John 13:27a

Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him.-John 13:27a

As I read this verse, I was reminded of the character Weston from Perelandra (1944/2003) by C.S. Lewis. When Lewis first introduced Weston in the first book in his Space Trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet (1938/2003), he was already self-centered, manipulative, and controlling, governed by evil. In Perelandra, Weston was embodied by the evil one and became a sort of half-man.

I wonder what it meant that Satan entered Judas. He had already made the deal to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Luke 22:3-6 tells of the transaction, but it also says that Satan entered him there. These two texts would suggest that Satan entered him twice. Was Judas dealing with a conflicted spirit, a staccato torment? Regardless, the implication seemed to be that in these times of betrayal, Satan had overtaken Judas’s thoughts.

How about for believers today? When we give space to sinful thinking and evil intention, does Satan enter us or is it shorthand for communicating that evil has its way?

Jesus, you came to crush the head of Satan and destroy evil’s reign, yet so often tendrils of self-centered sin continue to grow in our lives. Teach us to recognize the evils of sin and to step into the light, remembering your finished work. Amen. 

John 13:25-26

So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.-John 13:25-26

Tensions were growing. Their celebratory dinner had taken an unexpectedly dark turn. Someone in their group was a traitor, but they still didn’t know who or what the betrayal would be.

At Peter’s prompting, John asked Jesus for the betrayer’s identity. Jesus’s response was clear. He wanted them to see how the betrayal fulfilled prophecy. Psalm 41:9 predicted “He who ate my bread, lifted his heel against me.” At dinner, Jesus had called the broken bread his body. I wonder, when Jesus shared the bread with Judas, was he communicating, “This is my body broken because of you” or “This is my body broken for you”? Perhaps both.

Jesus, before you came in the flesh, you knew that you would be betrayed. Jesus, if I am honest, I also have betrayed you; I have lifted my heel against you. Thank you for forgiving my betrayal by offering your body for me. Amen.

John 13:24

So Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking.-John 13:24

How often do we live in uncertainty, unwilling to ask questions or seek clarification?  If you are like me, you may fret alone or speculate with others when you are confused.  Uncertainty is a breeding ground for unhelpful assumptions.  In verse 22, the disciples were looking around, uncertain of who was the betrayer.  They could have kept their wondering to themselves, but Peter was willing to ask.  He routinely showed boldness in the presence of Jesus, seemingly unafraid of looking stupid. His confidence in Jesus made him freely ask questions when the others might not.  Peter motioned to John, who must have been sitting right next to Jesus to ask the question.

Peter teaches us that there is wisdom in vulnerably seeking clarity.  There is no righteousness in pretending to know the answer.  It takes courage to ask questions because most of us are afraid of looking stupid.  Sometimes, we don’t want to know the answer, but when we know the truth, we can deal with it head on rather than persisting in fear and uncertainty.

Jesus, we often fail to speak up because we do not want to look dumb.  Sometimes we are afraid of the answer.  Empower us to ask hard questions, listen for answers, and follow through with courage.  Amen.

John 13:23

One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus’ side.-John 13:23

In the midst of Jesus’s discussion of betrayal and the confusion of the disciples, John wrote this short line.  Sit with these few words for a moment.

First, John wrote “One of the disciples, whom Jesus loved.”  Although that disciple is never named, commentators universally believe John was referring to himself.  Of all of the New Testament writers, John shines the brightest light on the love of God through Christ.  Love saturates his gospels, epistles, and Revelation. John’s primary identity is not disciple, apostle, or ambassador for Christ; it was “one whom Jesus loved.”  His identity was his belovedness.

Second, notice that John was reclining at Jesus’s side.  They were not sitting in chairs around a formal dining table like we might imagine.  They probably would have been lying next to a low table or sitting comfortably on the ground.  John was likely leaning against Jesus during this intimate gathering of friends. 

Jesus, help us to know and remember our belovedness and understand that we are not merely numbers in your kingdom, that we are not disappointments to you.  Help us to know that you are pleased with us and to live out of the reality that intimacy. Amen.

John 13:22

The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke.-John 13:22

Jesus had just told the twelve that one of them would betray him.  There does not seem to be any indication from the text that any of them suspected Judas. They were twelve friends who had lived life together for a few years. They had no reason to be suspicious.  When Jesus announced the betrayal, they were incredulous, filled with confusion, anxiety, and anger.  They looked at one another, hoping to see the answer in the eyes of their friends.

Like the disciples, we have a hard time envisioning our friends betraying us.  We assume the best of our friends, which is a good thing.  Yet in reality, sometimes those closest to us—those we imagine to be the godliest—engage in unimaginable sins.  A beloved pastor is accused of sexual misconduct and we think “That could never be true; I know him.”  A child is accused of bullying a smaller child, and we say “My child would never do that.  He is a good kid.”  A woman whom you know to honest and good is arrested for embezzlement and you think “The police must have received false information. She’s the most honest person I know.” In reality, every one of us is capable of shocking sin and betrayal.  Wise people trust, but not uncritically.  We must be shrewd to the remaining vestiges of sin, even in those whom we hold in high esteem.

Jesus, you are our trust and hope.  We humans are fallible, broken, and sinful.  Help us to never minimize our sin, nor believe that we are somehow incapable of treason against you or others.  Help us to see others honestly yet grant us supernatural grace in the midst of trials, just as you have done with us so many times. Amen.

John 13:21

After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”-John 13:21

What does it mean that Jesus was “troubled in his spirit”? I think it means that Jesus was stirred up, upset, wrestling, or visibly bothered. When we think about the characteristics of Jesus, most of us would never think to describe him as “troubled.” We imagine him as serene, peaceful, or even disengaged.  When we base our understanding of Jesus on those assumptions, we come to believe that in order to be like him, we need to be emotionless–or only allow the positive emotions–happiness, joy, contentment, or humor.  We view “negative” emotions, such as anger, fear, or sadness, as less godly.  But Jesus was troubled because he was human.

He was facing death. His friend had betrayed him to the Sanhedrin and soon, they would come to arrest him, try him, and deliver him to a brutal crucifixion.  If he wasn’t “troubled in spirit,” he would be inhuman.

It is profoundly human to feel deep sadness over loss, anger about injustice, anxiety in the face of threat, or mirth when you hear a dumb joke. If you want to learn from Jesus, do not whitewash his emotional life because if you do, you erase his humanity.

Jesus, help us to know that to be created in your image is to be emotional.  Thank you for revealing your emotional life, so that we might know that our emotions make us more like you.  Help us to be honest with our emotions so that we will become fully alive. Amen.

John 13:20

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me the one who sent me.”-John 13:20

Jesus had been preparing these men for spiritual battle, ministry, and service.  He would soon commission them to carry his message of the Kingdom into the world.  He had spent so much time teaching them, because he wanted them to see and understand his revolutionary message.  He wanted to ensure that when they shared the message, they would represent it accurately.

He also wanted them to understand that anyone could receive his message of grace and would be welcomed into the Kingdom of God.  When you accept Jesus, you are accepted into his family. No exceptions.

We often worry that we are the wrong kind of Christian.  Sure, we love Jesus, but if we do not fit the “normal Christian” mold, we question whether we belong.  Jesus came to shatter the mold of performance-based religion, yet so often we keep trying to hammer people back into it.

Jesus, to receive you is to receive the Father.  Help us to understand the reality that anyone who accepts you cannot be separated from your family.  Thank you for welcoming all who would come to you. Amen.

John 13:19

“I am telling you this now, before it takes place that you may believe that I am he.”-John 13:19

Jesus never questioned his identity or purpose. He came to usher in his Kingdom, which was unlike anything people had ever seen or imagined.  He taught his followers what it meant to live Kingdom lives and die kingdom deaths.  Ultimately, he willingly went to the cross where he bore the sins of the world.

We should not be surprised that Jesus knew the story line.  He knew his betrayer was in the wings, not only because he was God incarnate, but because he knew the scriptures.  Even though he understood what was coming, he was also planting seeds of faith for his followers, so that in the midst of the coming chaos and confusion, they would remember what he said and trust the redemptive process.  Confusion still happens in our lives, but Jesus knows the road ahead. Like the disciples, he asks us to remember and follow.

Jesus, you regularly reminded your followers who you are and that all Scripture tells your story. When the way forward seems unsure, we often feel doubt. Forgive our doubts and help us to trust and remember. Amen.

John 13:18

“I am speaking to all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the scripture will be fulfilled, ‘he who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’”-John 13:18

Jesus circled back to Judas.  In verse 11 he had indicated that one of his friends would betray him.  Judas.  Jesus knew that he would be betrayed because it had been foretold in scripture.  Do you ever wonder if he knew when he chose Judas that he would be the betrayer?  The betrayal was part of God’s unfolding story.  Jesus referenced Psalm 41:9, which reads “Even my closest friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” Jesus had trusted Judas. They lived life together, yet he was betrayed by him.

In the next verse of Psalm 41, the psalmist wrote, “but you, O Lord, be gracious to me, and raise me up, that I may repay them!”  The psalmist did not write this from a place of petty vindictiveness, but from a recognition that justice would prevail.  God will deal with sin.

Have you ever felt betrayed, cast off by another, lied about, or ignored?  Perhaps a more important question is how often have you been the betrayer?  Jesus came to deal with ever betrayer, rebel, and renegade, paying for their sins on the cross, but like us, they need to accept his free gift.

Jesus, your friend Judas’s betrayal led to the cross. What a punch in the gut that must have been.  Yet, you willingly stuck to the plan. Forgive us for the ways in which we continually betray you, our friend. Thank you for your persevering grace. Amen.

John 13:17

“If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”-John 13:17

My best friend in college would often say, “I thought about it,” his typical response when pressed to share whether he had asked somebody on a date.  After telling me about a potential love interest, I would say, “You should ask her out.” Inevitably, his response would come: “I thought about it.”

As we have been discussing, Jesus came as Lord, but also teacher.  He did not come to merely download “Jesus 101” into their brains, he came to show them how to live.

In the past decade or two, the Internet has allowed a resurgent interest in theology with women and men reading Calvin, Spurgeon, and even Augustine. They fill their heads with quotes and strongly held convictions. I speak as an insider.  Yet too often, we amateur theologians fail to put into practice what we have learned. What happens when there are large heads on weak bodies? We topple over.  Jesus was essentially saying to those of us who want to follow him, “Okay great, you know my message, but do not just keep it in your head.  Live a life of love.”  Serve one another out of the abundance of your heart.

Jesus, strengthen my hands, my feet, my back, and my heart for the battle you have called me to enter.  I am prone to archiving theological knowledge that goes nowhere. Make me one who lives out what I believe, in your Spirit. Amen.