In previous articles we have looked at our Lord’s relationship to His Father, and learned a lesson on humility, and the Lord’s relationship to Peter, learning the lesson of holiness. In this article we will consider:
After giving His disciples a remarkable demonstration of humility, Jesus took His garments and sat down again. This action is very significant, and, again, symbolic. He is no longer functioning in ‘the form of a servant’. By sitting down, He has now assumed the posture, the position, of ‘a teacher’1 As such, He began to instruct His disciples. It was customary for scholars to address their teachers as ‘Master and Lord’ and so He was.
Jesus began with a question: ‘Know ye what I have done to you?’ v. 12, and from that commenced His message. The Lord’s change in words is important. He said, ‘If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet’, v. 14 [my italics]. He did not want them to think that the feet washing was merely something to teach others to do – on the contrary it was an example to follow. They had not witnessed an action of a teacher, but of their Lord! Whilst a teacher’s example could eventually come to mean very little, the example and demonstration of their Lord was binding.
One day these men would be ‘important’. They would have some position in the early Church. They were apostles, but, however great they may be, they would always be servants. Jesus had given them an example to follow, v. 15, and said they would never be greater than He, v. 16. These disciples had witnessed the exposition of true greatness – the Lord girding Himself with a towel. They had witnessed the supreme example of humility – the Lord washing feet. They were challenged by it all, and realized that the Lord expected from them the same sort of behaviour. If they did respond, then they would know true spiritual blessing and happiness – ‘If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them’, v. 17.
There is no greater happiness, or blessing, than that which comes from serving others. Jesus spent His life serving others, and He died to save others. The world measures greatness by ‘how many people serve us’. The Lord measures it by, ‘how many do we serve’. He taught His disciples to be great by teaching them to serve. However, it is not enough just to know these truths, we must put them into practice – it is not just knowing it is doing it! Equally, we must be sure to keep these lessons in their proper sequence: humility – holiness – happiness.
The Lord’s words to the whole company had been, ‘If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them’, v. 17. That did not apply to all, because there was one for whom there was never to be any happiness. Jesus immediately said, ‘I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen’, v. 18.
The Lord, knowing all about Judas, said three things of him:
The Lord Jesus wanted His disciples to know that it was written in their scriptures that such a man did exist. The full quote is: ‘Yea mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me’, Ps. 41. 9. It is significant, that this psalm is of ‘the conspiracy’, the psalm of the betrayal, a psalm well known to the disciples. Whilst the psalm refers to Ahithophel, David’s counsellor, Bathsheba’s grandfather, he was a fore-shadowing of Judas Iscariot.
The similarities between these two men are significant. They:
But what is equally important is the Lord’s concern that Judas’ treachery should not affect, or weaken His disciples’ faith. We see something of the harm when the Lord said, ‘one of you shall betray me’, v. 21. Immediately, doubt arose in each disciple as to whom it was. Each one thought he was capable of so doing, Matt. 26. 22-25.
The Lord made it clear He knew exactly who the traitor was, ‘I know whom I have chosen’, v. 18.
a) Chosen by the Lord as an apostle
Jesus called them to be with Him, and sent them out to preach. He is always last in the lists of the disciples and always called the traitor, or the one who became traitor, and the Lord knew this. So in the upper-room that night, Jesus was not taken by surprise.
b) Treasurer of the apostolic band, but a thief
John chapter 12 verse 6 tells us, ‘he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein’. During His earthly ministry, the Lord lived by faith, trusting God to meet His needs. He never performed a miracle to do that. Daily, He was provided for in all His material needs by loving souls. Those who were touched by healing power saw to it that He wanted for nothing, Luke 8. 1-3. When He sent out the twelve, He taught them to do the same, Matt. 10. 9-10. However, it seems that from time to time money was needed, so Judas was trusted with the ‘the bag’, i.e., he was the treasurer.
In the incident in Bethany, when Mary anointed the Saviour’s feet with ointment and wiped them with her hair, Judas was there. Sadly, it was in his reaction that we perceive his true attitude:
His attitude to the Lord
This is summed up in very stark words, ‘why was this waste?’ The expression of this woman’s worship of God’s Son was to him nothing but a waste.
His attitude to the woman
He exhibits indignation, and mur-muring. He had a sordid idea of what this woman did.
His attitude to money
‘He was a thief’. What the Spirit of God called ‘very precious’ to Judas was 300 pence.
This was the final straw; both Matthew and Mark link this incident with him going immediately to the chief priests to sell the Saviour. Judas Iscariot’s attitude to money was the acid test of His character!
When Judas witnessed the incident of the anointing in the house of Simon the leper, and realized that there was no material gain for him, he sought opportunity to betray Christ. Like all men, Judas Iscariot was capable of choosing for himself, and, at this point in Judas’ life, he deliberately chose his own way, and that in spite of all the love and privileges conferred upon him.
The morsel, a piece of unleavened bread and flesh of the Passover lamb dipped in bitter herbs, was our Lord’s final appeal to Judas’ heart. He knew eternity swung in the balance for this man. Whether it meant anything to him we do not know. However, what wretched words follow: ‘and after the sop Satan entered into him’, v. 27. Judas had crossed the final frontier from which there was no return.
In these closing verses 27-30, I want us to note three points:
a) The dismissal
Jesus had only one more thing to say to this man, and when it was said, Judas knew that Jesus knew. He abruptly dismissed him from the fellowship of His people, ‘That thou doest, do quickly’, v. 27. The exit, the expulsion of Judas, is simply stated: ‘He … went immediately out’, v. 30. Now, Satan had complete control of the man. The ‘Prince of darkness’ had gained entrance into a life that rejected the ‘Prince of light’!
b) The disciples
They didn’t know why Jesus had sent Judas out. What they thought is stated in verse 29. So closely had this man guarded his secret, that none of the others, except John, suspected anything. They simply thought he was sent on an errand – after all he was treasurer. The reference to the feast means for the whole of the week of unleavened bread. Clearly, and, perhaps, deliberately, the excommunication by Jesus did not arouse one anxious thought in the hearts of the other disciples; only the man to whom they were spoken knew their real meaning.
c) The darkness
We have already considered the awful words of verse 30, ‘it was night’. The darkness of the hour was but an indication of the darkness of Judas’ heart and soul. He dwelt for three years in the full blaze of ‘the light of the world’, then he went out to dwell forever in darkness. He sat in the sacred fellowship of saints, then went out to ‘sit in the seat of the scornful’, Ps. 1. 1. He walked with, and listened to, the godliest of all men for three years, then went out to walk ‘in the counsel of the ungodly’, 1. 1. Henceforth his name was, is, and always will be, synonymous with treachery – the most abhorred name in the world!
This will be the last article from our brother. We give thanks for his faithful ministry. He was called home to glory on the 12th May.