Flashback Episode — The Fateful Choice: John 13:18-30

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On the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested, He shared a supper with His followers. During this supper, Jesus tells His followers that one of them would betray Him, and He singles that person out. However, in spite of how clear this all is described, we discover that the disciples still did not understand what was happening until it was too late.

Let’s read what happened when Jesus singles out the betrayer, and see what we can discover. Our passage picks up right where our last episode’s passage ended, and it’s found in John’s gospel, chapter 13, and we will be reading from the New Century Version. Starting in verse 18, Jesus continues speaking to the disciples while eating supper, saying:

18 “I am not talking about all of you. I know those I have chosen. But this is to bring about what the Scripture said: ‘The man who ate at my table has turned against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now before it happens so that when it happens, you will believe that I am he. 20 I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send also accepts me. And whoever accepts me also accepts the One who sent me.”

Let’s pause reading here because I want to draw our attention onto two big ideas. First is that Jesus knows He will be betrayed, and He is clearly aware of who the betrayer is. Jesus states clearly that He knows who He has chosen, and this statement implies that Judas Iscariot may have been brought into the twelve disciples through an invitation Jesus gave, but something was missing after the three years that kept Judas from being “chosen”.

However, we can get a clue about Judas Iscariot in the second big idea. Jesus finished this section off by saying that whoever accepts Him also accepts the One who sent Him. Earlier in John’s gospel, we discover in one of the most famous verses, that God – and this refers to God the Father – loved humanity so much that He gave us His Son, so that those who chose to believe in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. By accepting Jesus into our hearts and lives, we are also accepting the One who sent Jesus, and this is God the Father, and His Holy Spirit.

However, did Judas Iscariot accept Jesus?

Let’s continue reading to see if John tells us the answer. Continuing in verse 21, John tells us that:

21 After Jesus said this, he was very troubled. He said openly, “I tell you the truth, one of you will turn against me.”

22 The followers all looked at each other, because they did not know whom Jesus was talking about. 23 One of the followers sitting next to Jesus was the follower Jesus loved. 24 Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus whom he was talking about.

25 That follower leaned closer to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?”

26 Jesus answered, “I will dip this bread into the dish. The man I give it to is the man who will turn against me.” So Jesus took a piece of bread, dipped it, and gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered him. Jesus said to him, “The thing that you will do—do it quickly.” 28 No one at the table understood why Jesus said this to Judas. 29 Since he was the one who kept the money box, some of the followers thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the feast or to give something to the poor.

30 Judas took the bread Jesus gave him and immediately went out. It was night.

In this last portion of our passage, a number of things stood out in my mind as we read it. However, the first big thing is the answer to the question I asked earlier. Verse 27 started by telling us that “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered him.

This verse gives us the key piece of the puzzle when asking the question about whether Judas had accepted Jesus or not. If Judas had accepted Jesus into His heart, God would have been present there, and if God was present there, Satan could not have entered Judas. Instead, we discover that even after three or more years being a disciple of Jesus, Judas Iscariot was well aware of Jesus’ miraculous support from God, but he had not taken the step towards letting his belief rest on Jesus and He had not spiritually let Jesus into His heart.

In last week’s passage, John told us about Peter and his response to Jesus’ foot washing. I believe that John is subtly contrasting Peter with Judas here, because Peter was all in. While Peter initially wasn’t willing to accept Jesus’ gift of foot washing, when Jesus explained the necessity of it, Peter wants Jesus to wash more of him than just his feet. While Peter stumbled in many ways, we can see from his actions that He was passionate about Jesus.

On the other hand, we don’t discover much about Judas Iscariot, except that most of the gospel writers tell us repeatedly that He would be the one who betrayed Jesus. John tells us that Judas was a thief, and that Jesus challenged Judas’ condescending remarks towards Mary about her gift.

But another interesting observation I had when reading this is that Judas had the choice whether or not to accept the bread from Jesus. While Judas was on the path of betrayal, he could have refused the bread Jesus was handing him. While the other disciples seem clueless that Jesus is exposing the traitor, Judas would have clearly understood what accepting the bread meant.

If God had been in Judas’ heart, Judas would have politely refused, and we would not have the first part of verse 27 in our Bibles. Verse 27 begins by telling us: “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered him.

If we remove the first conditional statement in this sentence, the second one disappears. If Judas refused the bread, Satan would not have entered Him, and it is possible this would be the beginning of Judas letting Jesus into His heart. Judas had the choice whether to accept the bread from Jesus, and Judas accepted both the bread and the role of betrayer in one instant. After Judas had accepted this role, Satan entered him and the last stages leading up to the cross begin.

Judas Iscariot was not forced to accept the role of betrayer. God did not predestine him to this role. Jesus did not invite him to be a disciple on the condition that three years later, he would betray Him. Judas chose the role of his own free will, and simply because God saw this happen, and because it was predicted before the events took place, everything hinges on Judas’ choice to accept the bread.

This means for you and I that even though God knows us so well that He knows what we will choose, we still have the freedom to choose when the moment comes. When we face temptation, regardless of our past, we can choose a new path moving forward. While our past lives might be full of sinful decisions, Jesus came to take care of our past when we choose to accept Him into our lives, accept the One who sent Him, and to turn away from the sin in our past. Jesus came to give us a new life with God, and God is inviting us to grow with Him for eternity.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As always, be sure to seek God first and when faced with the choice, always choose to do God’s will, to make the decision that will please God, and/or to choose to love and help others. Trust Jesus that our past has been dealt with when we make the choice to accept Jesus into our lives, and to move forward with Him.

Also, as I always challenge you to do, be sure to always pray and study the Bible for yourself and grow closer to God each and every day. Intentionally strengthen your personal relationship with God and let Him lead you into the truth He wants to teach you through His Word.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, or drift away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year of the Cross – Episode 23: When Jesus offered Judas a piece of bread at the last supper, did Judas have to accept it? If Judas had refused this gift, would that have changed His life? Discover what we can learn from Judas Iscariot and his fateful choice.

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