Notes on John 13:18-22

John 13:18‑22  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 10
The hint which closed verse 10 is now expanded into the growingly solemn intimations in word and deed that follow. It is no longer Christ's love caring for His own, either once for all, in atoning self-sacrifice to God for them, everlasting in its efficacy; or in unintermitting cleansing by the word, as for them He died on earth, living for them in heaven, that they might be practically in unison with the relationship of grace into which they had been brought, spite of the defilements of the way. Here it is the faithless indifference of nature, with a conscience increasingly seared by indulgence in a besetting sin, which Satan was about to lure into and blind to high treason against Christ, availing itself of the closest intimacy to sell the Master and Lord, the Son of God, for the paltriest price of a slave—to sell Him into the hands of enemies thirsting for His blood. It may not be the hatred of these; it is utter lovelessness, betraying Him who was at this time more than ever showing and proving His love, not only up to and in death, but in life beyond it evermore. Now the unbelief which, having eyes and heart, sees not nor feels such love, precipitates, above all, into Satan's deceit and power. This we sorrowfully behold in Judas; and no one felt the sorrow as the Lord.
“I speak not of you all: I know whom1 I chose out, but that the scripture may he fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me [hath]2 lifted up his heel against me. Henceforth I tell you before it come to pass, that, when it hath come to pass, ye may believe that I am [he]. Verily, verily, I say to you, he that receiveth whomsoever I send, receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me. Having said these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say to you, that one of you shall give me up. The disciples [then]3 looked one on another, doubting of whom he spoke.” (Vers. 18-22.)
The Lord, then, did, and does, look for activity of love among His own. If they were objects of a love which could never fail, He would have them instruments or channels of it one toward another, and this in respect of evil to remove it, whereas legality could only condemn. Himself the Son, yet the servant in love, He would exercise them in the service of love, where defilement otherwise would repel. But as He came to suffer for our sins, so also He was going away to form us while on earth into His own mind and affections, through the truth, and in doing so to cleanse from every way which might grieve the Holy Spirit, whereby we are sealed till the day of redemption. For it is not a question of removing the guilt of a sinner only, but of restoring the communion of a saint, whenever interrupted by allowed evil. And in this last dealing of love, He would have His own caring one for another. But He did not speak of all the disciples then present: sad presage of what was to be far more common in after days! He knew whom He chose out: Judas was not among such, though called to be an apostle. He had never known the Lord—knew nothing truly of His grace or of His mind—was not born of God. Why, then, had he been selected for that place of honor, the apostolate, in immediate and constant attendance on the Lord here below?
It was not that the Lord was unconscious of his character, conduct, or coming catastrophe, but that the scripture might be fulfilled, He that eateth bread [hath] lifted up his heel against Me. Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked of old; he forsook God his Master, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation. Judas went incomparably farther in his guilty indifference to the Son of God come down in love and humiliation, and in his eagerness to serve himself at all cost, betraying his gracious Master for the merest trifle. Never was such love, never such slight and abuse of it, and this in one of those specially responsible to be faithful. Doubtless it would be through Satan's power; but to this flesh exposes, and so much the more because of nearness outwardly to the Lord who is not believed on to salvation. There comes out, most palpably and fatally, the hard baseness of the unrenewed heart, and this against the grace of the Lord above all. Thus, if the disciples were in danger of being stumbled by such an one's defection, the evident fulfillment of scripture was meant to strengthen their faith in every written word of God. By this man lives Godward: bread, money, anything here below, may be the occasion of his ruin. How wondrous the patience which, knowing all from the beginning, bore all to the end, without a frown or sign of shrinking from the traitor. But so much the more withering must be the sentence of judgment when it comes from His lips, the Lord of glory, the hated and despised of man!
The Lord gives precision to ancient oracles, hitherto applied only to others, as here to David suffering from Ahithophel. But the Holy Spirit wrote of Him preeminently; and He too, before the event, cites the word about to be verified in the treachery toward Himself. Thus did the Lord prove alike His perfect and divine knowledge of what lay yet in the future, while He taught the inestimable worth of scripture, and, not least, of not yet fulfilled prediction, meeting in every form the incredulity of believers as well as of unbelievers. For who knows not the accepted maxims which assume the dark and doubtful character of unfulfilled prophecy, which denies prophecy even to the prophets, still more to the Psalms and to the law? At least men should fear to give the lie to Him who declares Himself the Truth, and spoke as never man did; they have reason to fear, if they turn away from Him to lying vanities, which, far from being able to save their votaries in the day of need, shall themselves be as stubble to burn themselves, and all who trust them. Jesus, on the contrary, is never so transparently the Messiah as when beforehand He points to the word of scripture about to be accomplished in His own rejection and death of the cross, and affords in it a firmer ground of blessing for the poorest of sinners than in all the glories of the kingdom to be fulfilled in their season.
Then, with His usual mark of profound solemnity, the Lord binds the reception of His sent ones with Himself and His Father. “Verily, verily, I say to you, he that receiveth whomsoever I may send, receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me.” This was the more important to be added here, for some might question their standing before God because of the awful doom of Judas, when and where known. The Lord comforts such, and turns from occupation with the fallen servant to the Master who abides forever the same, as does the Father. Did Judas betray the Lord? This sealed his own doom, but touched not the authority any more than the grace of Christ, as of God Himself. If they received one whom Christ sent, be his end even what it might, they received the Son, and so the Father, instead of sharing in the guilt or danger of punishment of the servant who dishonored his Master.
The Lord then, manifesting the deepest emotion, proceeds to urge the sin home, limiting its worst form to one only of the disciples. “Having said these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified and said, Verily, verily, I say to you, that one of. you shall give me up.” It was holiness, it was love, which took thus to heart the impending iniquity of Judas. In every point of view the Lord felt it—in itself, in its contrariety to God, in its bearing on others, as well as on Himself, and in its awfulness for the wretched guilty one. It is not self, but love, which is associated with the truest sensibility; and the Lord expresses it as a testimony also, “Verily, verily, I say to you, one of you shall give me up.” They were all faulty, but one, and only one, thus about to become a prey to Satan, and the tool of his malice against the Lord. Their doubts were as honest, as his place in their midst was now a lie against the truth. If he joined the rest in looking one on another, it was hypocrisy, for he could not really doubt of whom Jesus was speaking. Yet no blush, no paleness, betrayed Judas. The disciples must have recourse to other means of learning the sad truth.