I Tell You the Truth,
One of You is Going to Betray Me

Matthew 26:21-25; Mark 14:18-21; Mark 14:18-21;
John 13:21-30

About 8:00 pm on Friday evening the fifteenth of Nisan

DIG: In what stages does Jesus reveal His betrayer? If you had been reclining at that table, how do you think you would have felt? Or said? If foretelling His betrayal, what do you sense in Messiah: Resolution? Resignation? Restlessness? What do you sense in the talmidim? In Judas? Is Judas responsible for his actions (John 13:27 and John 6:70, 12:4-6, 13:2)? What is the significance of Judas going out into the night?

REFLECT: If you knew ahead of time that someone would “stab you in the back,” how would you treat that person? How does Yeshua show what an “in spite of” type of love is all about? Do you think you could do that? How hard would that be? It is unrealistic? Given three years of intimate fellowship with Jesus, how could Judas turn around and betray Him?

The lamb was ready. As it was taken tenderly from the oven, Jesus and the apostles lifted their voices in unison, veritably shouting: Hear, Isra’el! ADONAI our God, ADONAI is one (Deut 6:4). Servants walked in and out of the inverted U table, setting ritually clean dishes in place and standing metal cups before the places of the thirteen men. The chill of the early evening could be felt in the room and the servants set about lighting stoves. The lamb had been set, brown and sizzling, on snowy cloths on the low table. The spices and wild herbs and the fruits had been set along with the bowls.

After the washing of the hands, in this case the footwashing, came the eating of bitter herbs, dipped with the matzah into a bowl of soup. And while they were reclining at the table, chatting and eating, Jesus paused, greatly troubled in spirit. Yeshua had a secret, a terrible secret.In His hand He held the bitter herbs, a symbol of the bitter bondage in Egypt. He did not name anyone, but blurted out: I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray Me (Mt 26:21; Mk 14:18a; Jn 13:21). Although this had been foreshadowed beforehand when Jesus said of Judas: One of you is the devil (John 6:70), it still must have been quite a shock. What? Did the Master actually mean to say that one of their own was going to hand Him over to the Great Sanhedrin? To the Romans? Yeshua had spoken of being delivered into the hands of men or betrayed by His adversaries in Mt 17:22, 20:18-19 and 26:2, but had so far given no indication of who it would be, even though the reader knows.

As previously noted, Judas had already struck a deal with the Sadducees who wanted to see Jesus killed (see Kc – Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus). But now Messiah brings up this imminent reality to the Twelve during the Seder. This was not merely to indicate the person who will betray Him, but the enormity of the offense. Although the Lord knew what the false apostle would do, Our Savior did not force him to do it. At every opportunity, Yeshua warned Judas and pleaded for him to repent and be saved, but at every point Judas refused. Everyone has the free will to accept or reject Jesus Christ. We can say “no” to God and make it stick, and Judas said “no” day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year. Incomprehensible.

Imagine the disbelief that went around the table – all except for Judas. The apostles stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them He meant. They were visibly upset and began to question among themselves which one of them it might be who would do this. It must have seemed nearly impossible that one of their own would turn against their Master. To betray a friend after eating a meal was, as still is, regarded as the worst kind of treachery in the Near East.1390

Just a short time ago, after washing their feet, Jesus had said to them: He who shared My bread has turned against Me (John 13:18). This was a paraphrase of Psalm 41:9. Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me. This referred to Ahithophel’s betrayal of King David by helping Absalom plot against his father (Second Samuel 16:15 to 17:3). Ahithophel, the ultimate betrayer in the TaNaKh, was parallel to Judas. But Christ soon realized that He was not understood. The talmidim said to Yeshua one after another, “Surely not I, Lord” (Mattityahu 26:22; Mark 14:19; Luke 22:23; Yochanan 13:22). The Greek construction expects a negative answer to the question. Who could possibly fall to such depths?

It is interesting that the apostles were puzzled. Apparently Christ had treated Judas the same exact way as the other talmidim. For three years the Lord had been gentle, loving, and kind to Judas just as He had been to the other eleven. Apparently any challenge from Jesus for Judas’ unbelief had been in private. All the other apostles would have known if Yeshua had treated Judas any differently. Had Judas in any way been thought of as the black sheep of the group someone would have surely have suggested that he was the traitor. But no one did. In fact, Judas was the treasurer of the group, the talmidim trusted him.1391

Without naming anyone Yeshua stated: The hand of him who is going to betray Me, literally who is in the process of betraying [a present participle] Me is with Mine on the table. The betrayal had already begun. Hinting, He said: It is one of the Twelve, Jesus continued, the one who dips his unleavened matzah into the bowl with Me will betray Me (Matthew 26:23; Mark 14:18b and 20; Luke 22:21). But because the apostles were in the habit of sharing meals together, where each dipped his matzah into a common bowl, it could have been any of them. The Lord did, however assure them that only one of them was guilty and the others genuinely belonged to Him (Yochanan 13:18).

The dipping aspect seems to be a clear reference to the part of the Seder in which a piece of unleavened matzah is dipped into the bitter herbs. The dish contained charoset and/or maror. Charoset is a sweet paste made of fruit, nuts, spices and wine. Its function in the Seder is to recall by its appearance the mortar that that Israelite slaves made in Egypt. Maror means bitter herbs, calling to mind the bitterness of Israelite slavery to Pharaoh; today horseradish root is used as maror. Rabbi Hillel, in the generation before Yeshua, inaugurated the custom of eating a “sandwich” consisting of a piece of Passover lamb, together with the matzah and bitter herbs, in a literal fulfillment of the command: That night, they are to eat the meat, roasted in the fire; they are to eat it with matzah and bitter herbs (Exodus 12:8).1392 This dipping was also a very symbolic act, reflecting the bitter action about to be undertaken by this disenchanted talmid.

Today in Judaism the Passover Seder is eaten in a festive atmosphere with the singing of songs and comes between the second and third cups of wine. Interwoven with the symbolic foods is a full meal that is nothing short of a feast. It begins with the dipping of a roasted egg in salt water. The roasted egg represents the Chagigah offering that was made on the bronze altar in the Temple on the first morning of the Passover. The egg is symbolic in several ways. First, the roundness of the egg symbolizes the cycle of life. Secondly, it is a symbol of mourning over the destruction of the Temple when the sacrifice of the Passover lamb ceased. The fact that there is an egg in place of the lamb makes it a sign of mourning. Thirdly, it is a symbol of resurrection in Judaism and perhaps that is the origin connecting Christ’s resurrection with the Easter egg. Fourthly, the egg is also a symbol of the Jewish people because the more the egg is cooked the harder it becomes. Likewise, the more the Jews are persecuted, the tougher the Jews become.1393

In spite of the depressing news, Yeshua affirmed that it was all part of ADONAI’s great plan of redemption (see my commentary on Exodus Bz – Redemption). The Son of Man will die just as the TaNaKh says He will (see corresponding chart on Ki2). God’s greatest blessings often come disguised as disasters. Anyone who doubts this only needs to ascend the hill of Calvary. Tziyon’s collective opinion that Friday was this: Yeshua was finished. What other conclusion made sense? The Sanhedrin had turned Him in. Rome had refused to bail Him out. His apostles had tucked their tails and scattered. He was nailed to a cross and left to die . . . which He did. They silenced His lips, sealed His tomb, and, any priest worth his phylactery would tell you, the Nazarene was history. Three years of power and promises were decomposing in a borrowed grave. Search the crucifixion sky for one ray of hope, and you won’t find it. This was the outlook of the talmidim, the opinion of His friends, and the outlook of His enemies. But ADONAI wasn’t surprised. His plan was right on schedule. Even in . . . especially in . . . death, Messiah is still the King, the Master over His own crucifixion.1394

Yet, at the same time, Judas is held accountable for his personal choices, as Christ warned: But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born (Mattityahu 26:24; Mark 14:21; Luke 22:22). Judas’ future in hell was so terrifying that he would have infinitely better off if he had not been born. He is the most graphic and tragic example of people about whom the writer to the Hebrews says that, because they go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of fire which will consume the adversaries . . . How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood covenant by which He was sanctified, and his insulted the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:26-27 and 29 NASB).

After some soul-searching by each talmid, the conversation resumed at some point with each man wondering to the ones closest to him about the identity of the betrayer. Simon Peter was especially disturbed. Reclining at the very end of the table, he motioned to John and said: Ask Him which one He means. One of them, John, the apostle whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to Him. At the Passover meal, everyone reclines in a left-handed position with the head resting on the left palm. Leaning back against Jesus, Yochanan asked Him, “Lord, who is it” (John 13:23-25)?

The room was noisy as the men talked among themselves. Because Yochanan was reclined right next to Yeshua the other talmidim could not hear the Lord’s answer, saying: It is the one to whom I will give this piece of matzah when I have dipped it in the bowl (John 13:26a). Then Jesus took a small piece of unleavened matzah, and dipped into the bitter herbs. The one who dips is the one who officiates and he does this for everyone, including himself. In this case the Lord officiated. He was to dip a total of thirteen times: once for Himself and once for each of the Twelve. After that, each would dip for himself. This didn’t specifically reveal the betrayer but emphasized again that it was one who enjoyed the closest relationship with Yeshuahe even dipped his matzah into the same bowl.

The other apostles were deeply troubled and they babbled about convincing the Master to go back to Bethany or all the way to Ephraim where no plotter would dare arrest Him. These men did not want to believe that Jesus would die. But if that be the case, they expected at the very least that His death would be a glorious act, worthy of God. They wanted Him raise Himself up on a cloud of fire and go straight to heaven like Elijah (2 Kings 2). The thing they dreaded most was a death of shame, to be executed as a common criminal. And that they knew, was what He risked by being in Zion tonight.1395

By Oriental custom it was a special honor for the host to offer anyone the first matzah dip and indicate that he was considered a favored guest. Judas was reclining in the place of honor to Yeshua’s left. Then, dipping the piece of unleavened matzah, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon (Yochanan 13:26b). The little man was at the crossroads. Christ kept the door of salvation open for Judas right up to the very last. Still noisy, the others miss the final exchange between Jesus and Judas because the traitor was right next to Him. Then Judas, the one who would betray Him, feigned: Surely not I, Rabbi? Judas’ question was similar to the others except that in place of the normal apostle address of Lord, he used Rabbi, which was never used by the other talmidim, but only used by people outside the group. So the traitor’s own words exposed his true colors. His question merely echoed the other apostles so as not to appear conspicuous.

But Jesus strongly confirmed that Judas was the betrayer when He murmured: the words are yours (Matthew 26:25 CJB), which was an Aramean colloquialism meaning yes. The stage is set, but nothing is out of the control of the sovereign God. Yeshua will soon be betrayed, but He clearly understands that no one will take His life. He will give it voluntarily to fulfill the great purpose for which He had come down from heaven to fulfill.1396 The Son of God had already declared: The reason My Father loves Me is that I lay down My life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from My Father (Yochanan 10:17-18).

As soon as Judas took the matzah, Satan entered into Him a second time (the first was when he made an agreement with Caiaphas to betray the Lord in Luke 22:3) to actually perform the act of betrayal. An eternity appears in this verse. Judas had been enticed by the tempter, flirting with evil while pretending to follow Christ. Now the evil one entered his heart and took full control. In that awful moment, the evil will of Judas resisted the final offer of Christ’s love. The day of salvation had expired for him. Damned to hell for all eternity by his own choice, his doom was sealed. Jesus stared at Judas, no rancor in His eyes, and said plainly: What you are about to do, do quickly (Jn 13:27).1397

The Adversary took the phony talmid over gradually. I don’t think that the devil ever takes a person suddenly. There are many little falls that permit the ancient Serpent to move in gradually. Then finally he takes over. The Lord gave Judas an opportunity to accept Him over a three-year period, but the false apostle continually turned his back on Him. Then the Destroyer of souls moved in and took him over completely.

No one at the meal heard Messiah say: The words are yours, but clearly Judas understood. He pushed himself back from the low-lying table and stood up. For a moment he looked down on the reclining figures of his friends and then, without saying goodbye, he walked around the table, the leather purse swinging from his hand, and left. It was an unusual time to leave the Passover table. However, some of the talmidim thought Yeshua was telling him to buy something for the poor because he had charge of the money (Yochanan 13:28-29). To this day it is still a Jewish tradition to give alms to the poor, and that’s what the rest of the talmidim thought Jesus had told him.

As soon as Judas had taken the matzah, he went out. And it was night (John 13:30). It was dark, but not as dark as the night within the heart of Judas. And it was also a dark night for Christ and His apostles as we will soon see. Both Judas and Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen next. Clutching his moneybag, the traitor walked through the streets to the house of the high priest a mere few blocks away to give Caiaphas the good news. It was time to act.1398


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