Mailed out for: Sunday, May 24th, 2020 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Psa 41:1-13 ESV] 1 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him; 2 the LORD protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies. 3 The LORD sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health. 4 As for me, I said, “O LORD, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you!” 5 My enemies say of me in malice, “When will he die, and his name perish?” 6 And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words, while his heart gathers iniquity; when he goes out, he tells it abroad. 7 All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me. 8 They say, “A deadly thing is poured out on him; he will not rise again from where he lies.” 9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me. 10 But you, O LORD, be gracious to me, and raise me up, that I may repay them! 11 By this I know that you delight in me: my enemy will not shout in triumph over me. 12 But you have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in your presence forever. 13 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen.
New Testament reading:
[Mat 27:1-10 ESV] 1 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. 2 And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor. 3 Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” 5 And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. 6 But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7 So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. 8 Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, 10 and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”
Gospel reading and sermon text:
[Jhn 13:18-30 ESV] 18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” 21 After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, 24 so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
Have you ever heard a sermon on Judas Iscariot? It must be a rare thing indeed to hear a sermon on this famous traitor. To an extent my sermon today is on Judas Iscariot. But he is not the main person in focus in our passage. It is a mistake to take our eyes off of Jesus. It is he whom this passage focusing on. Judas is there too and plays an important part in the passage, but it is Jesus who predicts, who foretells Judas’ betrayal. This is another sign of Jesus’ divinity. For who can know the future as he does but for the fact that Jesus is God.
Now before we get into the passage, something perhaps should be said about the so-called “Gospel of Judas.” You may remember in the news some years ago a big hubbub about the Gospel of Judas. And it was being promoted as some great discovery that this book had come to light. And it was all quite silly because the book had long been known to the Christian Church and rejected by it. The early church father Irenaus wrote against the Gospel of Judas all the way back in the 2nd century. The so-called “Gospel of Judas” is not a Gospel at all; it does not contain “the Good news” of Jesus Christ. It is rather a Gnostic book; a writing of the syncretistic religion of Gnosticism. This ancient religion cobbled together bit and pieces of various other religions. And they borrowed from Christianity many of the personages in the Scriptures with which to present their teachings. But do not make the mistake of thinking that the “Gospel of Judas” or the “Gospel of Thomas” etc. are Christian or anything like Christian. These books were not written by the apostles nor any follower of Jesus Christ in the Church universal. They were written in later years to promote another religion; Gnosticism.
That being said, let’s look at our text. We find Jesus with his disciples meeting for supper. Last week we had Jesus washing the feet of the disciples before the supper. And he said “Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
But now we find Jesus continuing in saying “I am not speaking of all of you.” There will be one who betrays Jesus, and this is Judas Iscariot.
This is to fulfill a prophecy of the Scriptures. Jesus says, “But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’” He is speaking of Judas’ betrayal soon to happen and connecting it with Psalm 41:9. In that Psalm of David we find David saying “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” In David’s case this was the betrayal of his friend Ahithophel, who had been his counselor. In 2 Samuel 15:31 we find it was told David “Ahithophel is among the conspirator with Absalom.” Ahithophel had joined a rebellion against David.
So Jesus predicts that Judas will betray him. And he will do so eating the bread offered him by Jesus. So there are two points of similarity then between Ahithophel and Judas. They are both traitors and they both eat the bread of the one with whom they had been previously aligned. There is an additional interesting connection between Ahithophel and Judas as well. It is not mentioned in this text, but we know from other places in scripture that both Ahithophel and Judas committed suicide by hanging themselves with a rope.
In what follows in our passage, what has really helped me to understand it is to see that it is not all of the disciples who hear the conversation at first. Peter asks John — and John is the “disciple Jesus loved” — Peter asks John to ask Jesus who he was speaking about. Jesus had said that one of the disciples would betray him, and Peter wanted to know who it was. Jesus then tells John — and Peter might have heard or had the information relayed to hi from John — Jesus tells John “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” When he does just that, giving the morsel to Judas, he has identified Judas as the one who will betray him.
But it seems not all of the disciples heard Jesus. Because when Jesus says to Judas “What you are going to do, do quickly” the disciples didn’t know what he talking about. They thought he was referring to something related to buying food, or giving money to the poor. But Jesus was referring the betrayal and he did not want to dwell on it because it troubled his spirit.
Jesus had explained back in verse 19 that he is telling the disciples that one of them will betray him so that when it does take place, they may believe “that I am he.” He is telling them this truth ahead of time for their own benefit.
You see, Judas’ betrayal happened exactly at God planned. All things work together for good for those who love the Lord. Jesus tells them ahead of time that they may believe that he is God. It is a call to perseverance. Even though Judas goes astray, they must continue to believe in Jesus. And even though Jesus will die on the cross, they must continue to believe in him.
Let’s look at those points in greater detail. You must believe even though Judas goes astray, and you must believe even after Jesus is gone. These are important points made to the disciples, but they are also have important applications for us.
I. You must believe even though Judas goes astray.
Jesus has told the disciples — John and Peter at least — about Judas’ betrayal. When it happens they will not be surprised, but will actually be built up in faith knowing that Jesus foretold the event.
When there is a desertion from a group, it affects the whole group. It can sow seeds of doubt. Maybe there is some other way? Well, Judas isn’t exactly finding some noble alternative to Christ! He’s merely a greedy apostate, glad to have 30 silver coins. This could deflate the spirits of the whole group of disciples, thus Jesus foretells of the event to keep them from being caught off guard.
So I want to look at this Application: though one goes astray, your commission does not change.
Jesus warns us that he brings division to the world. Even in the same household. “From now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two, and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:52-53)
If your mother, your father, your son, or your daughter betrays the faith, do not follow them.
But though some even in our own families do not believe, the commission we have does not change. We are to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. We are to believe regardless of the position taken by others. If some smart professor or well-known scientist opposes Christianity, we are to continue in belief. The fact that some do not believe DOES NOT CHANGE THE TRUTH of Jesus Christ. If all the world falls away from the Lord, keep the faith. And live a sanctifying life in following Christ. You are not to change if another falls away.
Likewise, though some churches go astray, our mission continues. You have to be really careful these days. A large percentage of the churches in the world do not preach the Gospel; some are even opposed to the Gospel. They get wrapped up in the latest fashions of the world and forget the teachings of the Bible. But the mission of the churches of Christ continues. We continue to proclaim the gospel even though opposition comes to us.
Jesus encourages his disciples to persevere in their calling when Judas falls away. And Jesus did not give up his commission even though he had a close associate go astray.
II. You must believe even after Jesus is gone.
In a poorly trained army, when a general goes down in the field, the army descends into chaos.
So Jesus trains his disciple in the knowledge that he will depart and they will lead the church.
In verse 20 he says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
Though Jesus will be gone, he can be received by any who receive the ones he sends. His followers are calls disciples – ones who are learning – but soon they will be called apostles – ones who are sent. And they are sent not that you should worship Peter, Paul, or John, but that the message they bring of the Gospel of Jesus Christ can be known and believed.
After Christ is gone, after Judas is gone, the mission of the disciples continues.
They are go into the world proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is the “Outward call.” The Gospel is to be proclaiming to all people, near and far. And even though some will betray the faith or never join the church, we are called to proclaim the Gospel to them nonetheless.
Many are called, but few are chosen.
The outward call is to be made to all. But the inward call of the Holy Spirit is limited to those chosen of God.
Many are called, but few are chosen.
This inward call is effectual. It is the effectual call. It always succeeds. While Judas was outwardly called and even joined in the travels of Jesus and the disciples, he was not inwardly called.
In our passage Jesus says “I know whom I have chosen.” “I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen.”
Just as Judas’ betrayal does not take Jesus by surprise, neither is it a surprise to him who will be effectually called. He knows who he has chosen. Those chosen of Christ will be effectually called to faith by the Holy Spirit. Know that you, if you believe in Jesus Christ, you have been effectually called by the Holy Spirit and therefore known ahead of time to Jesus as chosen of him. Take comfort in knowing that you are loved of Jesus Christ.
Now, as way of conclusion, I want to look at the very last verse of our passage. I probably spent too much time thinking about this one verse in my sermon preparation this week! There is something interesting here that I never noticed before. Was Judas present at the Last Supper? In verse 30 it says that Judas “immediately went out.” Now there is debate about the order in which events happen in regards to the Last Supper. It seems to me in John’s account that Judas has left before Jesus gives the words of institution in the last supper, if indeed this passage is referring to the last supper. Now, if Judas has left, then Leonardo DaVinci’s painting of the Last Supper with all of the disciples present is in error. But the question is debated. While one might suppose that Jesus would not give “that which is holy to the dogs,” there is a verse in Luke (22:21) that seems to indicate that Judas was in fact present for the Lord’s Supper. It is not critical that we push this point in either direction.
What is critical – and what I hoped was conveyed in this sermon – is that Jesus Christ who loves his people has warned them ahead of desertions and apostasies so that we will not be taken off guard but rather look to him as our Savior God. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Amen.