At some point, as he was talking, the disciples had gotten their sandals back on and rearranged themselves around the table. Jesus, it seems, had also put his robe back on, taken off the towel, and set the bowl aside. They were now reclining together, and eating their meal, though Jesus still spoke to them.
After revealing to his disciples that not all of them perceived his teaching, and that one who ate with him would raise his heel against him, John noticed Jesus’ already pensive face cloud over. Clearly, Jesus’ quote from David’s famous Psalm meant something for this moment. Now, penning his gospel, John remembered,
Saying these things, Jesus was troubled and stirred up as roiling water in the Spirit.John 13:20
Work of Satan
Jesus knew Satan was there among the disciples, exerting his influence on Judas. Remember that already as the evening had begun, the devil had been at work. In the Greek, there is ambiguity as to whether Satan put the thought in Judas’ mind to betray Jesus, or whether, after surveying the room and weighing his options, the devil had determined Judas would be the easiest to turn.
Perhaps both meanings are meant.
Either way, Jesus was openly disturbed, and now spoke plainly.
He testified and said, “Amen, Amen, I say to you, one of you will deliver me up to judgment.”Jesus, John 13:20
The disciples were, of course, stunned and upset. I imagine several had already intuited where Jesus was leading, with his reference to the betrayal of King David in antiquity. But there was now no missing of what he meant.
Peter was so agitated, he leaned over the table to John and asked him to find out who it was. John, who was seated at Jesus’ right hand, leaned against the Lord and asked.
No one even suspected it would be Judas, and Jesus had never let on, never exposed him, until tonight.
Who Is it?
Imagine thirteen men arranged around a low table, reclining on pillows. The dishes are arrayed down the table’s length, boards of matzah, hummus with garbanzo beans and pine nuts, olive oil with herbs, salt and spices, dried fruits, perhaps a meat stew. All are using their matzah to scoop various helpings of the food into their shallow bowls. It has been a distressing meal, so far, and they are hungry for the comfort of food.
John is leaning against Jesus, perhaps a motion familiar to them both, for the Lord loves his own, and is an affectionate man. Jesus smiles down at his youngest disciple as John asks, “Sir, who is it?” John’s face is drawn in the lines of alarm, and so is Peter’s, his eyes round with apprehension, his lips pulled down.
Jesus glances up at Peter and holds his gaze for a moment, then turns to Judas, who has been diffidently pushing his food around on his plate,l not eating. It is clear Judas can feel Jesus’ eyes on him, but he does not turn to meet them. He continues to look down and pretend he has no idea.
Between their bowls is a shallow dish of cooked red lentils mixed with grain. Jesus calmly picks up a piece of matzah from his plate and breaks off a small piece. He holds it up so that John and Peter see it, and Judas could see it if he were to turn his head. “That one,” he said, “who I dip the sop and give to him.” John and Peter stare at the bread as it makes its slow and steady descent into the lentils, then rises up, laden with portent.
Just as John had been leaning on him, so now Jesus leans on Judas, bringing the bread and lentils into his view.
Judas could not help but see it, dripping softly onto his other food.
Slowly, he lifts the hand that had been hanging limply over his bowl, and takes the bread from Jesus.
Inexplicably, a rush of hot and dusty wind swoops through the open window, crackling through the tree leaves, causing the oil lamps to flicker widely, lifting the hair like prickles cross their arms and neck. John’s chest tightens, and he feels burning rise up through his throat, and sees Peter is also swallowing. His head aches with the hot wind, and his eyes sting.
Small beads of perspiration appear along Judas’ hairline, his jaw tightens, his lips thin into a line. John knows that look. He had seen it the night Mary had anointed their rabbi.
Just as suddenly as it had come, the hot wind is gone, but it has done its dark work. The men are now focused on Judas, who is still holding the sodden bread. He drops it into his bowl and wipes his fingers on the wood of the table.
Jesus speaks in a voice even those at the end of the table can hear, “What you do, let you carry out quickly.” Judas gives a curt nod and rises abruptly from the table, looking at no one. With one swift motion he has left the room and shut the door. For a long moment, Jesus watches the door, then lowers his head as he wipes an eye with his thumb.
No one understands what is happening, not even Peter, not even John.
Way of Satan
It had been Judas’ last chance to turn back from his plan, but each little decision to steal their money, to resist Jesus’ teaching, to be critical and disappointed, to side with the religious rulers all led up to this one momentous decision.
In the months and years that passed, John must have often returned to this night in his thoughts. What had happened? Why had it happened? Perhaps he asked the risen Lord, during the time Jesus spent with them, before he ascended. At some point, John came to understand that Satan with all his darkness had entered Judas as he took the bread from Jesus.
Satan can be resisted, but Judas did not resist.
Satan cannot enter anyone who already is filled with the life of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, and protected by faith.
But Judas had no faith.
Judas refused to admit to his ambition, yet this talk of humble service must have been repellant to him, the opposite of what he was looking for. He did not take the warning seriously that by loving his life he would lose it.
It seems it was not until this point, when Satan entered him, that Jesus would give up on Judas. but now Jesus quickly sent Judas away so the rest of Jesus’ time could be spent well with those who loved him.
Being faithful in the big things begins with being faithful in the little things
The greatest battle that goes on in the world today is for the mind.
You and I learned how to cope with life using thought patterns and behavior patterns that are not compatible with God’s way.
- Lots of people learned to lie to protect or promote themselves.
- We refuse to face the truth so we pretend it does not exist – some people call this denial.
- We indulge in a fantasy life because real life is so unpleasant.
- We withdraw from people so people will not reject us.
- We regress, revert to behavior from our childhoods.
- We take our frustrations out on other people.
- We blame others for our troubles.
- We make excuses for ourselves.
You and I are to unlearn what we learned trying to cope. The antidote to Satan’s deceptions and schemes is found in retraining our minds, renouncing the lies, reprogramming the way we think by renewing our minds daily through the study of scripture, prayer, and living out the truths we learn.
Because Satan is the father of lies, you and I are committed to believing the truth, speaking the truth, and applying the truth every chance we get—like addicts, we enter a recovery program that renounces the old life and commits to truth.
- No lies.
- No manipulation.
- No deceptions.
[Judas receiving the sop | The Brooklyn Museum, James Tissot / Public Domain]