
John records that the disciples stared at one another. Their minds were likely racing. “Could it be me?” “Is it you, or you, or you?” Who could even imagine such a thing? Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting of The Last Supper was inspired by verses 21 -22.
In verse 23, John refers to himself in the third person. John was sitting to the immediate right of Jesus, and Peter was likely sitting directly across the table from Jesus. In your mind’s eye, can you see Peter gesturing to John and silently mouthing the words, “Ask him which one he means.” (v. 24).
John, as curious and shocked as the rest of the disciples, whispers to Jesus, “Lord, who is it?” (v. 25). Jesus answers, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” (v. 26). Then, in a simple gesture fulfilling the prophesy of Psalm 41:9, Jesus takes a piece of bread, dips it in the dish, and hands it to Judas, who was sitting on Jesus’ left. John records that when Judas took the bread and ate it, Satan entered into him. Judas’ contempt for Jesus was now full and boiling over.
Jesus then told Judas, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” The disciples were not privy to Jesus’ identification of Judas as the betrayer. John records that the disciples thought Jesus was telling Judas to buy something or give money to the poor since Judas was the treasurer for the group. At this point, Judas left the room and the house.
John ends this section of the story with four simple words that capture the time of day as well as the mood of the gathering: “And it was night.”
As I ponder today’s passage, I am amazed at Jesus’ handling of this situation. With full knowledge that Judas would later betray Him, Jesus could have easily set a trap or an ambush to eliminate Judas and the threat of his betrayal. But instead, Jesus continues to treat Judas with love and kindness, inviting Judas to sit on His left side, the position of the trusted friend.
Would I have acted as lovingly and kindly with a friend whom I knew was going to betray me?
What about you?