Your browser does not support JavaScript. Please enable JavaScipt to view our website.

the power of betrayal

John 13:18-30

     This is Martin Luther King weekend and Sanctity of Human Life weekend here in our nation.  Both of those call us to open our eyes to the fact that in our nation and world human life is often devalued, disregarded and mistreated.  Sometimes that happens because of a person’s skin color, sometimes it is because of past failures – in Europe and the Middle East we see it because radical Muslims devalue those who disagree with them -- and sometimes it is human life in the womb that people treat as if it is not human life at all with 1.2M abortions in our nation this past year.  In a church in which Jesus is Lord, we of all people should declare to our world that every human life is made in God image, is a person for whom Jesus gave his life, and is one who can become a new creation in Christ.  So, with such weighty issues about the value of life in front of our society today, I looked and saw that the text that is before us as a congregation is the story of Judas and his betrayal of Jesus!  I almost decided to change passages.  I’ve asked in prayer, “What does this passage say to us about the value of human life?”

     With that prayer in my mind, I began to read John 13-17 again as it tells us what Jesus did and taught on the day before he went to the cross to die for us.  Jesus wanted us to know how we are to live in this time during which he is not physically present and before he returns to complete his work. 

Jesus’ Vision of His Church

     As I read the first 35 verses of John 13 again, this began to be clear to me:  Jesus began his last day with his disciples by sharing his vision of what the church is supposed to be.  Here’s what we find:  In a world in which people are divided in countless ways and in which some human lives are disrespected, Jesus in vv.1-17 calls those who follow him to be a loving community in which people serve people  -- seek the best for other people.  It is a beautiful and powerful vision.  “Just a I will serve you by washing your feet and soon by dying in your place, you serve one another.”  That’s what Jesus said. That’s what we focused on last week.

     When we get down to vv. 31-35, Jesus puts his dream into a command, “Love one another, “ he commanded.  “Just as I have loved you, you must love one another.  That is how a watching world will know that you are my disciples.”  Can you see what he was seeing?  In this broken and divided world in which there is a lot of disrespect, injustice toward people, and abuse everywhere, the church of Jesus Christ is to be a people in which the world sees the love of the church across the usual divides of race, age, gender, and social status.  The world should see this love and know this:  Those people must be Christians!

     Now, notice this: Right in the middle of Jesus setting forth that vision of a loving community in which every person is valued and served, we find the Bible reports a tragic story of the deception and betrayal of Jesus by one who was in his innermost circle.  Think about it:  If the love and trust of God’s people for one another is the way people will know that Jesus is the Savior, then the deception of Jesus himself by one of his closest associates will surely undermine everything.  That seems to be the “power of betrayal” that this passage asks us to grapple with.

     Let me say this upfront: This matter of trust being broken among those who claim to be Jesus-followers is still a huge issue for us in the 21st century.  When people have experienced a break of trust or lovelessness in the church, then they usually find it hard to trust again.  I think that one of the reasons for this is that we expect God to make his people all perfect faster than he does.  But, we human beings don’t fix fast!  So, if you have personally experienced deception and betrayal among church people, then I want you to see first that Jesus did among his disciples too – even after he had been walking with and training them for 3 years.

     In addition, in spite of this betrayal by a close disciple, Jesus continued to declare that communities of his followers existing in neighborhoods, i.e., local churches just like ours, are to be the places where people in locations like the our own are to see evidence of the power of the gospel to change us into people who love as Jesus loved. 

     So, how did Jesus handle it when, within the group he had mentored for three years, there was deception and betrayal.  What do we learn from him?  Let’s let John walk us through this as we go step by step through his report found in John 13:18-30.  What does Jesus tell us in the face of broken trust?

#1:  As destructive as betrayal is, even it cannot thwart the beautiful plan of God to make all things right in his creation (13:18-20).  “Scripture will be fulfilled…”

     Just after Jesus calls all followers to engage in loving service to one another and, as v.17 says, to be blessed, he stops in v.18 to say, “Not all of you will be loving.  Not all of you will be blessed.  Not all of you are chosen.”  Listen carefully again:  Jesus’ language of being chosen or not chosen has led to many miss Jesus’ main point, i.e., God is sovereign and even an evil like the betrayal of an intimate friend cannot thwart him.  That’s what Jesus is going to tell his disciples.  Jesus is wanting us to know that God’s eternal plan to have a family made up of people who trust in him and love as he loves – and ultimately will end in everything in creation being made right – will not be defeated by the lovelessness and evil of a traitor.

     Jesus knew the seriousness of this.  He knew that the disciples would ask, after Jesus had been crucified, “Was this real?  Were we deceived?  Was Jesus really the Savior?”  After all, if he could not transform even a group this small, how could he develop a God-glorifying people from all over the world?

     So, notice what Jesus did.  First, he took the disciples to Scripture.  In vv.18-20, Jesus pulled aside from calling them to find real blessing in life by being a community that serves one another and said, “Something is going to happen that will be the fulfillment of Scripture.”  The text he cited was Psalm 41:9 in which King David was betrayed by one who was very, very close to him, “Don’t be surprised when not all of you will truly follow me.  One will even betray me.  That could devastate you but don’t let it.  It’s all a part of God’s plan.  God will complete his work not only in spite of this betrayal – but also through it.

     In addition to citing Scripture, Jesus reminded them of who he was.  Jehovah God had made himself known to Moses at a burning bush in a wilderness as “I am.”  “When people find it hard to believe you, tell them ‘I am’ has sent you.”  Jesus says the same thing:  “When people say, ‘How can you truly believe that this is true when you have such duplicity and betrayal in your midst,” remember that ‘I am’.” V.19: “I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am.”

     I tell you, as destructive as deceit, lovelessness, self-centeredness and betrayal may be, God is still God.  His beautiful plans will not be thwarted by those who claim to be Christians but really are just playing the game.  That was true for Jesus’ innermost circle of followers.  It’s still true today.  Jesus told them, “Don’t give up on me.  Don’t give up on one another.  Stand together.  Serve one another.  Love one another.”  And I tell you the same today.

#2:  Even though deception and betrayal do not thwart God’s plan, it still brings anguish to his heart (13:21).  Jesus was troubled in his spirit…

     I have come to love the Gospel of John – for many reasons.  But, one of the main reasons is that the disciple known to be particularly close to and loved by Jesus, i.e., John, let’s us see the heart of Jesus more profoundly than anyone else.  In John 11, when Mary was grieving so deeply because of the premature death of her brother, John tells us Jesus saw her weeping and was “deeply moved in his spirit”.  This meant that the one through whom the world was made knew that when he was done with his work, there will be no more death.  There will be no more grieving.  No more weeping.  When he saw the death and grief in those he loved, he was troubled.  This is not the way things are meant to be – and it will not always be that way.   

     The very same phrase is used for Jesus when he considers a person who should reflect his own image – including faithfulness, integrity, service – being involved in deceit and duplicity and preparing not to serve but to betray.  Do you remember last week’s message when I pointed out from Jn 13:1 that Jesus loves you?  Well, he loved Judas too.  And Jesus loved him so much that he was troubled deeply when he saw a person he loved destroying his life and seeking to do the same to the lives of those around him by his sin.

     How do you think about Jesus?  Jesus is holy.  Yes, he is.  Jesus hates sin.  But Jesus loves the people of the world so much – he loves you so much that -- that, when you walk away from him, his heart is filled with anguish.  What Judas would do was wrong.  What Judas would do would fulfill Scripture.  What Judas would do would not thwart God’s beautiful plan.  But still, Judas’ sin brought anguish to Jesus’ heart.  And so does mine.  And so does yours.  Never forget that.  So, when you and I see flaws in others, what do we learn from Jesus’ words and actions in the face of his disciples?

#3:  When we see deception and betrayal in others, our response should not be proud criticism but deep introspection (13:22-25).  “Lord, who is it?”

     Jesus says in the hearing of all 12 men, “Truly, truly I tell you (in other words, “This IS going to happen!”), one of you will betray me.”  We have a fuller report in the other gospel accounts on how the disciples responded to Jesus’s declaration.  They all asked, “Is it I?”  They knew that the possibility of this level of wrongdoing was also in their own hearts.  This is one of the few times that the disciples seemed to have responded to Jesus’ words in an appropriate way.

     So, I see this passage as including a call to all who say we follow Jesus to engage in self examination.  The Apostle Paul took this up in Galatians 6:1 as he was talking about how a loving and God-honoring church would deal with the fact that all of us continue to fall short of God’s glory.  He wrote this: Brothers and sisters, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. And keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

     All 12 disciples needed Jesus to become a slave and wash their feet.  Do you remember that?  All 12 disciples would need the sinless Jesus to become a slave and die in their places for the forgiveness of their sins.  And the same is true of each of us here today.  Truly, truly, I say to you: No genuine follower of Jesus who grasps this can ever be proud.  We are all recipients of God’s mercy.  When a brother or sister comes to church and has failed, one thing we all must do is examine our own lives.

     Specifically, I believe we must watch out for those things in our own lives that would break trust with others.  How will you know what those things might be?  Let me give you the major clue:  The danger in your life that could break trust with those close to you is almost always is something that you try to keep hidden from them.  Is God’s Spirit convicting you of anything like that right now?  Confess it to the Lord right now.  Turn from it.  He will forgive and cleanse you.

     How do I know this?

#4:  Jesus is “longsuffering” and continues to offer grace to the worst betrayer – to the end (13:26-30).

Jesus dipped the morsel of bread and gave it to Judas

     When God made himself known to Moses in Exodus 34, he said that, when we think of him, we should always know he is merciful and slow to anger.  I love the older versions translation in which we are told that God is “longsuffering”.  Our actions and attitudes often make God suffer.  But, he loves us so much that he is patient and slow to anger.  He is LONG-suffering.  Nowhere is that clearer than in this passage.

     As I read all the accounts of this scene, I envision it playing out like this:  Jesus tells the disciples solemnly that one of them will betray him.  They express their fear, “Lord, is it I?”  But, Jesus does not respond immediately.  These 12 men who have been together for three years soon go back to their talking and bantering.  But Peter tells John, who was immediately to Jesus’ right side, “Ask him who it is?”  Jesus tells John, “It is the one to whom I will give a morsel of bread after I have personally dipped it in the cup.”  Some more time goes by so that, apparently as no one was watching, Jesus dips the bread in the cup and gives it to Judas.

     I want you to notice two important things here.  First, no one seemed to have been able to imagine that Judas would be the traitor.  Why?  For one reason, Jesus had come from the more up-scale and respectable neighborhood.  He was the one who was even trusted with the money – probably both because of his skills and his perceived integrity.  The rest of the group of 12 was made up of fishermen, a tax collector, a Zealot, men called “Sons of Thunder”, etc.  They would have been profiled as likely betrayers.  But not Judas.  Even when he leaves, they cannot imagine he is the betrayer.  “He must be going out to get what we need or to help the poor.”  This is to say that any one of us can and will be tempted to do wrong.  Moreover, we should not be shaken or surprised when those we trust the most, experiences a fall.

     Second, do not miss the poignant last attempt Jesus made to reach out to Judas.  When a man dipped bread into the cup and personally offered it to another, this was a powerful gesture that was saying, “I want to have a deeper or a renewed relationship with you.”  Let me ask you:  Would you have done this if you knew that person had already made plans to betray you?  This is the way of Jesus.  It’s the way he treats you and me.  And he calls us to be a community of grace.

     When I read this on Martin Luther King week, I immediately thought of his famous quote that was based on the life of Jesus:  “Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

     In spite of this mercy-filled offer from Jesus, Judas heads out to betray him.  Carol Kenyon helped me understand this a bit:  She said, “Probably, there was still the noise of 12 men talking with one another around the table.  When we are tempted, it often feels like there is all this noise resonating in our heads.  So, even when we know what Jesus is offering and we know what we want to do is wrong, the noise keeps us from thinking straight and we give in.”

     The Bible says, “Satan entered into Judas.”  The voice of Jesus offers grace but it is Satan whom Judas allows to direct his life.  Jesus had said just before going to the Upper Room in 12:46:  “I am light who has come into the world so that whoever believes in me may not be in darkness.”  But, Judas goes out… “and it was night (13:30).” 

What I want you to do in the light of the powerful Word of God?

  1. Ask God even now to open your eyes to those things in your heart and life that would lead to distrust that, if they were to come out into the light, would result in God’s name being demeaned – or in a break in relationship between you and those close to you.

* Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny (Emerson).

  1. If you have felt betrayed, I want you to commit that situation and person to God.  Ask him to give you wisdom to know what to say to the person you feel betrayed you and the courage and love to say it in the right way.  Never forget that as serious as deception and betrayal are, they do not have to ruin your life. God’s plan to make you complete in Christ will not be thwarted by another person’s wrongdoing --- just as Jesus’ plans to provide eternal life for sinners through his cross and resurrection could not be thwarted even by the betrayal of a close associate.
  1. Make a re-commitment to love and serve those in your church.  A church is a community of imperfect people saved by grace, people who are learning to humbly serve one another and love one another.  Do not give up on us, your brothers and sisters, in spite of our flaws.  Love us.  Serve us.  God is here and he isn’t done with any of us yet.  That’s what Jesus was getting at in this powerful and beautiful passage.

     You see, Jesus had a dream – a dream for the world he had made that all things will be made right.  When we listen to Jesus in John 13, we are listening to a man who is setting forth his dream.  His is a dream in which people would not be judged by their skin color, their age, or their past.  His dream included synagogue leaders, Gentile men and women, redeemed prostitutes, those who have experienced prison, educated men like Paul – all who will receive him by faith when he dips the bread into the blood and offer it to us and asks us to receive him. 

     I share this dream.  I dream this dream for us here at LAC.  Why?  Because it’s clear to me – and I hope to you, that Jesus’ dream that this family of people who respect the sanctity of each life would begin to be seen in the lives of his followers – in churches planted in neighborhoods, churches like our own in which he is Lord.  When Jesus is Lord, people respect one another.  People serve one another.  People offer grace and forgiveness to one another.  People do not give up on one another.  And it’s all to his glory – Amen.

To His glory,

Dr. Greg Waybright
Senior Pastor

Sermons Archive

Greg Waybright • Copyright 2015, Lake Avenue Church