John 13:21-30 21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and
testified, “I tell you the truth, 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?” 2
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 Iscariot, son of Simon. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan
entered into him. “What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him,
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 Feast, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon
as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.
In the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, who encountered betrayal at the hands of
his disciple Judas, his Father in heaven and each of us, dear Christian friends,
Have you ever been betrayed? Was it by a spouse...a co-worker...a friend? It
hurt, didn’t it? It hurt really bad, didn’t it? Some of you may still be wincing from the
emotional pain it caused.
King David of the Old Testament knew a thing or two about betrayal. His own
son Absalom betrayed him and tried to overtake the throne from him. In that same
attempted coup, King David’s trusted friend and cabinet member Ahithophel betrayed
him. Years later, as David was dying, his army general Joab, more loyal than the day is
long, backed David’s wicked son Adonijah as the next king rather than Solomon, the son
of David, hand-picked by God to be David’s successor. Although it’s unclear whether he
was talking about Ahithophel or Joab, David lamented his betrayal in the prophetic
psalm, “Even my close friend, someone I trusted, who shared my bread, has turned
against me” (Ps 41:9).
Is there anything more biting than betrayal? We expect unbelievers to persecute
us. We’re not surprised when corporate life brings office politics and the betrayal of
loyalties. But when friends betray us, that is intensely painful. Betrayal burns with the
intensity of the sun; it scalds the soul.
Hands of Betrayal
King David certainly wasn’t the first person to have been betrayed and he wasn’t
the last either. Neither was his lamenting psalm isolated to his own situation, because
Jesus invokes David’s words in this reading to predict his own betrayal by Judas. Like
Ahithophel and Joab were to David, Judas was to Jesus— a close friend, a trusted
companion who broke bread at Jesus’ table. And like them both, Judas lifted up his hands
The name Judas is so synonymous with “betrayer” that the name is rarely used
anymore. Yet, the names of other disciples of Jesus are used all the time, like Peter and
Andrew, James and John. How were they any different than Judas? All were sinners.
All were called to be disciples. All went on missionary trips and served for the good of
the kingdom. All were in the Upper Room on Holy Thursday and had their feet washed
by Jesus and were gathered to celebrate the Passover with Jesus one last time.
Was it Judas’ greedy heart that made the difference? Do you remember the time
Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume? Judas said the perfume should have
been sold to help the poor, but the Holy Spirit lets us in on Judas’ real motives: “He did
not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of
the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it” (Jn 12:6).
The love of money was a terrible temptation for Judas and the devil knew it.
Satan was determined to wave that sin in Judas’ face. “Judas, what exactly would you be
willing to do for thirty pieces of silver?”
Judas’ greed, unrepented and unchecked, was the sin that corroded his soul over
time and eventually turned Judas’ belonging hands into betraying hands. Earlier John
wrote, “The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted
Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus” (Jn 13:2).
Betrayal hurts because it’s personal. But another part of what makes betrayal so
brutal is that it’s done in secret. Judas was living a double life, promoting himself as a
disciple but letting his greed run amok in his soul.
The rest of the disciples were fooled; they thought of Judas as a friend and ally.
They didn’t see the greedy darkness in Judas’ heart. But Jesus knew. Jesus chose the
Passover meal, before the institution of the Lord’s Supper, to reveal his betrayer. “After
he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘I tell you the truth, one
of you is going to betray me’”.
Now tension and uneasiness has entered the room. The disciples react the same
way everyone reacts when accused. They are defensive. They deny. They deflect. “His
disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant”. “Surely,
not I, Lord?” (Mt 26:22).
This may have been asked with more than defensiveness and denial, but also
introspection. “Is he talking about me? Could he be talking about me? I know he’s God;
he knows everything and can see my soul. He sees something in one of our hearts that
nobody else sees. What does he see in my heart? Am I capable of this?”
Ask yourself the same question. What secret sins do you have hiding in your
heart? Have you ever sold God out for money? Is greed the sin that is crouching at your
door? What is the secret sin that you fight to hide from everyone else, but the devil
waves it in front of your face? What sin goes unrepented and unchecked in your life and
is eating away at your saving faith in Christ Jesus?
3 Ask yourself honestly, because this devotion will do you no good if all you take
away is that Judas was a bad guy. What does the all-knowing Jesus see when he looks in
your heart? Will you still answer, “Surely not I, Lord?”
As the accusation hung in the air and the disciples scrambled to avoid blame,
Peter signaled to John who was sitting next to Jesus. “Ask him who’s he talking about!”
“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 Iscariot,
son of Simon. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. ‘What you
are about to do, do quickly,’ Jesus told him.
The Bible teaches how to deal with someone caught in a sin. “Brothers and
sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that
person gently” (Gal 6:1). Jesus taught that gentle restoration first requires a private
conversation: “If your brother or sister sins against you, go and show him his fault,
just between the two of you” (Mt 18:15).
Throughout the years, we can be sure Jesus exercised pastoral care for Judas with
a gentle touch. Now Jesus was trying to dislodge the greedy grip sin had on his soul by
calling Judas out publicly. Jesus dips his soon-to-be nail-pierced hands into the bowl
“Resist Satan. Don’t do it.” Even to his own betrayer, Jesus showed love and pastoral
concern right to the end. But Satan won out! Judas went ahead with his betrayal of his
So, for Judas and for us, Jesus went ahead down a path that led to another
“betrayal” even more surreal. Jesus went to the cross, where in painful anguish he called
out to a faithful friend who had abandoned him: “My God, my God, why have you
forsaken me?” (Mk 15:34).
God treated Christ— his only and beloved Son— as though he had committed
Judas’ betrayal, as though he had turned traitor like Ahithophel and Joab. God banished
Jesus to suffer hell’s punishment for our sins of greed, for our idolatrous love of money,
for our self-righteousness, for our every embarrassing secret sin we insist on hiding.
By the blood of Jesus, our sins have been punished in full. By the death of Jesus,
they have been paid in full. And as the Prophet Isaiah says, “By his wounds we are
How could God love and forgive traitors like Ahithophel or Joab or Judas? How
could God love and forgive sinners like you and me? Because he doesn’t betray sinners!
Instead, he turned his back on his own Son! He abandoned Christ! Banish the thought
that God will banish us for our sins and don’t let Satan or anyone convince you
otherwise. God has reconciled us to himself in Christ! Be confident, be joyful, believe
that God will not betray you!