The betrayer revealed
“A man is like a novel: until the very last page you don’t know how it will end. Otherwise it wouldn’t be worth reading.” Yevgeny Zamyatin
We’ve said all along that Jesus had set his face toward Jerusalem back in Luke 9:50, then he walked to Jerusalem for the following 10 chapters. We can read the four gospels knowing that each of them ends with the death and resurrection of Jesus – as if that is obviously how it is all meant to end. But as the disciples lived that out and as Jesus headed toward Jerusalem and then toward the Passover meal, he has not lived that event before – and yet he knows exactly how it will be played out. We are reading a story that we’ve read many times before and yet at one time it had never been told before. This week we will explore the relationship between what God has planned from ages past and how He and the disciples participate in it by their own free will.
Read Luke 22:1-23
Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2 and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5 They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 6 He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.
7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”
9 “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.
10 He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 11 and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.”
13 They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. 21 But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22 The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” 23 They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.
What did you see?
- A narrative on consenting to evil (1-6)
- Preparing for the pre-prepared (7-13)
- As it has been decreed (14-23)
A narrative on consenting to evil (1-6)
“…the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching…” The Passover originates and is described in the book of Exodus and was to be a lasting festival for all generations. The unleavened bread was to remind the people how they were redeemed suddenly and had to exit Egypt quickly.
“…and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus…” John 11:55 describes this as a time when people would come to Jerusalem in order to prepare themselves for the festival – making themselves clean. The priests should have had better things on their minds rather than getting rid of Jesus.
“…for they were afraid of the people.” The method of removing Jesus was tricky because they feared the people. They should rather be fearing God!
“Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve.” The bible is consistent in teaching that evil is everywhere and there is no society exempt from corruption and lies. Even one of Jesus’ closest 12 were open to wickedness. Why does it seem so surprising when we hear of ‘good’ people doing bad things. NB there were two disciples named Judas and so his name is given more detail to distinguish him. The word Iscariot has no particular sinister meaning. Not then anyway! It is likely related to where he was from.
What is meant by Satan entered Judas? The answer to that can range from a spectacular hollywood possession sequence where he was once timid like Dr Jekyll but became hunched and sneering like Mr Hyde – or as subtle as described by CS Lewis in his famous book The Screwtape Letters where it only takes a silent whisper to make Judas, the ‘patient’, decide to do the worst. Luke has previously described demons entering a person (Luke 8:30) as well as Jesus having a conversation with Satan (Luke 4:1-13). So, Luke is not suggesting it is merely a metaphor. But he neither expresses how others perceived this to be happening. The least and perhaps most we can say is that the betrayal of Jesus had the attention of Satan. What follows is a perfectly boring description of what being possessed by Satan looks like.
“And Judas went…and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity…” Quite boring really. But when people discuss things in private that have the destructive effect on those not present, that is when evil is in action. The fact that this is really quite dull and normal highlights how frequent sin can be at work. Judas went, they discussed, an agreement was made and, most importantly, Judas consented. Perhaps that describable event is a little narrative about what it was like for Judas to listen to Satan. The Adversary entered Judas, there was, perhaps, a silent discussion and then Judas consented – and so he went and talked with the chief priests. We must not think of Satan as an omnipresent creature who is able to speak to all of us all of the time, but we should take the warning that he or his messengers may suggest things to any one of us. Judas was not being possessed by Satan to the extent that he was no longer himself. Judas had entertained the idea by Satan and had consented to going to talk to the priests. Full blown sin does not just happen. It begins with a temptation. A thought develops. A plan manifests. Consent. Wait for the opportunity. Take it. Although Satan is not included, James offers a pathway from temptation worth noting (James 1:14-15).
Ironically, while the chief priests should have been preparing for the Passover festival, they were focused on how to get rid of Jesus who, we now celebrate as the true Passover Lamb. They were neglecting their duties and at the same time doing exactly as God had prepared in order for The Passover to truly take place.
Preparing for the pre-prepared Passover(7-13)
“Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed…“Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”” The Festival was a week long festival with one of the days dedicated for the killing of the Passover Lamb. On the very first Passover, a lamb was killed and its blood painted on the doorposts so that the angel of death would pass over that home and the firstborn child was saved. This event had two levels (as did roughly all the narratives of the Old Testament). Firstly, it describes God’s grace and mercy and saving power to rescue a people who were once slaves to become the very special and chosen people of God. It is a historical picture of how Israel came to be God’s redeemed people. Secondly, it setup Israel with a message to be repeated annually for them to one day see the death of Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of that Exodus event. God had been preparing Israel and all future Bible readers to the idea of salvation from slavery, by means of a sacrificial lamb with only the call to believe and act out that faith.
“He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.” The words that Jesus uses leading up to that sentence is like something from a secret spy movie or something. Whether Jesus had arranged this on a previous visit to Jerusalem, or by talking to someone during the day or whether he somehow used his powers of divine sovereignty to accomplish this – who knows? It adds more flavour to the narrative that Luke is giving us in this entire section of the pre-arranged ordained events that all the characters believe they are living out for the very first time. Judas is acting out on his own desires and yet God knew that this would happen. The Passover has been reenacted every year for centuries and yet it has been a strange recital of an event yet to take place at the cross. And here is a meal that needs to be prepared and yet Jesus already knows exactly where it is meant to happen. The disciples are to prepare something for the first time that has already been prepared by God.
“They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.” Everything was prepared just as Jesus had foretold it. So the Passover meal which is a foretelling of the death of the Son of God will be prepared by the disciples just as the Son of God had described. Good. Is it like living out a story that has already been written?
As it has been decreed (14-23)
“When the hour came…” Luke keeps using these time indicators to move the story along like the clock is ticking. Like the time is counting down to an end.
“For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” Jesus states plainly here that the Passover is not a meal that looks back to an old historical event but one that looks forward to the death of God’s firstborn Son. And that death is not something that points forward to another thing but is the fulfillment. The Exodus of Israel under Moses was a shadow of the true exodus in Christ.
“This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” This Passover meal was a pointer to the real fulfilling event and the meal is to become, after that event, a reminder of Jesus and his body given for “you”. So, neither is the bread ever actually his body, nor is the meal without meaning. It is a helpful gift from God to help us focus our minds on the act of salvation that has come at the cost of Jesus’ body.
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” See Exodus 24:8; Jer 31:31-34; Hebrews 9:15. Jesus’ blood was necessary for the forgiveness of sins. The Old Testament sacrificial system taught us of the purpose of this but only Christ could truly provide for the wrath of God to be averted from us forever.
“But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table.” Both the hands of the lamb (Jesus) and of the sinner (Judas) and of the true High Priest (Jesus) are present at the table. Note that when the sacrifice was made at the altar, the sinner would bring the animal to the tabernacle, kill the animal himself and bring the dead lamb to the priest for the sprinkling of the blood. At this ceremonial Passover, in preparation for the actual death of Christ, all parties are present with their hands at the table. Leviticus 3:2 for example. This is not to suggest, however, that Judas is forgiven for this betrayal as Jesus indicates next.
“The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” This whole narrative has been demonstrating the dance between influence, sovereignty and free will. Judas consented to betray Jesus. He is to blame. Both Satan and God were aware of who would betray Jesus. The room for the Passover had been prepared somehow and yet the disciples were asked to go and make final preparations for the meal. The death of Christ was forecast from the beginning of the Bible and yet is being played out right in front of the disciples and they are all participating in the event. Satan and the evil suggestion of others provide the influences in this story. So does the signal from Jesus to make preparations for the Passover. These are all examples of how we are influenced. God is fully aware and able to interact with the events, all the while remaining innocent of evil. Judas and the disciples are all able to make decisions at any time to do good or evil. Mind=Blown.
“They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.” Even after this discussion at the table of how bad it would be for the betrayal to happen, Judas will still go and do it. Sin has a tight grip on the human will. It is a difficult thing to be tempted, to entertain the idea, consider how it could be carried out in secret and then to repent of the thoughts and choose to say no. That takes great will power. But by the grace of God, we are able to do it! Only because of the blood of Christ and the power of the Spirit living in us, we are able to participate with Him and say no to all ungodliness. It remains difficult. Even Jesus is described in Hebrews 5 as being obedient to the Father with cries for help!
What did we learn?
Jesus is the fulfillment of the Passover story who stepped through the sequence of events with his eyes wide open. The God of righteousness will act in order to pour out righteousness on all who believe. Judas acted in fulfillment of what was required and stepped through the sequence of events in full control and awareness of what he was doing. He most likely did not understand Jesus to be the Passover lamb, but he did know that he was about to betray an innocent person. The Sovereignty of God is on display here as His plans unfold despite the evil actions of others. Romans 8:28 does come to mind.
Topic A: Grasping the will of God and participating in it. Free will is a tricky topic. Did Judas choose to betray Jesus? Did the disciples really prepare the Passover meal? Yes and yes. Was God surprised by these events? Not at all. God has created us with the freedom to choose minute by minute what we will do, say and think. And yet He is in complete command of the events of history. Perhaps He knows how every decision will play out in this complex universe of relationships. Perhaps He has orchestrated all things for His own glory even despite allowing sin. Perhaps both. We can trust that God has the whole world in His hands even when we feel like it is in the hands of others. We can trust that today we are to make every free decision choosing to obey the King rather than listen to our own evil desires and consenting to sin. Whether we buy free range eggs or not is a matter of free choice within a universe Sovereignly overseen by an all powerful and all caring God.
Topic B: Understand the progression of temptation through to sin and of temptation through to repentance. I think it was JC Ryle who said that you cannot stop a bird from landing on your head, but you can stop it from building a nest! We live in a world of temptation. If it isn’t the devil or the world then it’s our own evil desires that spark with ideas of sin. Temptations come but it’s what we do with them that matter. Because of repentance that leads to salvation through Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are now invited to put on the armour of God and fight. It is not a battle of nations. It is a battle between the flesh and the Spirit. There is a description of Jesus, in Hebrews 5:7-10, fighting hard to resist temptation and to keep on choosing righteousness. Another person once said that it is impossible to both pray and sin at the same time. I take it that means that when we are communing with God, we are actively turning from the temptations of this world. It’s not a scriptural promise, but it does work as good medicine when temptation comes knocking. Get that bird out of here!
Topic C: Jesus is the Passover Lamb – do you understand that? Understanding what that means on a technical level is one thing. The Old Testament comes to us Christians as a template preparing us for and explaining the language of sacrifice. He dies in our place. We are rescued because he lay down his life. And so, understanding the deep implications of this will influence how we think about our own godliness and holiness. We can sit at the table of God in heaven only because Jesus laid down his life for us. I did not get noticed by God because of my goodness or talents but because I was a sinner that needed saving. Because Jesus gave himself, by his own free will, in accordance with the will of the Father, I am able to be forgiven. The Lord’s Supper is a time of remembering and embracing and thanking God that He provided the sacrifice for me.