Notes on John 13:23-30

John 13:23‑30  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 8
The announcement of a traitor among the twelve troubled the disciples and led to anxious thought, as they looked one on another. What a testimony to His perfect grace who had known it all along, and had given no sign of distrust or aversion! How solemn for the saints who have to do with the same unchanging One day by day! Nothing precipitates into the enemy's hands more than grace abused and sin indulged, while outwardly one is in the presence of the only One whose life rebukes it absolutely. Let us look a little into the scene.
“[Now]”1 there was at table one of 2his disciples in the bosom of Jesus whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter then beckoneth to this one and saith to him, 3Tell who it is of whom he speaketh. He then having just fallen back4 on the breast of Jesus saith to him, Lord, who is it? Jesus [then] answereth, That one it is to whom I, having dipped the morsel, shall give [it]. Having then dipped he giveth the morsel to Judas [son] of Simon Iscariot. And after the morsel Satan then entered into him. Jesus then saith to him, What thou doest do more quickly. But no one of those at table knew why he said this to him; for some supposed because Judas had the bag that Jesus saith to him, Buy the things that we have need of for the feast, or that he should give something to the poor. He then having received the morsel went out immediately; and it was night.” (Vers. 23-30.)
Peter and John are often seen together. So here in their perplexity Simon Peter beckons to John as he reclined at table in the bosom of Jesus; for that John and no other was this favored disciple cannot be doubted from chapters 19:26; 20:22; 21:7,20,24. And how truly of the Spirit that one enjoying such favor should describe himself, not as loving Jesus, though indeed he did, but as beloved by Him, and this too as the disciple whom Jesus loved, withholding his name as here and elsewhere of small account, though plainly described at the close, where needed, and named where men might deny the authorship as they have done I It is intimacy with Jesus that gathers secrets, but imparts them, for others' good. Falling back just as he was on the breast of Jesus, John asks who it is; and the Lord answers, not in word only but with a sign, strikingly according to Psa. 41:99Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me. (Psalm 41:9), though an even more special mark of intimacy. In Judas' state that token of love only hardened the conscience long seared by secret sin, which shut out from the heart all sense of love. His very familiarity with Christ's passing through the snares and dangers of a hostile world may have suggested that so it would be now with his Master, while he himself might reap the reward of his treachery; the knowledge of His grace, without heart for it, may have led him to hope for mercy he had never known refused to the most guilty. The moment comes when holy love becomes unbearable to him who never relished it; and the sin he preferred blinded his mind and hardened his heart to that which had otherwise touched the most callous. “After the morsel, then Satan entered into him.” The devil had already put it into his heart to deliver the Lord up; now, after receiving without horror or self-judgment the last token of his Master's love the enemy entered. At being thus designated, there may have been irritation, which if retained gives room for the devil, even in ordinary cases, much more in his who had trifled with unfailing grace, and thus forgot wholly His glory, as he had ever been insensible to God's nature and his own sin. Jesus then saith to him, What thou art doing do more quickly, that is, sooner than was indicated by his pretension to share the doubts of the disciples or to join in what was before their hearts.
Never does God thus abandon to Satan poor man, however wretched and sinful, till he rejects His love and holiness and truth, above all shown in the Lord Jesus and this Gospel. There He may and does judicially harden, and this to irretrievable ruin, but only after the heart has steeled itself to the appeals of His most patient goodness. Still judicial hardening is a real thing on God's part, whatever may be argued by those who seem unwilling to allow frankly and fully the activity of God on the one hand and of Satan on the other. Not a whit better is the opposite school which seems to banish from conscience the solemn fact of responsibility, whether in a man or in a Christian, or as here in one who, though in the unremoved darkness of a man, drew so near the Son of God, the personal expression in man of all God's light and love. We have heard already how deeply our Lord felt the sin of Judas as the Moment approached and the design was allowed in his heart. Now the sentence goes forth, which closed the door of life for the earth on the Savior—of everlasting wrath on Judas. Yet did the disciples look on and listen without knowing the awfulness of the issues then pending. Not even John penetrated the meaning of words soon to be clear to all. It was not to buy things needful, but to sell their Lord and Master; it was no preparation for the feast but that to which it, not they, had ever looked onward, the fulfillment of God's mind and purpose in it, though it were the Jews crucifying their own Messiah, by the hand of lawless men; it was not that Judas should give to the poor—the last thing which would occupy his mind, but that He should who was rich yet for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. It was man's, a disciple's, worst sin; it was God's infinite love, both meeting in the death of the. Lord on the cross; but where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.
Judas then having received the morsel immediately wept out. What darkness rested thenceforward on that soul! “It was night,” says our evangelist. And that night deepened in its horrors on the faithless man; given to see his irreparable evil only when done, till it closed on his going to his own place.