The Betrayal of Christ
“After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me’ ” (v. 21).- John 13:21–30
We pick up our study of John’s gospel again today, beginning in 13:21. John has been describing the events of the Last Supper, and at several points he has recorded Jesus’ references to His betrayal by Judas or has inserted explanatory comments that indicate His betrayal was at hand (vv. 11, 18–19). Today’s passage indicates that these things troubled our Savior “in his spirit” (v. 21). It is little wonder that Judas’ impending betrayal would trouble our Lord. After all, this betrayal would set in motion the arrest of Jesus and culminate in the crucifixion and His bearing the curse of God on sin (Gal. 3:10–14). Although Jesus went willingly to death, He did not go stoically. He possesses a true human nature, and the idea of bearing God’s wrath would trouble any human being. In His humanity, Jesus was troubled by what lay ahead. Moreover, John Calvin’s comments on John 13:21 are also worth noting. He highlights the fact that Judas’ betrayal troubles Jesus because it is a picture of how false believers in the church try to betray the truth. Calvin writes, “Christ’s zeal is held out for our imitation, that we may be moved with deep horror by those monsters which overturn the sacred order of God and of his Church.” We should be deeply troubled when we see false teaching taking hold in the body of Christ.
The disciples also became troubled at the words of Jesus concerning His betrayal. They were able to get the disciple whom Jesus loved—John, author of the gospel account we are studying—to ask Jesus to identify the traitor (vv. 22–25). Jesus replied that it would be the man to whom He gave a “morsel of bread” after dipping it (v. 26a). The Greek word translated by “morsel of bread” does not have to mean bread—it can refer to other foods. Some commentators suggest Jesus was actually referring to the bitter herbs that the Jews would dip in the Passover charoset sauce, which was made from fruit. In any case, the passing of the food to a specific person makes the betrayal of Jesus all the more heinous. Hosts of a meal typically did that for the guest of honor, so the one whom Jesus singles out to honor is the same man who hands Him over to death. A greater betrayal can hardly be imagined (v. 26b).
At that point, Judas became so resolved to betray Jesus that John says the devil entered into him for the betrayal (v. 27). Scripture is clear that no one forced Judas’ hand (Acts 2:23), but he was so dedicated to Satan’s work that John could say the devil entered him.
Jesus was troubled at the trial that lay ahead of Him, but He was able to persevere in obedience because of His unwavering trust in His Father. Though we will never have to endure what Jesus did, we may find ourselves troubled at the trials that lie ahead of us. Only if we trust in God and His goodness will we be able to remain faithful in such circumstances.
Passages for Further Study
1 Peter 3:14–17