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John 13:18-38


We now continue in the upper room with the departure of Judas – and the warning of the disciples.

18“I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.’£

19“I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He. 20I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”

21After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.”

22His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”

25Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”

26Jesus 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. 27As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

“What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him, 28but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29Since 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. 30As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.

31When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. 32If God is glorified in him,£ God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

33“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

34“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

36Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”

37Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

38Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!


We begin with one of the enigmas of the New Testament: Judas, the betrayer of Jesus. Since the foundation of the church, his name has been a synonym for one who betrays. We are given little history about the man, but there are some things we do know.

Christ knew

It is clear from this and other passages that Jesus knew exactly who his betrayer would be. It seems odd, therefore, that he would not have announced this fact – after all, Judas has already been to the priests to get the money – so why does Jesus not announce this fact?

  • First, because the fact is long established – in the prophecies of the Old Testament. Jesus’ purpose here is not to proclaim Judas guilty; his purpose is to link prophecy with fulfillment, so that his disciples might believe.
  • Indeed, he tells the twelve – so that they will understand after the Resurrection. He wants no bold plan to rescue him; rather, he wants to do the Father’s will.
  • He speaks here of acceptance – he who accepts the Christian, accepts Christ, he who accepts Christ accepts God. Is this not a warning? If it is true of acceptance, is it not true of denial? And if denial, how much more betrayal? That last is important; for the disciples know how close denial is to betrayal. And they know what is in their own hearts.
  • Perhaps, indeed, this is the last warning. But even for a sin so serious, for a betrayal of the innocent, Christ forces no one to accept him. Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling.
Do so quickly

There is a curious phrase in here. Jesus knows what Judas will do, and tells him to do so quickly…..why?

  • Perhaps it’s like pulling a bandage off – sometimes it’s best to rip it off quickly and get the sting over with. There must be sadness in Jesus’ heart; why would he want it to linger? This is especially true in light of all that Jesus will tell them this night.
  • In keeping with the prophecy, Jesus must be betrayed this very night. So Judas must not dawdle. Even in evil, all things belong to God.
  • Jesus is merciful. Even for the traitor, he would not parade one man’s sins before his fellows.
Hospitality and treason

Christ identifies his betrayer – with hospitality. Nothing so struck the ancient writers about this as much as the fact that Judas shared bread from Jesus. It is a gesture of hospitality, of favor from the host to the guest. Jesus, in a common symbol of the time, welcomes Judas into his presence. By the rules of courtesy (which persisted into the 20th century in this culture) Judas is obligated to Jesus – as being his guest. At the very least he should refrain from ill chosen words – and certainly is not permitted to betray him. The gesture is a telling one.

Judas leaves. John, the great writer of the New Testament, paints the picture with four simple words: “and it was night.” How clearly does he portray the blackness of heart in Judas!

But look: Judas leaves – and then the glory of God is revealed. John the writer has shown us a triumph. In the presence of evil God’s glory is not revealed; when the evil one departs, then Jesus can speak of glory.

The Disciples

It’s clear from this and other accounts that some, at least, of the disciples, knew that Judas was the betrayer. So why didn’t they beat him to a pulp (in a decent Christian manner, of course)?

  • It may be that he left so quickly they didn’t have the chance.
  • More than that, they’re having trouble believing that any of them could do such a thing. They’re in shock at the thought of it.
  • But then, as they examine themselves, each one asks, “Is it I?” They have learned what is in the heart of man. A season of self-examination has arrived.
Is it I?

The plain fact is this: all of us are sinners, and therefore capable of incredible wickedness and evil. That’s a fact. That’s not a question. The question is, “What are we going to do about it?”

Notice, please, one thing: despite (or perhaps because) of their feelings of loyalty, they have learned that Jesus is a better judge of human character than they are. He says one will betray; they take it as fact. They do what human beings usually do when at a loss: they stare at each other, They’re looking for help, and not finding it.

There is no help, if not in Christ. Sinners we are, one and all. They knew it too; they knew what mankind is capable of. They had struggled against sin, and knew its power. Now, they see its fruit.


Peter, having been rebuked in the matter of washing the feet, is hesitant to ask for another rebuke. So he takes the back door. You must picture that these men are lying down, angled up to the table. Peter asks; John rolls backwards until his head is at Jesus’ chest. The question can now be whispered.

Jesus points out the man – so that they may know that all is in God’s hands. But see one thing: betrayal is close by – within hand’s reach.


We should be horrified at this betrayal. But we should also take steps to see to it that we do not fall into any such sin.

  • The matter is first one of prayer: “Lead us not into temptation.” Some of us are sure we cannot fall; such surety is pride.
  • Second, we should seek no praise. Judas, after all, was a highly competent man – we know that from the fact that he was placed in charge of the money. Somebody thought he was capable.
  • Last, we must remember not to meddle in things above us. So often we are concerned with when this or that prophecy will be fulfilled that we neglect the tasks at hand.

New Commandment

New? How can the commandment to “love one another” be considered new? It is clearly stated in the Old Testament.

The newness is in this: “as I have loved you.” There’s the difference! No longer is love to be limited by our own capability; we are to love like Christ loved us? How can we do this? Only by the power of the Holy Spirit.

But what does this mean? Let’s take it logically: just how does Christ love us? What are the characteristics of his love for us?

  • He loves us first – even when we did not love him, he loved us. His love is not conditioned on our love. So we should love each other.
  • He loves us despite our sin. Even though we are not perfect, and he is, he still loves us. Can we say the same of each other, even in the closest of human relationships?
  • He loves us sacrificially – he is willing to give up life itself that we might live. Are we so sacrificial even in our own families?
  • He loves us continually – God is good, all the time. His love for us does not depend upon his mood.
  • He loves us humbly – not making a point of how great his love is, not setting himself up. Sometimes we are so proud to be so humble.
A sign to others

It is a curious – but very important – fact: the sign of the true church is found in how her sons and daughters love each other. This is the sign.

  • The sign is not miracles. We often believe that one miracle would change our belief to certainty. Consider the ancient Israelites who saw the miracles wrought by Moses – and see too their rebellion. Miracles are not the sign of the true church.
  • Nor are words: great preaching is not the sign of the true church. No matter how eloquent the preacher or the teacher, the spoken word does not signify the true church.
  • But this love does: love that is so deep that it caused the one sinless man to die as our ransom. There is the true sign of the true church.

You and I are to love one another with the love so deep that it brought Jesus to the Cross. It sounds hard. But please remember: there is no glory without sacrifice.


It is unlikely that we will get the chance to betray our Lord; but we certainly will be given the chance to deny him. This must hurt him deeply; think how you feel when you overhear a “friend” laughing at you. Denial is done in words; Peter would deny him three times. Denial is also done in works. Remember how he will separate the sheep and the goats?

Words are bad enough; deeds are certainly fatal. It therefore is good for us to examine ourselves in this matter (commanded at communion) and see. The potential to deny our Lord is always there. We must build ourselves up in faith and grace so that we do not become those who praise him on Sunday and deny his very existence on Monday.

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