Cornerstone EPC Thursday evening
Franklin, NC 28734 March 24, 2016
“And It Was Night”
Text: John 13:18-30
On this Maundy Thursday, we continue looking at the night of Jesus’ betrayal through the Apostle John’s Spirit-directed eyes. Last year, we noted Jesus’ command to serve one another—exemplified in His taking up the basin and the towel for His disciples (John 13:1-17). This year, we look at Jesus’ betrayal—when it was night. Let us hear the Word of God tonight, and may it do its sweet work in our souls by the effectual work of the Holy Spirit.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
We may view tonight’s text under three heads. First, Jesus predicts His betrayal somewhat elliptically (18-20). He notes that one of the assembled company is not of His chosen, but will lift up his heel against Him (Psalm 41:9), for not all are clean. This squares with Jesus’ remark after washing the disciples’ feet: They were clean, but not all of them. This statement serves to prepare the disciples for the betrayal itself—so that when it occurs, they may know Jesus to be the promised Savior in Whom they trust.
Second, Jesus predicts His betrayal more explicitly (21-25). After the remarks in verses eighteen through twenty, Jesus, now troubled in spirit, states the matter baldly, “Truly, truly I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” The disciples do not know of whom He speaks. Hence, Peter gestures to John, the beloved disciple—and, upon Peter’s gesture, John asks Jesus, “Lord, who is it?”
Third, Jesus identifies the betrayer (26-30). He does this elliptically—in like manner as He introduced the matter some verses ago. He tells John with sotto voce, or quiet voice, likely so only John (and the betrayer) may hear. They likely have seats of honor at this meal; hence, they are closest to Jesus. Jesus, moreover, tells John that He will reveal the betrayer with a sign—the bread dipped in the sop. Jesus then gives the sopped bread to Judas Iscariot.
Look at the grace offered Judas. He was for three years one of the Twelve. He had charge of the money bag (though sometimes helping himself to its contents). Jesus washed his feet with the others that night. He likely dines very close to Jesus. In Jesus’ remarks, He intimates that He knows Judas’ scheme—and Judas knows that He knows. Yet Jesus does not expose Judas before his fellow disciples. On the contrary, Jesus giving Judas the sopped bread may be supposed a token of honor from Jesus to Judas. Jesus, loving Judas, affords Him every opportunity to forsake this scheme and to repent of its formation and intended execution.
Look, alas, at the grace spurned. After Judas took the bread, Satan entered him. Even though Jesus said much earlier of Judas, “Yet one of you is a devil” (John 6:70), now Satan controls Judas much more effectively, and apparently the graces of Christ are now withdrawn from Judas. Jesus again speaks, elliptically and likely quietly, “What thou doest, do quickly.” The others think Jesus wants Judas to obtain things needed for the Passover festival; others think that Judas is to give alms to the poor. In any case, Judas went out—and it was night. This was true literally, but this was also true figuratively in Judas’ soul. Any soul, bereft of the salutary influences of Jesus, could do similarly—but Judas, now thus abandoned, could do nothing else but this hideous deed.
Yet all of this fulfills God’s providential plan to redeem His elect in every age from every nation. This betrayal, and its execution, lead to Jesus’ atoning death and glorious, victorious resurrection. As such, then, it glorifies God—for the ensuing atoning work of Christ both satisfies divine justice and displays divine mercy. It also benefits us inestimably, for our sin is laid to Christ and His righteousness is imputed to us (2 Corinthians v.21). Let us rejoice, let us praise His Name, and let us keep the feast—a feast forever transformed by Jesus on this night so long ago.