Last week we looked at the washing of the disciples feet as what I called an animated parable of Christ-like love, or sacrificial love. And according to Christ, that kind of love is supposed to be the defining characteristic of the church. Jesus said in vs.35 that “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
So I would suggest to you that this Upper Room Discourse is really a discourse on the foundational doctrines of the church. The disciples constitute the church. Jesus is no longer publicly ministering from this moment on. He has retreated from the crowds and taken the disciples apart to the Upper Room, and for the next few chapters, we have the record of detailed instructions for the church. Those who are saved, who have been set apart.
These next four chapters then, through chapter 17, are essential doctrines of the church, to enable it to survive after Jesus leaves Earth. And so it is fitting, that as the church’s main characteristic is that they should love one another, that there would be this animated parable of Christ washing their feet, to be an illustration of how to love one another.
But in today’s passage, we see another illustration of a characteristic of the church. And that is illustrated by none other than Judas. Today we are going to take a different approach from the usual verse by verse exegesis. I am not interested in merely regurgitating the historical facts of Judas’s treason. I think everyone here is probably very familiar with the facts of Judas’s betrayal.
Perhaps what we aren’t so familiar with however, are the spiritual applications taught by this event. So I am not going to focus on expounding historical details, but instead I would like to show you the spiritual lessons that Judas’s betrayal teaches concerning the church. Because I think that is one of the major reasons that John includes this information for us. He is not writing a day by day biography. None of the gospel writers really do that. They were not writing a biography of Jesus, but they were writing a gospel. The gospel is an account or testimony given to reveal the good news about Christ that leads to salvation. So what is included in them is selected for that purpose. And that is especially true in John’s gospel.
So to that end, I would point out first of all, that Judas is a type. A type is a person, or thing or event that symbolizes a truth or doctrine or person. Though Judas was an historical figure and the facts given here are true and happened as presented, I believe he also serves as a archetype for a certain kind of individual that is present in the church.
And I find evidence for this theory right here in Jesus’s statement in vs.18, “I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘HE WHO EATS MY BREAD HAS LIFTED UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME.’” Jesus is quoting from Psalm 41:9, which says, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” Jesus is correlating Judas’s act of treason with another act of treason committed 1000 years earlier in the life of David by a counselor known as Ahithophel. Ahithophel was a highly regarded counselor to King David, whose words were thought of as the voice of God. That’s how highly thought of he was. But when Absalom rebelled against his father, Ahithophel also rebelled against King David and went over to Absalom. And though I don’t have the time to go into all of that this morning, I will say it’s interesting to note that when the rebellion went wrong, Ahithophel committed suicide by hanging himself. He suffered the same fate as Judas.
So Jesus is quoting from the Psalm to show that Ahithophel was a type of Judas. And so I think it is fair to say that in turn, Judas represents a type of a certain kind of person in the church. The church is presented often in the Bible as a place for demonic activity, and false prophets to arise, and for all kinds of error to occur. One great example is Jesus parable of the mustard tree in Luke 13:19 in which He spoke of the kingdom of heaven, which is the church, “It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and threw into his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, and THE BIRDS OF THE AIR NESTED IN ITS BRANCHES.”
At first blush, that sounds like a good thing. The tiny little mustard seed grew so huge that the birds made nests in the branches. But when you consider it, you realize that it is not a good thing. Because mustard seeds do not naturally produce giant trees, but bushes. So the tree is abnormal. It has become a monstrosity. And the birds sound innocuous enough, until you remember the parable of the sower, where Christ identified the birds of the air as the devil and his angels. So you have a picture given by Christ of the church which would grow and spread beyond it’s intended size, to encompass even the devil and his angels who would find refuge there.
Now that’s quite an alarming picture of the church. On the one hand, we just had this beautiful picture of sacrificial service and love that should exist in the church as we imitate Christ’s love for the church, and now on the other hand this grotesque picture of abnormality and demonic activity, which results in rebellion, and treachery, and which undermines Christian fellowship.
So I shouldn’t even have to point out that even in this passage this demonic activity is going on right under Jesus’s nose. Right in the midst of His most trusted insiders, the 12 disciples, one of them was a devil. One of them was under demonic influence to destroy the church even as Christ is administering the rites of the Passover, which was the precursor to the Lord’s Supper. In fact, as Jesus gives him the morsel, it says that Satan entered into him.
Let that be a lesson to all of us. Simply because something happens in a church, or during a church service, does not mean that everything that happens there is of the Lord. That’s why we are told to test the spirits. There are birds in the branches, and sometimes, there are demons in the rafters.
And I would point out another noteworthy thing. None of the disciples knew that Judas was the one who would betray Him. Jesus knew it, of course. In vs.21, Jesus “became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.’” But notice the response of the disciples. Vs.22, “The disciples began looking at one another, at a loss to know of which one He was speaking.”
The disciples were clueless as to who Jesus was referring to. In fact, the other gospels tell us that they began to search themselves, asking, “Lord, is it I?” They would have never guessed it was Judas. Judas after all was the treasurer. He carried the money bag. You know, Matthew had been a tax collector. He had been basically an accountant by trade for the Roman Empire. If there was a natural choice to be treasurer you would think it would have gone to Matthew. But instead it was given to Judas.
And I believe it was because Judas was above reproach in the eyes of the others. Literature and media often portray Judas as an evil looking character, scheming, conniving with features you would expect from such a person. But I would suggest the exact opposite. I would suggest that Judas was quite literally what we might call a handsome devil. He was sophisticated. He was educated. He was of a more noble Judean heritage than the rest of the disciples who were thought of as low brow Galileans. Judas was considered philanthropic, caring for the poor, trustworthy, above reproach. And yet he was used by the devil to conduct the most nefarious treachery known to man.
The Lord Jesus, of course, knows all of this in advance. He knows the heart and plans of Judas. He knows He is an imposter. A poseur. And yet Christ is more than accommodating to Judas. Christ never calls him out, or reveals him as a thief. Christ never publicly condemns him for his hypocrisy. And that is what Judas was, a hypocrite. The Greek word for hypocrite means to be an actor on a stage. Doing what he does to be seen of men, to gain their applause and acclaim. And if we are to believe the accusations of the world, then the church is full of them. Judas must have been a very good actor.
In some respects, Judas is presented here as a foil to Christ. He is darkness, and Jesus is Light. He is of the devil, Jesus is of God. Judas’s motives are selfish, Jesus’s motives are unselfish. Judas’s sin is pride, Jesus’s virtue is humility. Judas is the black backdrop against which the brilliance of Christ shines.
The life of righteousness of Jesus caused contrition in the disciples, but it caused frustration in Judas. But Jesus’s kindness towards Judas only served to embolden Judas to be even more conniving. He thought he was getting away with it. He may even have thought he was justified in his actions because of some perceived failure of Christ. He continued to harden his heart until he conceived of the most vile treachery the world has ever known.
The application to the church should be obvious. There are going to be people in the church who appear to be the icons of virtue. And yet they are unredeemed. They are unsaved. Or they are living in rebellion. Judas is a picture of how possible it is to be apparently so close to God, and yet be so far away from Him spiritually. In fact, it’s possible to be in the church and be used as an agent of Satan to spread dissension. The prophet Samuel said in 1Samuel 15:23, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.”
Matthew Henry said it this way; “We are not to confine our attention to Judas. The prophecy of his treachery may apply to all who partake of God’s mercies, and meet them with ingratitude. See the infidel, who only looks at the Scriptures with a desire to do away their authority and destroy their influence; the hypocrite, who professes to believe the Scriptures, but will not govern himself by them; and the apostate, who turns aside from Christ for a thing of naught. Thus mankind, supported by God’s providence, after eating bread with Him, lift up the heel against Him! Judas went out as one weary of Jesus and his apostles. Those whose deeds are evil, love darkness rather than light.”
Jesus gave the reason why Judas rebelled and rejected the love of Christ in vs.20, which was because he did not receive Christ. In the first chapter of his gospel, John says, “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name,” (John 1:12). So it is possible to be a member of a church, a visible disciple, called a Christian, and regarded as a Christian by other Christians, and still not have your heart respond to Jesus and surrender to his will. Such rebellion spurs dissension in the church, and the result is often the same as happened to the disciples; in just a few hours they are scattered. That is the strategy of Satan to overthrow the church from within, and that is why rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.
I want to you to see something else in that statement from Christ in vs.20, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” The primary meaning of “receives” is to accept Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. That is what John 1:12 says constitutes salvation. That is the means of becoming the sons and daughters of God. But there is another aspect here of receiving that Jesus mentions. And that is, that he who Christ has sent acts as the representative of Christ. So that when you receive them, or their teaching, you receive Him. I believe that Jesus is referring not only to the apostles, but to those He will send to the church after His resurrection.
And Paul speaks to that in Ephesians 4:8; “Therefore it says, ‘WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.’”
Then Paul tells us what those gifts are which He gave to the church in vs.11, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”
So in the foundational years of the church Christ gave the apostles, and in these last days, Christ has given us pastors. Now that should serve to emphasize how important it is to go to a church where you know the pastor has been called by God. He is the representative of Christ to the church. He is to accurately give God’s word to the church, so that the church might grow in relation to Christ. To raise up mature Christians.
Going back to the parable of the mustard tree, there are many churches to pick from today. There are many who are claiming to be pastors and teachers. But I would suggest that on a grand scale, there are not many that are sent by God. There are not many that are called by God. And though James warns us that not many should become teachers, for they shall incur a stricter judgment for their words, yet the evidence suggests that there are more teachers than ever. But the Christ and the apostles warned the church that this was to be. 2Peter 2:1 says,
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies.”
But the hearer also has a responsibility to receive the truth and walk in the truth. We reject the truth at our peril. I doubt that Judas conceived of his treason when Jesus first chose him to follow Him and become a disciple. I’m sure that Judas had every nothing but good intentions at the beginning of Christ’s ministry. He was probably excited. He was attracted to Jesus and the whole idea of the kingdom of heaven. But little by little, he started rejecting certain truths, rejecting teaching that he found incongruent with his own ideas. We know from scripture that he began to criticize Jesus and the way He did ministry. He undoubtedly found fault with the way Jesus called people out in public. I”m sure his gentrified upbringing found such outbursts embarrassing. And so for three years though he walked with Christ externally, internally he was rebelling against Him. It was a slow decent into apostasy. Remember what Samuel said, “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.” It opened the door to demonic influence.
MacLaren says in his commentary: “Again, any evil is possible to us, seeing that all sin is but yielding to tendencies common to us all. The greatest transgressions have resulted from yielding to such tendencies. Cain killed his brother from jealousy; David besmirched his name and his reign by animal passion; Judas betrayed Christ because he was fond of money. Many a man has murdered another one simply because he had a hot temper. And you have got a temper, and you have got the love of money, and you have got animal passions, and you have got that which may stir you up into jealousy. Your neighbor’s house has caught fire and been blown up. Your house, too, is built of wood, and thatched with straw, and you have as much dynamite in your cellars as he had in his. Do not be too sure that you are safe from the danger of explosion.”
Well, what safeguard then does the church have? How can we defend against these demonic influences and baser tendencies among us? Well, I would suggest the best safeguard is to not think too highly of yourself. Humility is the opposite of pride. And Jesus showed in washing the disciples feet the importance of humility. Of putting other’s needs before your own. Sacrificial, Christ-like love is the antidote for the poison of the serpent’s attack on the church.
But there is another necessary hedge against pride, and that is illustrated in the disciples’ question, “Lord is it I?” The disciples exhibit a wholesome recognition of the evil which is possible in us all. They do some soul searching to see if there was any wicked way within them. None of them looked at another and thought, “I bet he is the betrayer.” But all of them save Judas looked in their own heart and recognized their weaknesses, recognized their sinful tendencies, and came to the Lord with a contrite heart.
Our defense against rebellion is recognizing that all sin has a common origin, and that is living for myself instead of living for God. Putting my agenda before God’s agenda is idolatry. Putting my needs ahead of others is iniquity. And from such seemingly inconsequential beginnings, a monstrous tree might grow that harbors the very demons themselves.
I think there is an apparent dismay in the disciples response, in Peter’s question to John, and John’s question to Jesus, that indicates how distressed they are by Jesus’s words. They are heartbroken over the possibility that one of them would betray Christ. And I think that kind of brokenness is indicative of the right kind of heart in the church that keeps one from rebellion.
That attitude is found in Eph. 5:8 which says, “for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light, (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” That last phrase I think is key. If you love the Lord, you will try to please the Lord. I believe the disciples strove to please the Lord. They didn’t always do things right, but they had the right attitude. They loved the Lord and tried to please Him. Judas was about pleasing himself. He wanted to serve himself. But a child of God walks as Christ walked, imitating Him, and tries to please HIs heavenly Father.
And that is something that has to be learned. That goes back to the job of the pastor/teacher of Ephesians 4, he is teaching and edifying the saints so that they grow in maturity, they grow in Christ likeness, to ultimately please the Lord, to ultimately glorify God. And the church needs to receive such pastors that preach the truth as having been sent by God. To reject the truth is to reject Christ’s counsel. Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.
Well, I’m out of time and I feel like we have only scratched the surface here. But let me just try to summarize a couple of things in closing. A frequent debate in theological circles is whether or not Judas was a Christian. And I would just answer that this way. Only God knows the heart. Jesus knew the heart of Judas. But one thing is evident to us and that is that the disciples certainly believed that Judas was a Christian. They thought he was above reproach. He was the best of them, or so they thought. It reminds me of 1 Cor. 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man.” Don’t let yourself think that you are above the sin of rebellion. Don’t let yourself be blind to the possibility that you may have put yourself back on the throne of your life.
As Jesus dipped the bread into the paste to hand it to Judas, we should see in that action a choice that we all have to make, sometimes even on a daily basis. On Jesus right side was Judas. He had given Judas the place of honor at His table. And on His left side is John. After taking the sup, Judas was entered into by Satan. He went into the darkness after eating the morsel. That is a picture of eternal damnation. John on his other side represents the beloved of God. He calls himself the disciple whom Jesus loved. He doesn’t leave Jesus’s side. He is spoken of as practically sitting in Christ’s lap. HIs relationship is marked by love for Christ, closeness to Christ, fellowship with Christ, dependency, leaning on Christ. That is the type of person that Christ loves. Those who lean on Him. Who look to Him for communion, and for Lordship.
Two men, two choices, two types of relationships, two outcomes. One goes into eternal darkness and damnation, and one goes into eternal Light and Life. One hangs himself in remorse, one lives in a spirit of repentance. It reminds me of the two thieves on either side of Jesus just 12 hours later as He hangs on a cross, dying for rebellious sinners. One man cursed Christ and died, going into everlasting darkness, and one man received Christ as Lord and lived with Him in Paradise that very evening and still lives today.
F. F. Bruce said, “Satan could not have entered into Judas had he not granted him admission. Had he been willing to say “No” to the adversary, all of his Master’s intercessory power was available to him there and then to strengthen him. But when a disciple’s will turns traitor, when the spiritual aid of Christ is refused, that person’s condition is desperate indeed.”
Today everyone here is pictured as one of the two men on either side of Christ. You are either like John or you are like Judas. There is a choice before each of you as to which you will consent to. If you renounce your sin, and receive Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you will receive the blessings that Jesus spoke of earlier. “If you know these things, then you are blessed if you do them.”
Jesus has come to earth to give us an invitation. You can either enter into His kingdom, or you can reject it in favor of your own. But you have to choose. You can’t have both. I pray that you don’t reject the truth. “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name,”