“On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, “The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’ The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.’ They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, ‘Surely you don’t mean me?’ ‘It is one of the Twelve,’ he replied, ‘one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.’”—Mark 14:12–21 (NIV)
“So much to do, so little time.” I’m sure you know what that’s like . . . and so did Jesus!
On the eve of His crucifixion, Jesus had so much to say to His disciples to prepare them for what was coming and for their lives after His departure. So, He used the Passover Seder to do so. But first, they had to secure the venue for the meal. Notice how this entire scene with the two disciples finding the man with the pitcher and securing the room implies some secrecy. Why? Because Jesus, knowing Judas had already agreed to betray Him, didn’t want Judas to do so before He could give a final important talk to the rest of the disciples.
And once dinner starts, things get real awkward. Seriously, have you ever been at a dinner where things get uncomfortable? Maybe a political argument or a passive aggressive tense dispute goes down and you’re caught in the crosshairs.
That’s what we see here! First, Jesus tells His disciples one of them is not clean (John 13:10). Then, He proceeds to tell them that this same person would betray Him that very night, and declares, “woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” And as they sit there questioning themselves and pretty much asking, “It’s not me, right?” Jesus makes it clear that it would be Judas (John 13:26), but they didn’t catch that.
Judas is one of the most famous—infamous—people in history. His name is synonymous with betrayal. You hear people say stuff like, “Don’t be a Judas!” And even though his actions fulfilled prophecy, it doesn’t make him any less responsible for his actions. While Jesus knew Judas would betray Him, that doesn’t make Judas any less responsible. Just as Jesus foreknew all who would reject Him, they are all still responsible for their rejection of His saving grace.
Now, I want to close with a reminder that Jesus knew when He called Judas to follow Him that Judas would betray Him. And yet, He still called Judas, spent three years pouring into Him, teaching Him, doing life with Him, and loving Him. Jesus loved Judas just as He loves all people and “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4 NIV). Neither Judas’ betrayal nor a person’s rejection of Him changes that. We would do well to remember that as we interact with those who don’t know Him. For no one is too far gone, and just as He loves them, we must love them, pray for them, and seek to help them be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:11–21).
Pause How is it that Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was the fulfillment of prophecy and yet Judas was still responsible for His actions?
Practice: Do you know someone who is very hostile to the idea of Christianity, God, and the saving work of Jesus? Someone who seems so far gone and lost that there is no hope for them? Pray fervently for them this month. Find time each day to pray that the Lord would open their eyes to the truth, that the Spirit would draw them to salvation in Christ, and that He would use you in whatever way He sees fit to plant the seeds of the gospel.
Pray: Jesus, I thank You for Your all-surpassing, perfect, life-giving, sacrificial love for me and for all the world. Thank You that You love us all, even Judas, while we’re sinners, and that You made a way for us to be saved from our sins, from death, from eternal separation and suffering, and from an empty, unfulfilling life here and now. I pray that You would use me to bring Your salvation to those who are far from You in whatever ways You see fit, even if it’s uncomfortable or scary. I pray Your will be done in me and around me. Amen.