Jesus had finished explaining what his washing their feet meant. He had given them an example they, as his disciples, were morally obligated to emulate. It was possibly the most difficult teaching he had yet given them, but he had reassured them it was truly the path to joy.
Yet, not everyone would understand this path.
“If you all perceive and know these things, you are happy and blessed when you do them,” Jesus had said to them. Then, he must have paused and looked at each of them, perhaps pensively, as he foresaw what lay ahead in the next few hours.
I am not speaking concerning all of you: I perceive and know who I chose, but rather in order that the writing would be fulfilled, “one who eats my bread raised his heel against me.”Jesus to his disciples, John 13:18
One of them was going to choose a different path which would end up fulfilling a prophecy King David had made a thousand years before in one of his Psalms
Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted the heel against me.Psalm 41:9 (NRSV)
Fulfillment of Scripture
Why was he saying this to all of them? The other gospels record their hurt bewilderment, asking Jesus and each other, “Is it me? Will I be that one?”
Just now I spoke to you of him before these things happen, in order that you all may believe when it happens, that I AM.Jesus, John 13:19
He was saying this to them, so they might believe Jesus was God, the Son of God, Messiah.
Jesus was pointing to near-term prophetic fulfillment as proof of all else that had been said. Jesus’ prophecy would once again affirm his true identity as deity.
Prophecy is speaking forth God’s words while filled by and held in the influence of the Holy Spirit—speaking the mind and counsel of God past, present, and future. Later, the Apostle Peter would say
No prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.2 Peter 1:21 (NRSV)
Fulfilled biblical prophecy acts as proof that scripture is God’s word, because the accurate forecast of a future event must ultimately come from God, Who is the creator and sustainer of everything.
Two Truths About Prophecy
(1) Prophecy is fulfilled on God’s timetable, not ours.
(2) God’s prophecies often have a double fulfillment.
A single prophecy may be fulfilled in two different ways at two different times, or fulfilled several times, in several ways.
Almost all prophecies had meaning and weight for their original hearers because they would be partially fulfilled in their own day as a sign of their complete fulfillment in a day still to come.
In King David’s day there really was someone who was close to him, who ate at his table, who later betrayed him. Now, a much more profound fulfillment would take place as David’s descendent, the ultimate King of Israel, would be betrayed by one of his own disciples, who had lived with him, received his love, and learned his teaching for three years.
In ancient times prophecy had to be true all the time, as Moses instructed:
You may say to yourself, “How can we recognize a word that the Lord has not spoken?” If a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not be frightened by it.Deuteronomy 18:21‑22 (NRSV)
If a prophet was not one hundred percent accurate in his or her predictions, it meant the prophecy came from some other source than the one true God, and the penalty for that was being stoned to death.
Fulfilled Prophecy Authenticates God’s Identity
Fulfilled prophecy proves the God of the Bible is really God, and the Lord is the one true God
(1) Only God is omniscient: According to the scriptures’ testimony, the Lord knows everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen in the future, down to the tiniest detail. There is nothing outside the scope of what God sees and knows.
This is something of what John was conveying about Jesus, that all had been revealed by the Father to the Son.
(2) Only God is omnipotent: The Lord is powerful enough to make what God says will happen, actually happen. The only way prophecy can be fulfilled is if the God Who reveals future events is also the God Who governs history to see that things come to pass as God predicted.
John conveyed this by saying that all had been put into Jesus’ hands.
(3) Only God is truly sovereign: God’s will prevails even through human choices.
All this is not to say that Judas the Iscariot was without recourse, that inexorable fate had predestined Judas to treachery. Judas did not have to betray Jesus. Instead, every step of the way, he was free to make a moral choice between good and evil.
From the very beginning Jesus had chosen him along with the others to come be his student, and Judas had said yes. Jesus would send them, and others (such as the Samaritan woman) as apostles of the Gospel. But not all of them would choose the path of joy, of washing feet, Jesus had shown them this night.
Jesus reminded them of their mission.
Amen, amen, I say to you, the one who receives whoever I send, receives me, and the one who receives me receives the one who sent me.Jesus to all Twelve, John 13:20
But Judas had already decided he would not be one of these sent ones. Even though he had followed Jesus, and looked like the devoted disciple, it seems, in the end, he never believed that Jesus was the Son of God.
Jesus had entrusted Judas with the community purse, raising him in esteem to the other disciples. None of them suspected. Judas’ reputation as a disciple was impeccable. He had done great things already, and even held a great deal of responsibility among Jesus’ followers.
But in his heart, Jesus was not Lord.
When you look back through even just this gospel, you can see all the teaching Judas heard about Satan, the father of lies, who is a murderer. Judas heard Jesus’ many interchanges with the Pharisees, warning them about hypocrisy, about refusing to believe, about dishonoring God by dishonoring Jesus. Judas had gone along with the other disciples to spread the gospel, heal people, raise the dead, and cast out demons.
What had he thought about all that?
Had he enjoyed the power Jesus had settled on them, the power to heal and cast out demons? Had he marveled when people were restored even as he laid hands on them, or spoke the word? Did he understand what was happening when people turned from skepticism to belief, witnessing these miraculous signs?
And yet, it seems, greed had so twisted his inner being, and his sense of pride had so warped his view, that Judas was now overwhelmingly tempted by the thought of thirty pieces of silver, waiting for him. He was also surely still stung by the public rebuke Jesus had leveled against him for protesting Mary of Bethany’s extravagance.
From Judas’ perspective, Mary had wasted a colossal amount of money in a pointless, unsettling display of devotion. To be so summarily chastised, and in front of everyone, surely had sealed Judas’ heart against Jesus.
The temple elite’s promised blood money must have seemed all the more succor, after that night.
Judas was not doomed to be a traitor.
He chose to be one, and because God is sovereign, God prophesied that it would be so, through David. And now, a thousand years later, instead of Judas’ action undermining the other disciples’ faith, Jesus strengthened their faith by saying it would alright.
Even this is under God’s control.
Jesus might have said to Judas what Joseph had said to his brothers, millennia before,
Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as [God] is doing today.Joseph to his brothers, Genesis 50:20 (NRSV)
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