The Darkest Night
Tim Temple

Introduction

One of the most enigmatic and probably misunderstood characters in all the Scripture—really in all of history—is Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christians see him as the ultimate spiritual failure, a man who was in the very presence of Christ Himself for more than three years and yet he never really trusted in Jesus Christ personally. Even unbelievers think of him and use him as a example of one of the greatest traitors in all of history. But one of the greatest demonstrations of the love that Jesus Christ has for His followers, including us, is the fact that He loved Judas right up to the very end of his life and would have given him salvation at any point along the line that Judas would have turned to Him. We are going to see that demonstrated most clearly in the verses that we look at in this lesson.

By way of outline, we have divided chapter 13 into three parts. We see an example of humility in verses 1-17. We talked about Jesus' washing the disciples' feet and the lessons that He wanted them to learn from that. Then in verses 18-30, there is an exposure of hatred, and that is what we want to talk about in this lesson. In verses 31-38, we will see an exposition of heavenly principles.

An Atmosphere Charged With Emotion

In our last lesson, we looked at the example of humility which Jesus gave in washing His disciples' feet, so let's now look at the exposure of hatred that comes in verses 18-30. The first thing that we see in that regard is the revelation of prophecy that we find in verses 18-21. When Jesus had finished washing the disciples' feet and had sat down and explained something about what He had done and what it meant and how He wanted them to follow His example, the whole atmosphere must have been charged with emotion.

If you have ever been present at a foot-washing ceremony when it was done sincerely, you will have some idea of what I mean. I will give you an example that I was witness to recently at a pastors' conference in Atlanta. There were two speakers there, both were pastors and very prominent men. One was Tony Evans, who most of you know in this part of the country. We are more familiar with him, although he is known all over the country. The other man I had not really heard of, but was very impressed with his ministry, a man by the name of Wellington Boone. He is a pastor in the inner city of one of the larger cities on the East coast and has a large ministry there with a real focus on prayer in his ministry.

As Wellington Boone was preaching, several little things came out in the course of the message that made it clear that he and Tony Evans had had some kind of disagreement in the past and that it was a little awkward for them both to be on the stage at the same time. Without going into details of the things that were said, it just became more and more apparent that there had been some kind of disagreement. As Wellington Boone talked, you could tell he was sorry for that disagreement for whatever his part had been in it, and it sounded as if it may have been all his fault. He began to say, “But Brother Evans, I wash your feet tonight. If I had water here, I would wash your feet because I have come to see what a great man of God you are, and I have come to understand our differences.”

He never specified what the differences were. Of course, in a crowd that size anything can happen, and as Wellington Boone was saying that, somebody ran up from the audience and brought a liter bottle of water and put it on the stage. Wellington Boone kept right on talking, not even indicating that he saw that, but he kept saying how much he appreciated Tony Evans and how much Tony Evans had contributed to his ministry and other ministries. About that time, someone else came running up with a little, plastic tupperware type bowl and put it on the stage. When that happened, he said, “People do crazy things in a meeting like this,” but he kept on talking. He said, “I wash your feet, Brother Evans,” and he was giving a beautiful, eloquent expression of his love for Tony. Finally, a man came running up with a towel, waving it as he ran, and Wellington Boone said, “God has spoken.” So right there, with 40,000 men in the audience, the other men on the platform ushered Tony Evans up to the podium. Somebody else carried a chair up to the front of the podium, and Tony sat down. Wellington Boone stooped down in the presence of all those men, took Tony Evans' shoes and socks off and washed both of his feet.

It is just something that I can't communicate. You just had to be there. It was a holy moment. A hush fell over the audience that had just been laughing. It was funny the way it all developed, but when we saw what was taking place there, it was just a moving time. It was a very great blessing to be a witness to that.

On another occasion, I was ministering with a group of people and foot-washing was a part of the ministry one day when we were together. It is one thing to talk about it and to see it in print, but it is something else again to experience it. I can just imagine the hush that fell over that room when Jesus humbled Himself on His knees to wash the feet of these men for whom, within a matter of several hours, He would die. They were beginning to pick up on that fact. He knelt and washed their feet, so there must have been a holy atmosphere and a highly emotionally charged atmosphere as He did that. The hearts of the disciples were probably touched beyond words as they thought about His loving humility, and it must have pierced the core of their being as they remembered how, as they came into the room that night, they had been arguing about who would be the most prominent, and here the One on whose sides of the throne they wanted to sit humbled Himself and washed their dirty feet.

However, that wasn't true of all of them, and Jesus knew it. He knew that He had to prepare them for what was about to be revealed within the next few hours, so in verses 18-20, He begins to give this prophecy. The subject of the prophecy is in verses 18-20, and then the statement of the prophecy is in verse 21. Before we read those verses, let me point out again that He was trying to prepare the disciples for what they were about to see and hear, but He wanted to ease them into it, so He gave them a revelation that He knew would startle them and unnerve them. To make sure that they understood it as fully as possible, He began slowly by just giving some hints of who and what He was talking about.

Judas' Closeness

In verse 18-19, He talks about his closeness. Notice verse 18:

John 13

18I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.
19Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.

In the verses just before this, He had said, “You are clean through what I have done to you,” but He says in verse 18, “I do not speak concerning all of you.” They had been ushered into a time of close, intimate fellowship with Him through this washing of their feet and through the lessons they had learned from it, but not all of them. The first thing that He points out is that what is about to happen is going to happen right there in their group.

It is hard to understand the cruelty and the treachery that Judas maintained in the very center of the loving atmosphere of these verses. As I say, if you have ever been involved in a foot-washing ceremony or in some other instance where you really sensed the presence of the Lord, you wonder how Judas could have maintained his charade even through something like that—even more so to the Eastern mind because there is no treachery worse than to eat at a person's table and then to betray him. In our culture, that carries some overtones of fellowship and of closeness, but in the Eastern culture of Jesus' day and even today, it is an even stronger indication than it is in our culture.

Judas must have been a tremendous actor and an accomplished hypocrite when we consider he was able to maintain his composure right through this very intimate, emotional setting, and he had been doing that for three years. He had been living intimately with the other disciples, seeing Jesus do these great miracles and teach these great things, and yet he never fully believed in Him. It is amazing, too, that as suspicious and jealous as the disciples were, not a single one of them had suspected anything was wrong with him. Jesus was the only One Who at this point knew that anything was wrong.

Judas' Callousness

The first part of the prophecy talks about His closeness. In verse 20, his callousness is demonstrated. Notice verse 20:

John 13

20Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.

There was only one key ingredient missing in Judas' life, and that was that he had not received Jesus Christ. Everything else seemed to be right. Outwardly, everything seemed right, but he had not received Jesus Christ, and Jesus says, “He who receives Me receives Him Who sent Me,” so Judas was really not even a recipient of God's grace in the general sense of believing in God. Apparently, he was so selfish and so self-centered that even his relationship with God the Father was a purely legalistic, ceremonial kind of relationship.

I wonder if you realize that it is possible to be in the very presence of Jesus Christ and in close association with the people of Christ and still not have a personal relationship with Him. One of the things that I fear in a ministry like ours, where we spend our time talking about the Word of God, is that it will become commonplace to us and that we will take it for granted and that we will forget that the essence of everything that we talk about is the beautiful provision of a personal relationship with the God of the universe which God has given us. We talk about the far ranging implications of that as we look at the Word of God, and we talk about all kinds of different subjects as we work our way through various subjects and various books, but at its very core, and what it all comes back down to, is being personally related to God through Jesus Christ, having Jesus Christ as our older brother and having Him as our constant companion and being able to abide in Him and have His direction in our lives day by day.

Is that real to you or is it theoretical? As I look around the room, I know the testimony of probably everyone of you here, and as far as I can tell, outwardly, that is your testimony. But even if we know Him as Savior, it is easy to let these things become commonplace to us and hold them loosely. The irony of Judas' life and the irony of his situation ought to bring us up short and make us realize once again the beauty and yet the seriousness of this thing of being related to Jesus Christ, of knowing Him personally and of walking with Him, living in His presence and having His power within us. That is something that we should hold very closely to us and should have a great place of preciousness to us.

It may be that there is someone listening to this message on tape or reading it in the printed page, who knows all the details about Jesus Christ as Judas did but, like Judas, he has not personally appropriated that relationship to himself. That is more important. As I have been saying, we who know Him as our own personal Savior need to always keep that relationship in a place of preciousness, but if you for some reason have not trusted Christ as your personal Savior and have not appropriated all of this truth truly for yourself, now is the time to do that. We have no promise of anything beyond this moment, and it is my prayer that if you have not trusted Christ as your personal Savior, you will do so even now as I speak. As Judas demonstrates, it is possible to fool the people around us. It is possible, though I am not sure it was true of Judas, to deceive ourselves, but you cannot deceive Jesus Christ. The other disciples were deceived, but Jesus wasn't. He knew exactly where Judas stood.

Jesus' Prophecy

That leads us into the actual statement of the prophecy in verse 21. He has been working His way up to it, but now notice verse 21:

John 13

21When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.

What a bombshell! What a masterful teacher Jesus was to lead up to it so slowly. Remember, they had never heard this story before. They had never had the story in Sunday School or anywhere else. This was new revelation to them: “One of you will betray Me.” Think about the love of Jesus that is demonstrated in the first part of verse 21: “He was troubled in spirit…” Jesus did not take anything about our salvation lightly. Jesus knew that He would be betrayed, and as God, He knew that it would be Judas who would betray Him. It was not a new story to Him. It was not a shock to Him as it was to the disciples. Just as it is so familiar to us as we look at it, the fact was that Jesus was familiar with this. Yet, He was troubled in His spirit. He didn't take this for granted. He didn't take this lightly. It was not just a routine thing for Him. It broke His heart to come to grips with the fact that one of them would betray Him.

We have to be careful to realize that this doesn't mean that Jesus ordained this for Judas. It doesn't mean that Jesus was saying that Judas had to do this. II Peter, chapter 3, verse 9, says that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, even Judas. Judas became a hypocrite and a traitor by his own choice. As Jesus said these words in verse 21, I am sure that His voice broke as He struggled to keep the tears back. Judas, with the rest of them, would have seen the look on Jesus' face. He could have easily said, “I can't go through with it. I will not turn my back on Jesus Christ. I will accept Him as my Savior.” Up to and beyond that moment, he could have done that, but he hardened his heart and continued in his determination to betray Christ.

Prophecy said that someone had to betray Jesus, but it did not say who it had to be. It had to be someone close to Him. It had to be someone who had had fellowship with Him. The Psalmist said that he who ate at His table would rise up against Him, but over the months and years Jesus saw this pattern developing that it was going to be Judas who would fulfill that prophecy. As a human being, Jesus was wise enough to see it coming. As God, He knew it all along, and it is so hard for us to keep that tension between those two parts of His being, but remember that there are many variations in the way God could have done things in the life and ministry of Jesus.

Sometimes people ask, “Was it a legitimate offer when Jesus talked about establishing His kingdom?” We know, looking back on it, that He was going to be rejected and crucified and then it would be years and years before He came back to establish His kingdom. It hasn't even taken place yet. It is dangerous to carry this what if thing too far, but what if the Jews had responded? It was a legitimate offer of salvation and of the Kingdom to the nation of Israel; otherwise, it would have been a mockery, and what if they had accepted Him as their Messiah? The Scripture had said already that He would have to be crucified, that He would die for our sins, that He would be rejected and spat upon and all of those things that came true. It is possible that if the Jews had trusted Him as Savior, the very thing would have happened that they tried to make it appear was happening, and that is that the Romans would have descended on Jesus and descended on His Jewish followers as insurrectionists. That is how they tried to make it appear, and technically speaking, that is what Jesus was crucified for. But it would have probably happened in reality if they had trusted Jesus Christ as Savior, and Jesus would have died on the Cross for their sins and for ours and then probably arose from the dead and established His Kingdom within the next few days.

God knew that was not the way it was going to happen, and we know that is not the way it happened, but it could have happened that way because it would have still accomplished God's purposes. Someone could have betrayed Jesus in some other way, and Judas could have still been a believer in Jesus Christ. He was not forced to betray Jesus Christ. The gospel of salvation was available to Judas just as it is to you and me, and it was as much a legitimate offer to Judas as it was to you and me when we heard it and accepted it.

Matthew recorded his statement about Judas and all of this. He said, “The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him. Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” The reason that Jesus said that was that man, who turned out to be Judas, would be doing it by his own volitional choice. He was not just a pawn in a chess game. He chose to betray Jesus Christ, and so Jesus wants the other disciples to know that. He wants them to be warned ahead of time. So that was the revelation of the prophecy.

Reaction to Jesus' Prophecy

In verses 22-26, we see the reaction to the prophecy. The first reaction, of course, is confusion in verse 22:

John 13

22Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake.

They were wondering who it could be. That leads to investigation in verses 23-25:

John 13

23Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.
24Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake.
25He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?

I imagine most, if not all, of you understand the background of the wording of these verses, but we need to remember that in that Middle East culture, they didn't sit at a table like we do. Rather, it would have been a low, solid block with cushions on the floor around it. The host would occupy the place of honor at the center and the rest would recline on their left arm with a cushion under their elbow, and they would eat with their right hand. Their legs would be at at an angle and the next person would come and lie down there. The head of one man would be against the chest of the man next to him or close in proximity to the chest of the person next to him. That is why, in verse 25, we read that John leaned back on Jesus' breast and said this to Him. If we try to think of them sitting in chairs around a table as we do in our western culture, it wouldn't make very much sense.

Apparently, John was the one whose head was nearest to Jesus. Peter was at an angle to John, so he could surreptitiously ask John to ask Jesus who it was. Peter wasn't seated closely enough to Jesus to ask for himself, so he instructed John to ask. John refers to himself as the one whom Jesus loved. This is one of the places that he refers to himself in that way. As we have pointed out before, it was not that Jesus loved John any more than the others. Any of the disciples could have said, “I am the one whom Jesus loved.” John was just so conscious of it that he referred to himself in that way. He was right. He was the one whom Jesus loved. He wasn't the only one whom Jesus loved, but he was the one whom Jesus loved.

Parenthetically, how long has it been since you stopped to think about that? “I am one whom Jesus loves.” You can say that. Every individual one of us can say exactly what John said: “I am the disciple whom Jesus loves.” That is powerful, and it ought to be powerful in our hearts. We ought to stop and think about that every once in a while. We ought to emulate John and just bask in the fact that “I am the one whom Jesus loves.” It doesn't matter that all of the rest of you are disciples whom Jesus loves, too. I am the disciple whom Jesus loves, and you can say that just as sincerely and just as legitimately as I can. What a wonderful thing! I think John has done us a great favor in referring to himself in that way, not at all egotistically, but instructionally for us. It is a great thing that he took the liberty to do that.

In verse 26, we see the revelation—the answer to John's question:

John 13

26Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it…

Let's stop right there in the middle of the verse for a minute. I believe Jesus is still giving Judas a little room. Jesus knew it was going to be Judas, but Jesus also knew that it wasn't too late for Judas to respond. He could have easily said to John, “Well, since you asked. You're going to find out in a minute anyway. It is Judas.” Instead of that, He said, “It is he to whom I will give a piece of bread.”

I can't prove this from the text, but I think in the sense of what was going on in the room that night, He probably stopped for a moment and just held that piece of bread before He dipped it in the juice that was there and gave it to Judas, but there was no response from Judas. Notice the last part of verse 26:

John 13

26… And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.

Judas was the only one in that room that night who could have known what Jesus was about to do. Think what a powerful moment that must have been in the heart of Judas. Have you ever been in a situation where you were caught red-handed in something wrong, maybe something big wrong? Probably most of us have. There may be a few of you who haven't, but I will tell you I have been there. You know what a terrible, sinking, gut-wrenching feeling that is to be found with your hand in the cookie jar. Think how Judas must have felt. “He knows. He realizes what I have done, and He is about to prove it.” What a powerful hatred he must have felt for Jesus Christ to not be moved by the grace of Jesus Christ in delaying that revelation to the other men. I don't know how long Jesus waited, but it probably seemed like an eternity to Judas and probably to Jesus, too; but when He saw no response, even at that crucial moment and that crucial situation, He dipped the bread and gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.

Judas' fate was sealed at that point. It was His last appeal to Judas. If Judas had been like Peter, that love of Jesus would have melted his heart, but even this late in the game, he would not yield. He yielded instead to the power of Satan. Notice verse 27:

John 13

27And after the sop Satan entered into him…

He had been influenced by Satan. He had been led along the primrose path like Satan does to all of us, but when he didn't respond to the grace of Jesus, Satan entered into him fully. Judas became at that moment, technically speaking, demon possessed. He could have avoided it, but he didn't.

The Realization of Prophecy

In verses 27-30, we see the realization of prophecy. Notice verse 27:

John 13

27And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.
28Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him.
29For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor [they knew that Jesus said something to Judas, but they did not understand what He said] .
30He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.

You see, even though Jesus gave this revelation to the disciples, they still didn't fully understand. It was probably more than their minds could assimilate. It really wasn't until later as John reflected on this that he understood how the scenerio all fit together.

It is interesting to see how God protects the fulfillment of prophecy. When Jesus gave Judas his last opportunity, God apparently clouded the thinking of the disciples so they didn't understand what was actually going on. If they had understood, think what chaos would have erupted with impulsive Peter and James and John whom Jesus had called the sons of thunder . Judas wouldn't have lived long enough to betray Jesus, and prophecy would have been messed up. God would have had to find some other person to fulfill that prophecy, but as it was, they thought Jesus was sending Judas out on some Passover business.

Part of the Passover observance was to take food to the people who were too poor to have all the necessities needed for the feast, so they thought that Jesus was telling him to take food to some poor fellow. Thinking about it later, John apparently realized that when Judas had received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him, but John didn't know it at the time. As he was writing this years later and looked back on it, he understood.

Look at what John's impression was of that. Sometimes when we go through a traumatic experience and we think about it later, we just have a general overall impression of it. Here is what John's impression was, remembering he is writing this years after the fact. He says:

John 13

30He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.

I have given the title to this particular study, The Darkest Night , and as I toyed with different names, I decided that what John had in mind here was that that was just the darkest night ever. He was struck with the darkness of that moment. It was something that he couldn't even fully comprehend until later as he reflected on it. Think what a dark night that was for Judas. Jesus said that it would have been better for him if he had never been born. Judas has been in Hell since the night that he committed suicide a few hours after this story, and his name has lived on in infamy. You can see why Jesus said that it would have been better for him if he had never been born. But it was his own fault. He personally, individually, of his own freewill chose to reject Jesus Christ. Let me tell you something. To anyone who rejects the offer of salvation, there is that sense in which it would be better that he had never been born.

Judas' Motives

There is a great warning in the life and death of Judas that I think is important for us to keep in mind as we wrap this up. It is found in his motives for following Jesus. I think the major lesson that those of us who know Christ can learn has to do with motivation and motives. He didn't come to Jesus because he desired forgiveness of sin or physical healing or any of the other reasons that people came to Jesus. No doubt, as Judas saw the miracles performed and heard Him teach the people and saw the great impact that He had on people, he came to believe that He might have been the Messiah, but he knew that whether that was true or not, he wanted to be a part of it all. He thought that Jesus was going to be a king of some kind or other or at least He had the potential to be, and so he followed Jesus to see what he could get out of it. From the very beginning, his motivation was wrong. However, as time went by, Judas became increasingly exasperated and provoked by the Lord's actions and words.

In Mark, chapter 14, verses 4-5, is the story of Mary's anointing Jesus' feet. There were some who were indignant among themselves about the fragrant oil's being wasted. They said that it might have been sold and given to the poor. Then down in verses 10-11, Mark tells us that it was Judas who said that. He was in it for the money. As we look farther, Mark tells us that it was after that incident that Judas went to the chief priests and made a deal with them. They bargained to give him money, and they were glad that he had made the deal. They treated him royally.

Apparently, Judas decided that it didn't pay to follow Jesus. The authorities were against Him, and Jesus and the disciples were poor. He even turned away a rich, young ruler who could have taken care of all of them. On another occasion, remember, Jesus had escaped from a crowd who wanted to come and make Him king. Judas couldn't tolerate all of that, because that was exactly the opposite of the reason that he had followed Jesus. Judas hated to be poor, and he didn't like to be associated with a person who was becoming more and more unpopular as time went by, so when the Pharisees flirted with Judas and flattered him and gave him money, he responded. He probably even enjoyed the sense of power that he had as he came into the Garden of Gethsemane that night and gave Jesus away. He was in control of that whole situation, but he realized too late that he had sold his soul and had given his life for his own agenda. He had lost everything.

We should very carefully examine the motives of our own hearts in serving Jesus. I can tell you from personal experience that it is possible to be a professional Christian. It is possible to serve the Lord because that is our job, because that is what is expected of us, because that is what people think about us. There is even some degree of fulfillment in that kind of life, but the only real motivation, the only thing that brings the joy, the peace and love of serving Jesus is to serve Him as His brother and as His son and in response to the love that He pours out to us.

Why Do We Serve Jesus?

How carefully we ought to think about that. Why do we serve the Lord? Is it because of what other people expect of us? Is it because of the benefits and the blessings that we will have? Is it because of the comfort of a social group that we can be a part of or is it, as Peter said in John, chapter 6, verse 69, that some of the disciples were turning away from Jesus. They were like Judas and realized that it wasn't turning out as they thought it would, and they began to turn away from Him. Jesus turned to the twelve and said, “Will you also turn back from following Me?”, and Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

That is why we serve Him. That is why we should serve Him. To whom shall we go? Who else has the words of eternal life? Things may not go well when we are serving Jesus, but after all, who has the answers? Jesus has the answers. Who else can we go to?

Conclusion

Don't be discouraged if in serving the Lord things don't go as you thought they would. Judas gave up his life because he held so closely to that false impression of Who Jesus was and Who he thought Jesus ought to be. What we need to do is turn to Him in faith and love and walk with Him step by step and day by day, communing with Him in a heart of love, abiding in Him and seeing where He takes us.


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