Jesus and the disciples were eating the Passover Seder, it would be Jesus’ last supper before His arrest. Jesus knew that one of his best friends was about to betray Him, and that soon ten more of His friends would abandon Him. He knew that his trial would be a joke and He would be sentenced to death. And He knew that His death would be terrible. But He also knew that the culmination of His life was His death. He wanted to give up His life for those friends who stayed, the friends, who abandoned and those of us who hadn’t been born yet. His hour was mere hours away. Jesus had just taught the disciples that they had to follow His example and serve people in humility. Verse 21 reads,
“After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
The disciples couldn’t imagine that. They all looked at each other wondering who among them it could be. So Peter motioned to John to ask. And John asked. Jesus told them that it would be the one who He gave the bread to after it was dipped. He then gave the bread to Judas.
Today, we take bread and wine and remember Christ’s body and blood which He willingly gave for us. At my church we dip the matzo in the wine. Jesus handed the bread dipped in the wine to Judas. He handed him His Body. He gave Him the choice to follow through on His plan or not.
At that moment Satan entered into Judas because Judas made the choice to give Jesus up to the authorities. (Verse 27). But Judas already had the plan. (Verse 2). He had been playing with the devil and it was in that mulling over the plan and playing with it, that Judas gave Satan the invitation to enter. Jesus told Judas to hurry up and get it over with. Judas didn’t have to betray Jesus. He could have stayed with Him. All it would have taken for Jesus to be arrested would be for Him to go teach in public. The bloodthirsty Jewish leaders would have snatched Him up. Judas had a choice, before, during and after his treason.
When Judas left, the other disciples didn’t know what had taken place. They still had no idea the deceitful heart of their friend. They assumed he was going to buy food or make a donation or some other treasurer’s errand.
When Judas left, Jesus kept teaching. His words would have immense impact on the disciples in light of the events that were to soon follow. Verses 31-32 read,
“When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.”
In other words, Jesus was saying it was His time. People would see Him clearly for who He is and because of that God would be seen too. In Jesus’ crucifixion God would be glorified and Jesus would be recognized. Then He continued in Verses 33-35,
“Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Jesus was about to die for love of the disciples, the world, and you and me. He told them, “You can’t come with me right now, but I want you to love people, to show people who I am by loving people like they have never been loved before me. Love them the way I love you.”
Peter asked Jesus where He was going. And Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” Jesus was about to give up His life and though Peter couldn’t follow Him to his own death immediately, Jesus told him, one day He would. Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
Peter’s exuberance for Jesus could sometimes get him a little puffed up, and Jesus deflated his pride. Verse 38 reads,
“Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.”
Jesus predicted two of Peter’s acts in that conversation. First He spoke of an act of utter devotion, when Peter would be crucified and die for his faith in Jesus. Then moments later He foretold Peter would even deny knowing Jesus.
All but John would abandon Jesus that night. John and the closest women who followed Jesus would stay with Him through everything. But every one of the others would hide and disavow Him. Ten of them would also come back, follow Jesus even to the point of death, and spread the truth and love of Jesus to the world.
We are human. We sin. We have times when we choose poorly and choose well. Failure doesn’t have to be the end of your story, it can be the beginning.
Judas chose to betray Jesus and he chose not to come back and ask for forgiveness. He let Satan in and he wallowed in selfish pity and committed suicide rather than turn to God. Peter denied Jesus, not once but three times that night. He had chance after chance not to give in to his fear but he chose to deny Jesus. But Peter turned to God and repented. Peter went onto be the leader of the apostles. He spread the gospel. He lived for Christ and just as Christ prophesied, he gave up his life rather than deny Christ.
Only John didn’t betray Jesus that night. But all except Judas came back, repented and lived glorious effective lives for Jesus. You’ve messed up. You’ve done really bad things. Jesus forgives. Those acts don’t have to be what defines you. Let Jesus be who defines you.