We return this week to the Upper Room with Jesus and his disciples in John chapter 13. Last week, we saw that Jesus intentionally chooses to teach first to his disciples– servanthood in these final lessons before his crucifixion. He taught this both by instruction and by example as he washed his disciples’ feet. This week, we pick up a theme we saw John introduceS in last week’s text—that is, the role of Judas Iscariot as the betrayer of Jesus. The Jews could have, in the providence of God, found other ways to arrest Jesus other than through a betrayer. But as we’ll see, the presence of a betrayer among his 12 disciples was—in long ages past—specifically chosen by God as the means to put Jesus on the cross.
A couple of introductory comments to help us know better how to understand this story. First, this is an unusual text about Jesus because it sheds light on an area of his life that isn’t given much space in the gospels. That is–how Jesus related to his disciples as he manifests some of his self-imposed, human vulnerability. He’s not teaching anything in this section of the discourse. This is not about his instruction to us—it’s about what he reveals to us about himself. That is—how Jesus responds in a very human way to his imminent and painful betrayal and how he relates to his disciples in the midst of his pain.
Second, we mustn’t make the mistake of reading these texts involving Judas as if they are primarily about Judas. They aren’t mainly about Judas, but about Jesus and the unique glory he displayed BECAUSE of the presence of a betrayer in their midst in these waning moments before his trial and death on a cross. Because that’s the main focus of the text, that needs to be our focus this morning, So, let’s look at three ways in which the betrayal of Judas displays the glory of Christ.
The first way is found in verse 18. Jesus has just told his disciples that they will be blessed if they serve others, but he qualifies that promise of blessing in verse 18, “18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’”
The first way Jesus’ glory is seen in this event is that it calls attention to the fact that Jesus’ life and death were a miraculous fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture. The life of Christ on earth was unique in countless ways. One of the unique qualities of Jesus’ life is that prophecies and promises– written hundreds and even thousands of years before he was born– had already predicted and therefore–pre-determined many of his steps. Scholars use different standards to measure these Old Testament prophecies about Jesus, but most scholars believe that in Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension, he fulfilled about 200 Old Testament prophecies specifically relating directly to him. If you count Old Testament texts alluding to Jesus or speaking less explicitly—some estimate there are many times that number.
It’s important for us to remind ourselves that this fact establishes that the Bible is an utterly unique book. NO other holy book has verifiable, miraculously fulfilled prophecies in it—much less hundreds of them! No other book even remotely approaches the Bible in this way—there is NO OTHER BOOK like it! Because of the dozens of prophecies that Jesus knew he must fulfill in both what he did and what he said, if you would have asked Jesus what his purpose was in coming to this world, one of his very first responses would have been “I came to fulfill the Scriptures.”
In this sense, Jesus—absolutely uniquely—oriented his life around what had been written about him in the Old Testament. This implies his immeasurably high regard for the Word of God in the Old Testament scriptures. This does NOT mean that Jesus ever felt circumscribed by the Bible—as if he ever felt constricted by the Old Testament prophecies about him. For instance, he never would have thought— “Well, I really don’t want to be betrayed, but it’s in the Scripture so I guess I have to choose a traitor.” This is because Jesus knew that the Old Testament Scriptures about him expressed the perfect plan of his Father intended to bring him maximum glory and satisfaction. Jesus knew that and in 4:34 he tells his disciples that it was his “food to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” Or, “to fulfill what he has said about me.”
John explicitly states his purpose in writing his gospel in chapter 20:31, “31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” That’s primarily why John calls attention to so many aspects of Jesus’ life (and especially his death) that were astounding fulfillments of the Hebrew Scripture. John rightly believes that when people know that many of –even the very specific details of Jesus’ life—that they were miraculously predicted centuries before his birth—by God’s grace, that can help people believe that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the promised Messiah.
For instance, as Jesus was being crucified, the Roman soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ clothing. Chapter 19:24 of John says, “24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things,” Twelve verses later, when the soldier established that Jesus was genuinely dead by thrusting a spear into his side—sparing him from having his legs broken to quicken his death, John records, “36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.”
Jesus explicitly taught his relationship to Old Testament prophecies in places like Matthew 26:24 where he speaks of his impending death. “24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Jesus clearly had a very strong consciousness of the fact that, not only the direction of his life, but many of the specific details of his life had been pre-determined eons ago in eternity past and written down as Old Testament prophecies centuries before he became a man.
In John 20:9, after the resurrection, when John and Peter went to the tomb and were shocked to see it empty, John explains why they were so surprised. He says, “9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” John says the reason they didn’t anticipate the resurrection wasn’t only because they didn’t believe Jesus the many times when he had told them of his resurrection. No, the reason John cites here is—we didn’t understand the Scriptures well enough to know that his resurrection was foretold by the prophets. One of the most powerful arguments for the inspiration and authority of Scripture is that the Lord Jesus himself saw his life and death through the lens of what had been written about him centuries before.
In addition to that, Jesus directly quoted the Old Testament more than 80 times in the gospels to support his claims. That’s almost once per chapter, on average. When he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, he showed his complete reliance on the Scripture when, with each temptation, he cited, not his own extemporaneous wisdom, but the authoritative Old Testament Scriptures to fend off Satan’s attack. If you love Jesus and Jesus places this astonishing confidence in the Bible, it would be foolish for us NOT to believe it is God’s inspired, authoritative word to us.
Back to Jesus and Judas…another text that points to Judas’ betrayal as a fulfillment of Scripture is in John 17:12. Jesus is praying to the Father about the 12 disciples and says, “12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” Jesus draws a direct line between Judas’s betrayal and the fulfillment of Old Testament scripture.
The specific Old Testament verse that Jesus here in the Upper Room quotes in predicting Judas’ betrayal of him is Psalm 41:9. This is a psalm about King David, his suffering and weakness and the betrayal of his friend. This probably was written about the time David’s son, Absalom pulled a coup that sought to take the throne from David. Jesus takes this verse written by David about his betrayal and applies it to himself as the Son of David. The text says, “He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’” “Lifted up his heel” is a curious phrase. It may mean that the one who ate bread with you has reared up to kick you like a mule. We know for certain that it’s a phrase indicating a hostile act of betrayal.
In the Ancient Near East—to break bread with someone was a sign of fellowship, of peace and harmony. When someone ate at the king’s table, it was considered a great honor that should be met with humble gratitude, not an act of personal betrayal. In fulfilling this Scripture, first recorded by King David about his betrayal, Jesus is saying that the betrayal and the pain that David suffered from one of his close friends was a foreshadowing—an earlier expression of the ultimate betrayal of the Son of David—the Messiah, by one of his close friends. This verse in the Psalms—that the Holy Spirit inspired David to write 1000 years before Jesus was born—was ultimately written to predict the betrayal of the Son of David. This text reminds us of the glory of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection as a fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture.
A second way we see the glory of Christ in his betrayal is found in what Jesus says, speaking of his betrayal in John 13:19, “19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.” Jesus is glorified in this betrayal because betrayals generally are by nature, terrible surprises—a stab in the back you don’t see coming. The fact that Jesus predicts his betrayal by Judas proves that he is sovereign —in complete control– over it and that brings him much glory.
Therefore, a second way we see the glory of Christ in his betrayal is that—it powerfully calls attention to both Jesus’ humanity and his deity. Look at verse 21 for a powerful display of Jesus’ humanity. “After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” Jesus here shows us his genuine, human vulnerability in this admission. And this is not the only place he conveys this sentiment.
In John 12, Jesus says, 27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.” The two words translated “troubled” in these verses are the same in the original language. This word means “to be stirred up and unsettled.” In both instances, Jesus is feeling profoundly upset. The fact that he is the Son of God does NOT mean that he wouldn’t feel some of the same kind of pain from a personal betrayal that any other human would feel when betrayed by a friend.
In fact, his pain would actually be much worse than ours because when someone betrays us, we have not loved our betrayer perfectly and completely. But that’s the way Jesus had loved Judas—making his pain far worse than anything WE might experience in personal betrayal. As we see Jesus experience this horrific grief and yet remain loving to Judas, his glory shines through his humanity because this is the only man who can respond with love to this kind of utterly unique hurt.
In addition to seeing the vulnerability of his humanity, we also see his omnipotent deity in this same story. He speaks about his betrayal in verse 19, “19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.” This is just one of many of Jesus “I am” statements in John’s gospel. He is saying— “When you see that I knew in advance this highly shocking and unlikely betrayal would occur —you will see that I AM.” The disciples, John in particular, later came to understand that Jesus in these instances was claiming to be God by referring to himself by God’s covenant name translated “I AM.” The Jews who originally received this letter would have seen it that way as well and many, like the Pharisees, doubtless thought it was outrageous for Jesus to make this claim to be God.
Another glorious expression of his deity is in verse 27. After Satan “entered into” Judas, Jesus told him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” This is really interesting because when Satan “entered into” Judas, it wasn’t just a case of him exercising some demonic influence over him. The phrase “entered into” in the original connotes a complete take-over of Judas’ mind and heart. Judas’ uniquely evil sin of his betrayal of Jesus had left him open to almost complete control by the Prince of darkness. That means that when Jesus orders Judas, “What you are going to do, do quickly” it’s not only Judas he’s ordering around.
Because Satan was at that moment in control of Judas, Jesus was commanding Satan himself what to do. With absolute authority, he’s ordering the evil one to obey him as it relates to his own betrayal. Satan’s response to Jesus’ command to act “quickly” is his immediate compliance because he leaves suddenly. Even in this moment, when it seems as if Satan is running the show, he is, in fact, fully and completely in submission to Christ! Only God in the flesh has this absolute authority over Satan.
The timeline of Jesus’ passion was not established by Satan, but by Jesus. He must first grant permission to Judas and Satan before they can light the fuse on the horrible events that would soon begin. Just as in the book of Job, Satan must ask permission of God when he wants to attack one of his own. Jesus was glorified in this betrayal because both his humanity and deity were placed on display in all their glory.
A third way Jesus displays his glory is in verses 22-26. Jesus had just announced that one of them would betray him. John continues, “22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table close to Jesus, 24 so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “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.”
You have to know a bit about first century Jewish dining habits to understand what this scene looked like. The disciples are almost certainly reclining at a long U-shaped table. On the outside edge of the table, there was on a series of couches, each of which held about three people. On these couches, they would have been lying on their bellies, their heads near the table with their feet in back. The custom was that you would eat with your right hand while leaning on your left elbow. Jesus was the host and so he would have been seated at the bend of this U-shaped lay-out. This is not at all like the scene depicted of the Last Supper by the renaissance painters like Da Vinci!
As many of you know, John’s gospel reveals that John never got over the fact that Jesus loved him and so he refers to himself throughout his gospel as “the disciple Jesus loved.” It’s clear that John—who identifies himself that way here, was on the right hand of Jesus and Judas was in close proximity—perhaps directly to the left of Jesus. If that were true, then Judas would have been sitting in a place of honor. When Jesus makes this stunning announcement that someone will betray him, Simon Peter “motioned to him [John] to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking.”
So, picture John leaning back against Jesus’s chest and Jesus speaking with him, almost certainly under his breath, in a private conversation. With his mouth only inches from Jesus’ ear, he quietly asks, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus almost certainly whispers back his answer to John, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” He doesn’t refer to Judas by name. This is probably to keep anyone from hearing his name explicitly as the betrayer. He keeps that information solely between himself and John. If this hadn’t been whispered, then Judas—who we know was sitting close enough to Jesus to personally take the morsel from him—would have heard it and there’s no evidence here that he DID hear it.
That’s the scene and in it we see Jesus glorified a third way. This story shines the light of God’s glory on Jesus–because it calls to attention Jesus’ desire to have intense intimacy and fellowship with his disciples. Notice three expressions of a very close personal intimacy Jesus and John shared. First, as we’ve seen–in this personal conversation with his Lord, Jesus directly, but privately answers John’s personal question. If Jesus were the kind of aloof misterioso figure that some conceive of him to be, he would have answered John’s question ambiguously… like, “You shall see in the Father’s good time” but he didn’t. We know that Jesus wanted to reveal that he knew the identity of his betrayer, so why didn’t he just make an announcement to all the disciples? “Judas, my betrayer has left us to do what his father the devil has bid him to do.” He didn’t do that.
That would have informed ALL the disciples. As it is, it is immediately known only to John and certainly later to Peter who was having this closed-circuit, sign language conversation with John. We don’t know if the others were promptly informed about Judas by John and Peter, but the point is that —Jesus told this very important information privately to just one person—his friend, John. This is a picture of personal intimacy between Jesus and John because any time you share very important personal information privately (while withholding it from others,) that indicates an intimate relationship.
A second indication here of the intimate kind of relationship one can have with Jesus is the most obvious one and that is—Jesus is physically very close to John. John is actually leaning into the chest of Jesus. It’s not uncommon for close, same-sex friends in the Middle East even today to show physical intimacy to one another. Two men who are friends will walk down the street holding hands and that carries NO sexual connotation. This does NOT, however, mean that, in the Middle East, you can just go up to any man and hold his hand. This close contact is reserved for close friends.
Any human relationship Jesus had with people had a unique quality to it—because he was sinless and because he was God. But this narrative tells us that Jesus and John were close friends. From the gospel accounts we know that Peter, James and John were in an inner circle—special friends of Jesus. Tim Keller’s definition of a friend is helpful in describing the relationship between Jesus and John. Keller says a friend is one who will relate to you with “vulnerability and constancy.” Or, “a friend is someone who will always let you in and never let you down.”
Some people will help you out and perhaps do really sacrificial things to help you, but they will not let you have access to their hearts—they guard that closely. That person is not a friend. Other people will completely open themselves up to you, but they aren’t looking to help you at all—it’s all about you being there for them. That person is not a friend either. A friend BOTH lets you in and doesn’t let you down and that is exactly what Jesus does with John and the other disciples when he opens up to them about this pain of betrayal he is experiencing. Jesus is showing his friendship to these men and especially to John with whom he is especially open with
Jesus says later in John 15:15 to ALL his loyal disciples, “15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” Do you consider yourself a friend of Jesus? His disciples should be. In light of the fact that God shows no partiality, someone has said that “Jesus has no favorites, but he does have intimates.” Any follower of Jesus should be striving to be one of his intimate friends.
Friendship with Jesus is a wonderful thing for us to meditate on, but we must do so with at least three qualifiers about friendship with Jesus. First, it’s good for believers to communicate about Jesus that you are HIS friend—that makes HIM the center of the relationship. It’s never appropriate to say, “Jesus is a friend of mine.” A contemporary chorus has that exact lyric in it—awful! The reason that is completely inappropriate is because it implicitly places Jesus on the same level as your other friends. You have many friends and Jesus is one of them—YUK! That also wrongly implies that you are at the center of the relationship because Jesus is YOUR friend.
Second, John 15:14 tells us Jesus’ stipulation for his friends. “14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.” Jesus doesn’t mean that we must be sinless in order to be his friend, but you could hardly call a person a friend who has authority over you –who you regularly and intentionally blow off or disobey. That would be a very strange friendship indeed. A third qualifier about being a friend of Jesus. Notice the way John addresses Jesus in his intimate moment with him, “Lord, who is it?” “Lord” meant “master.” Being a friend of Jesus does nothing to diminish his complete Lordship over you. This intimacy does NOT breed a casual attitude in how you relate to Jesus. You’re his friend, but as a friend, you’re also his submissive servant who obeys him because of your love for him.
The point is that– it is not only possible to be a friend of Jesus; it is his desire to have his disciples as his intimate friends—to establish that kind of relationship with us. He is God AND MAN and his humanity implies that we can relate to him with intimacy.
A third expression of the intimacy here is the wording John uses to describe his physical position relative to Jesus. D.A. Carson points out that the phrase John used to describe his leaning into Jesus literally says that John was “reclining in his bosom.” That calls to mind a phrase John uses to describe the relationship that Jesus has with the Father in 1:18. “18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, [literally] “in the bosom of the father” he has made him known.” John seems to be suggesting an analogy between his relationship with Jesus and Jesus’ relationship to the Father.
This is perfectly consistent with a request Jesus makes of his Father in John 17:23. He’s praying for his disciples (which includes ALL believers—past, present and future.) He says, “23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” Jesus makes a direct comparison of his relationship with his Father “you in me” and his own relationship with his disciples, “I in them.” That is absolutely mind-numbing. NO ONE would believe this is if Jesus hadn’t explicitly said this. He’s asking his Father that the world may know that the Father loves his disciples with the same love with which he loves Jesus!!
Jesus is glorified as we discover that he desires to have intense intimacy and fellowship with his disciples. If that element is missing in your relationship with him, you need to know that’s what he wants with you. He wants you to relate to him as his friend as well as his servant. I trust this is encouraging to us. It should be. But it also highlights a couple of other truths by implication we want to close with.
First, if, as a believer, you are not walking closely with Jesus, you are missing out on something that is uniquely heavenly. If we are knowingly living out a pattern of willful, intentional sin, that kind of serial disobedience renders this kind of intimacy impossible. Likewise, if you’re not sensing a great intimacy and love from Jesus and for Jesus, there is a reason for that, and with God’s help, you must discover what it is.
Someone has said, “If you feel distant from God, God is not the One who moved.” There is almost certainly something—it’s often a form of pride that we don’t even see ourselves—that is hindering our intimacy with Christ. This is why we need the body of Christ’s church to reveal what to us are hidden sins—because they block our intimacy with Jesus.
Finally, if you’ve listened to all this about friendship with Jesus and intimacy with Jesus and you have NO, ZERO experience of this, it may very well be that you don’t know him as your Lord and Savior and Treasure. If you want this kind of relationship with God, you can have it even today if you will believe in your heart that you are a sinner condemned to eternal punishment, but that Jesus, in his great love for you, took the punishment you deserved when he died on the cross. Receive Jesus by faith by crying out to him—asking him to save you and forgive you from your sin.
If you have questions about that, please talk to one of the elders who will be standing at the front of the sanctuary. May God give all of us the grace to know him closely and love him intimately for his glory and out great joy.
 Morris, Leon, “Expository Reflections on the Gospel of John,” Baker House Books, 1991, p. 476.
 Morris, Leon, Expository Reflections on the gospel of John, p. 478.
 Carson, (1991) The Gospel according to John (pp. 470-476) IVP/Eerdmans, electronic edition.