That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God
- Psalm 41
- John 13:18-32
I remember vividly the warning of one of my professors, “Be on your guard”, he said, “every heresy in the history of the church started in the study of a manse.”
I will not forget his warning. The number one enemy of the church does not linger on the fringes; he resides within. Those one the outside might see the weaknesses and pounce on the church like a prowling lion. For this reason I believe that the anti-Christ, as an agent of the devil, will most probably occupy a pulpit at first; his master will use him and after that the world will do what it can’t destroy the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. They will have no ultimate success, because our Father is stronger than them all and will not allow one of his elect to be snatched out of his hand.The very thought of having the enemy within is a scary thought. Let us therefore search our hearts before God – lest He exposes us, not as friends, but as enemy.
David – the Messianic King in distress
There was more than one instance in the life of king David that he found himself is deep distress. There was sickness, there was personal loss and there was tumult in this kingdom. He trusted his friends to help him; instead, they conspired against him. He writes about it in Psalm 31:
Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors and an object of dread to my closest friends— those who see me on the street flee from me. I am forgotten as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery. (Psalm 31:11–12, NIV)
In Psalm 55 he writes:
If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers. (Psalm 55:12–14, NIV)
My companion attacks his friends; he violates his covenant. His talk is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords. (Psalm 55:20–21, NIV)
In Psalm 41:
Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me. (Psalm 41:9, NIV)
Our Lord knew what this meant. If David, the messianic king, understood deceit, Christ understood it even better; He knew his betrayer all along, He walked with him, talked with him, trusted him, ate with him.
So it was one the night, the last night before He was betrayed, arrested, sentenced and crucified when our Lord and his disciples were gathered in the Upper Room for the Passover meal. As it was custom then, all reclined at the table, leaning on their left elbows to have the right hand free to take the food. Jesus had washed the feet of all his disciples, including the feet of Judas. Commentators agree that John was on the right side of Jesus, and Judas at the left side of Jesus. That seat of Judas was according to custom held for an honoured guest. Peter was not on the side of our Lord.
There was no hatred in the heart of our Lord against Judas. He still considered him as a friend. God’s eternal plan and human interpretation of that plan hear becomes difficult – we just do not know how all of this could culminate, and come to a head. One thing we know, it was God’s eternal plan of redemption being worked out in his one and only Son, and Judas, know as the son of perdition.
In the previous paragraph Jesus taught his church to be servants of one another. After He had washed their feet, he said:
Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:17, NIV)
He then added:
“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.’ (John 13:18, NIV)
This is the verse David wrote in Psalm 41. The Messiah, the Son of God, knew the anguish in his heart about a friend who would betray Him. Jesus knew that the devil had already prompted Judas to be tray Him (13:2), and Jesus had already announced that one of the Twelve was not clean (13:11).
The battle lines are drawn; the hour has come
Jesus knew that his hour had come:
Jesus knew that the hour had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. (John 13:1, NIV)
Judas knew that he was possessed by the evil one to betray Jesus – his hour has come. But he would not have the privilege to fire the first shot; he would be prompted by Jesus, and exposed by the Messiah. What Judas wanted to do had to be exposed; at least John knew about it, and he would later tell the others.
Although Jesus told them by quoting Psalm 41 that his enemy has lifted the heel against Him, they probably did not fathom the possibility that it might be one of them. They shared all the wonderful things together with three years with Jesus; surely it could not be one of them.
The Bible says Jesus was troubled in spirit and then made it very clear to them:
“Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.” (John 13:21, NIV)
Every time the Bible records that Jesus was troubled in spirit, it does so in close connection with the mission of the Lord, and more so Him facing death.
At the tomb of Lazarus our Lord was troubled:
When Jesus saw her [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. (John 11:33, NIV)
In John 12, after Jesus told the parable of the wheat kernel that has to fall in the ground and die He said:
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. (John 12:27, NIV)
Death to Him was something to be troubled about because He, the sinless, would take the sin of the world upon Him to free them from the punishment of sin; He would also experience the full punishment of God on sin; and more than that, He who is from all eternity God, nailed to the cross as sinful human being would experience that his Father has forsaken Him.
He is troubled, also, because a friend, the one just next to him in the position of honour at the table, always trusted with the financial affairs of the circle of apostles, would now exposed as the one in service of the serpent would bite him in the heel.
The Commander-in-Chief exposes this enemy
The Bible records the words of the Lord before Judas would have the privilege of betraying Jesus:
I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. (John 13:19, NIV)
Just a few moments ago, after He had washed their feet, the disciples called Him Lord and Teacher. Jesus then said:
“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. (John 13:13, NIV)
At that stage they probably did not fully understood what He meant, especially the “I am”. But now, in verse 19 the words of our Lord are much clearer, ”I am who I am”, “I am He”. Jesus is prophesying that one of the Twelve would betray Him, and right through the Scriptures prophecy was given to proof that God is God. As the prophets gave the words of God to the people, and what they foretold was true so that they believe in God, so our Lord here does the same: he gave them the prophecy about who is going to betray them, so that they would know He is God.
Jesus uses the same title that God used when Moses asked what he should answer the Israelites if they asked about the name of God, “I am”. Hebrew JHWH. What John was proclaiming about Jesus in chapter 1 now comes from the mouth of our Lord Himself: He was with God, and He is God.
Remember the overarching theme of our series of sermons? “That you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing in Him you might have eternal life.” Only He can give life: He is God. Only He can forgive sins: He is God. Only He can expose the enemy: He is God. Only He can be trusted: He is God.
By what follows, He drills this in to his disciples – and all of this happens in the hearing of Judas! Jesus said:
Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.” (John 13:20, NIV)
Jesus wants his disciples to know that they would be sent out into this world with the authority of God. If ever they and their message were to be rejected by anyone, they would not need to worry about it – it is God’s business. Similarly, if there message would be accepted, it would not be because they were smart and successful – it would only be because what Jesus taught them in John 6 happens: the Father enabled them to hear, and the Father is drawing them to Christ.
Judas heard all off this. If there was anything of faith in him, he would have understood that opposing the Son of God is futile: having Jesus betrayed to the Jewish leaders is to have the plan of God kicking into action. Judas did not accept Christ as God, and therefore he rejected God as Father.
The Commander-in-Chief exposed the enemy. “One of you is going to betray Me.”
The devil caught out
Only the fool says in his heart there is no God. Judas was a useful idiot. Satan entered him. But he had to be exposed.
Peter heard the words of Jesus, and was quite naturally curious and upset. Up to this point, the Bible says, the disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them Jesus meant. Peter prompted Jesus to ask which one He means would do such a thing.
I can just imagine the suspense at the table. (Actually, some commentators think that there was more than one table, thinking that there could have been four tables. This means that all them were not in the position to hear the response of the Lord when John asked Him who it was.)
John was close to the Lord, almost with his ear at the chest of Jesus as both of them leaned on their right elbow. Judas could have overheard, but he would not haven in any uncertainty – in his chest his heart bounced, knowing that he could be exposed.
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. (John 13:26, NIV)
Our Lord dipped that piece of bread and gave it to Judas. Was there a last chance for him to repent? I can only stand back and leave that answer to God; one day it will be revealed to us. Satan entered into Judas.
So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” (John 13:27, NIV)
I think we can paraphrase the words of our Lord this way: Judas, you have crossed the battle line; you’ve reached the point of no return. Now, don’t hesitate, waste no time to do what you about to do. My hour has come; so has yours. My Father’s hour has come; Satan, your father’s hour has come.
Everything aspect in the history of mankind and Israel as God’s people pointed to this moment. It was Jesus and Judas; it was God and Satan.
Judas took the bread and he went out. It is possible that Judas was still there. Luke records these words:
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. But the hand of Him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. (Luke 22:20–21, NIV)
For Judas the words of our Lord is now true:
There is a judge for the one who rejects Me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. (John 12:48, NIV)
Little wonder then that Paul writes, as we will hear at the table of the Lord:
Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. (1 Corinthians 11:28–29, NIV)
The battle already decided
If ever there was a loaded verse recorded in the Scripture, it would be John 13:30
As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. (John 13:30, NIV)
Judas found himself there where John started his Gospel: a world in darkness without the Son of God. He did see the light, but the darkness in him had not attraction for the light; he chose darkness – and death.
But in that moment of darkness, the greatness of the Gospel of Christ shone at its brightest:
When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.” (John 13:31–32, NIV)
John wrote about this moment that would reveal more explicitly what Jesus said and did in all of his ministry:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, NIV)
John Piper writes:
“And the brightest display of this glory — the glory of this grace — was in the darkest hour of the gospel when Jesus died. When he was doing what no one else could do — dispelling darkness, abolishing death, disarming Satan, paying for sin, completing righteousness, absorbing wrath, removing condemnation. This was his most glorious achievement. In one sense, his brightest moment is the darkest night.”
James Montgomery-Boice writes:
“… the crucifixion is undoubtedly the central and most significant point of world history. Nothing that has happened in the world’s history from the beginning of creation until now, or will ever happen before that day when all things will be wrapped up in Christ, is as significant as the crucifixion. Here that great drama, which God had planned from before the foundation of the world, was brought to its focal point and acted out. Men of all races, social status, and levels of understanding have been saved by it.”
The glory of Christ and his Father is now at display as Jesus would reverse the curse of Adam’s sin to become the only justification for sinners. The glory of Christ is also to break the power of Satan. Hebrews 2:14 says:
Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by his death He might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14–15, NIV)
When Jesus pronounced this enormous truth about his and his Father’s glorification He added: “God will glorify the Son in Himself, and will glorify Him at once.” At once: without delay, nothing will come in between. Not Judas, not Pilate, not the Jewish Council, not the bloodthirsty crown, not the cross – yes, not Satan. In fact, Satan would become God’s instrument to glorify his Son and Himself.
These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31, NIV)
My dear brother and sister, this is what we believe when we take the bread and drink of the cup: Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God; in Him we have eternal life.
Those who do not believe this cannot and may not take the cup of the Lord; it is to drink and eat condemnation upon oneself.
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 2 June 2013