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The Upper Room Ministry (2)

C Jones, Cardiff

One of you shall betray Me

The Lord, in His omniscience, knew that Judas Iscariot would betray Him (vv.10,11). Judas had never been saved. He had never been washed all over (Jn 6.64-71). He was not one of those who had been chosen and given by the Father to the Son (v.18; 17.2), but he had been with the Lord and His disciples, had seen the Lord’s deeds of love, compassion, and power, and had heard His teaching. Judas was one of the twelve disciples sent by the Lord to "preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick" (Lk 9.1,2). The Lord showed His deity and omniscience when He told His disciples that He knew who would betray Him (vv.18,19). He knows all things and "knoweth them that are his" (2 Tim 2.19). Judas’ betrayal was a fulfilment of Scripture (Ps 41.9), and telling the disciples that He knew that it would happen would later comfort them and strengthen their faith in Him. The disciples would soon be preaching the gospel, in the power of the Holy Spirit, in a hostile, dark world, and it would be an encouragement to them to remember the Lord’s words recorded in v.20. They would represent the Lord as ambassadors for Him (2 Cor 5.20), and whoever would receive them would receive both the Lord and His Father.

The betrayal and sin of Judas disturbed the Lord’s spirit (v.21). The disciples were confused and had no suspicion as to who would betray their beloved Lord (v.22). Peter prompted John, who was leaning on the Lord’s breast, to ask who would betray Him (vv.23-25). The Lord answered John’s question by saying that it was the one to whom He would give the sop. He gave it to Judas Iscariot (v.26). The giving of the sop, that is, bread that had been mixed with the food used in the feast, was a token of love and friendship. After the Lord had given the sop to Judas, Satan entered into him and the Lord sent him on his way to carry out the betrayal. Judas had addressed the Lord as "Master" or "Rabbi" (Mt 26.25,49), but never as "Lord". Now, however, the omnipotent Lord dismisses him. Even after Judas had left the room, the others, apart from John (v.26), did not suspect Judas nor know why the Lord had dismissed him (vv.27-30).

The covetous Judas acted quickly to leave the Lord and the other disciples. John says he "went immediately out: and it was night" (v.30). Judas had rejected the "light of the world" (Jn 8.12; 9.5). He went out, not only into physical darkness, but into the spiritual darkness which existed outside the Upper Room, and into eternal darkness and separation from God.

Those of us who are believers and, like Judas, have spent much time with the Lord, and in meditating on the written Word of God and seeking to obey and follow its teaching, can still backslide and fall into sin. Let us remember Demas who had served the Lord with Paul and other godly men. There are three references to Demas in the Word of God (Philem v.24; Col 4.14; 2 Tim 4.10). In the last of these references, Paul says with great sadness, "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world". We cannot lose our salvation, but we can still sin, backslide, and fail our Lord. We must stay close to Him and remember the admonition, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor 10.12).

When he was gone out

After Judas departed, the atmosphere in the Upper Room changed and the Lord of Glory spoke words of love and grace to "his own" which, once again, revealed His omniscience and deity and prepared them for the events which were soon to occur. He stressed the fact that He would leave the world and that they would remain in it (vv.31-33). The Lord, the Son of Man, was to be glorified and would glorify His Father (v.31). His crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension glorified the Lord. He was obedient to His Father, "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil 2.8), and through His obedience, bleeding, and substitutionary suffering and death, He glorified His Father, and made possible our salvation. God, His Father, would glorify His Son immediately after His crucifixion (v.32). On the Cross, the holiness of God, His justice, His hatred of sin, and His love for sinners were all revealed. There, mercy and truth met together and righteousness and peace "kissed each other" (Ps 85.10), and now God can be "just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom 3.26), for His shed blood "cleanseth us from all sin" (1 Jn 1.7).

The Lord, with great tenderness, refers to His disciples as "Little children", showing the love and compassion He felt for the weak and vulnerable ones who could not go with Him now (v.33), but were to be left in the world to witness for Him. He gave them a command that they should love one another as He had loved them. John 13 began with the love of the Lord for "his own" (v.1), and in v.34 we read of the necessity for disciples to love one another. Their love would be evidence to the world that they were His disciples (vv.34,35). The Mosaic Law said, "Love thy neighbour as thyself" (Lev 19.18; Mk. 12.31). The Lord had said, "Love your enemies" (Mt 5.44). The command to love is, then, both an old command and a new command (1 Jn 2.7,8). The standard of love required by the Lord was to love as He loved, and the extent of His love was revealed by His suffering on the Cross. Let us remember that the Lord’s command to love one another is incumbent upon us today and is evidence of the fact that we are His disciples. Our love for each other must be real (Rom 12.9), fervent (1 Pet 1.22), and seen in deeds. In 1 John 3.18 we read, "My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth". Love will prevent anyone from going around among God’s people as a slanderer (Lev 19.16), or sowing discord among them (Prov 6.19).

Peter spoke again in this gathering of the beloved disciples, asking the Lord, whom he loved so dearly, where He was going. The Lord sought to comfort Peter by telling him that although he could not go with Him now, and be crucified, rise from among the dead, and ascend to glory, nevertheless, he would follow Him in the future (v.36). Peter persisted in his questioning, and, in self-confidence, said to the Lord, "I will lay down my life for thy sake" (v.37). Peter meant what he said but overestimated himself and his faithfulness to his Lord. It was not only Peter who expressed such confidence and determination, for all the disciples said they would die with the Lord (Mk 14.31). We read later, however, that there came a time when "all the disciples forsook him, and fled" (Mt 26.56). The omniscient Lord told Peter that "The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice" (v.38). Peter did not speak again in the Upper Room, but later, after he had denied his Lord three times, the cock crowed, the Lord looked on Peter, and he remembered what the Lord had said, and "went out, and wept bitterly" (Lk 22.60-62).

There is the possibility that Peter might have made his declaration of loyalty in a proud spirit. It is possible for our declarations of love and loyalty to the Lord to contain an element of pride. In fact, it is possible for us to be proud of our apparent humility.

The events recorded in John 13 give us a wonderful insight into the love, compassion, and tenderness of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Our minds are led to consider His work on the Cross that glorified His Father and made possible our salvation. We are caused to think also of the glories that were His following His crucifixion. One day we shall see His glory, for "when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1 Jn 3.2). In the meanwhile, let us seek to glorify God by serving and witnessing for Him in love, doing His will and showing love one to another.

To be continued.

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