We have here the discovery of Judas’s plot to betray his Master. Christ knew it from the beginning; but now first he discovered it to his disciples, who did not expect Christ should be betrayed, though he had often told them so, much less did they suspect that one of them should do it. Now here,
I. Christ gives them a general intimation of it (John 13:18): I speak not of you all, I cannot expect you will all do these things, for I know whom I have chosen, and whom I have passed by; but the scripture will be fulfilled (Ps. 41:9), He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. He does not yet speak out, either of the crime or the criminal, but raises their expectations of a further discovery.
1. He intimates to them that they were not all right. He had said (John 13:10), You are clean, but not all. So here, I speak not of you all. Note, What is said of the excellencies of Christ’s disciples cannot be said of all that are called so. The word of Christ is a distinguishing word, which separates between cattle and cattle, and will distinguish thousands into hell who flattered themselves with hopes that they were going to heaven. I speak not of you all; you my disciples and followers. Note, There is a mixture of bad with good in the best societies, a Judas among the apostles; it will be so till we come to the blessed society into which shall enter nothing unclean or disguised.
2. That he himself knew who were right, and who were not: I know whom I have chosen, who the few are that are chosen among the many that are called with the common call. Note, (1.) Those that are chosen, Christ himself had the choosing of them; he nominated the persons he undertook for. (2.) Those that are chosen are known to Christ, for he never forgets any whom he has once had in his thoughts of love, 2 Tim. 2:19.
3. That in the treachery of him that proved false to him the scripture was fulfilled, which takes off very much both the surprise and offence of the thing. Christ took one into his family whom he foresaw to be a traitor, and did not by effectual grace prevent his being so, that the scripture might be fulfilled. Let it not therefore be a stumbling-block to any; for, though it do not at all lessen Judas’s offence, it may lessen our offence at it. The scripture referred to is David’s complaint of the treachery of some of his enemies; the Jewish expositors, and ours from them generally understand it of Ahithophel: Grotius thinks it intimates that the death of Judas would be like that of Ahithophel. But because that psalm speaks of David’s sickness, of which we read nothing at the time of Ahithophel’s deserting him, it may better be understood of some other friend of his, that proved false to him. This our Saviour applies to Judas. (1.) Judas, as an apostle, was admitted to the highest privilege: he did eat bread with Christ. He was familiar with him, and favoured by him, was one of his family, one of those with whom he was intimately conversant. David saith of his treacherous friend, He did eat of my bread; but Christ, being poor, had no bread he could properly call his own. He saith, He did eat bread with me; such as he had by the kindness of his friends, that ministered to him, his disciples had their share of, Judas among the rest. Wherever he went, Judas was welcome with him, did not dine among servants, but sat at table with his Master, ate of the same dish, drank of the same cup, and in all respects fared as he fared. He ate miraculous bread with him, when the loaves were multiplied, ate the passover with him. Note, All that eat bread with Christ are not his disciples indeed. See 1 Cor. 10:3-5. (2.) Judas, as an apostate, was guilty of the basest treachery: he lifted up the heel against Christ. [1.] He forsook him, turned his back upon him, went out from the society of his disciples, John 13:30. [2.] He despised him, shook off the dust of his feet against him, in contempt of him and his gospel. Nay, [3.] He became an enemy to him; spurned at him, as wrestlers do at their adversaries, whom they would overthrow. Note, It is no new thing for those that were Christ’s seeming friends to prove his real enemies. Those who pretended to magnify him magnify themselves against him, and thereby prove themselves guilty, not only of the basest ingratitude, but the basest treachery and perfidiousness.
II. He gives them a reason why he told them beforehand of the treachery of Judas (John 13:19): “Now I tell you before it come, before Judas has begun to put his wicked plot in execution, that when it is come to pass you may, instead of stumbling at it, be confirmed in your belief that I am he, he that should come.” 1. By his clear and certain foresight of things to come, of which in this, as in other instances, he gave incontestable proof, he proved himself to be the true God, before whom all things are naked and open. Christ foretold that Judas would betray him when there was no ground to suspect such a thing, and so proved himself the eternal Word, which is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. The prophecies of the New Testament concerning the apostasy of the latter times (which we have, 2 Thess. 2:1-17; 1 Tim. 4:1-16, and in the Apocalypse) being evidently accomplished is a proof that those writings were divinely inspired, and confirms our faith in the whole canon of scripture. 2. By this application of the types and prophecies of the Old Testament to himself, he proved himself to be the true Messiah, to whom all the prophets bore witness. Thus it was written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and he suffered just as it was written, Luke 24:25, 26; John 8:28.
III. He gives a word of encouragement to his apostles, and all his ministers whom he employs in his service (John 13:20): He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me. The purport of these words is the same with what we have in other scriptures, but it is not easy to make out their coherence here. Christ had told his disciples that they must humble and abase themselves. “Now,” saith he, “though there may be those that will despise you for your condescension, yet there will be those that will do you honour, and shall be honoured for so doing.” Those who know themselves dignified by Christ’s commission may be content to be vilified in the world’s opinion. Or, he intended to silence the scruples of those who, because there was a traitor among the apostles, would be shy of receiving any of them; for, if one of them was false to his Master, to whom would any of them be true? Exod. uno disce omnes—They are all alike. No, as Christ will think never the worse of them for Judas’s crime, so he will stand by them, and own them, and will raise up such as shall receive them. Those that had received Judas when he was a preacher, and perhaps were converted and edified by his preaching, were never the worse, nor should reflect upon it with any regret, though he afterwards proved a traitor; for he was one whom Christ sent. We cannot know what men are, much less what they will be, but those who appear to be sent of Christ we must receive, till the contrary appear. Though some, by entertaining strangers, have entertained robbers unawares, yet we must still be hospitable, for thereby some have entertained angels. The abuses put upon our charity, though ordered with ever so much discretion, will neither justify our uncharitableness, nor lose us the reward of our charity. 1. We are here encouraged to receive ministers as sent of Christ: “He that receiveth whomsoever I send, though weak and poor, and subject to like passions as others (for as the law, so the gospel, makes men priests that have infirmity), yet if he deliver my message, and be regularly called and appointed to do so, and as an officer give himself to the word and prayer, he that entertains him shall be owned as a friend of mine.” Christ was now leaving the world, but he would leave an order of men to be his agents, to deliver his word, and those who receive this, in the light and love of it, receive him. To believe the doctrine of Christ, and obey his law, and accept the salvation offered upon the terms proposed; this is receiving those whom Christ sends, and it is receiving Christ Jesus the Lord himself. 2. We are here encouraged to receive Christ as sent of God: He that thus receiveth me, that receiveth Christ in his ministers, receiveth the Father also, for they come upon his errand likewise, baptizing in the name of the Father, as well as of the Son. Or, in general, He that receiveth me as his prince and Saviour receiveth him that sent me as his portion and felicity. Christ was sent of God, and in embracing his religion we embrace the only true religion.
IV. Christ more particularly notifies to them the plot which one of their number was now hatching against him (John 13:21): When Jesus had thus said in general, to prepare them for a more particular discovery, he was troubled in spirit, and showed it by some gesture or sign, and he testified, he solemnly declared it (cum animo testandi—with the solemnity of a witness on oath), “One of you shall betray me; one of you my apostles and constant followers.” None indeed could be said to betray him but those in whom he reposed a confidence, and who were the witnesses of his retirements. This did not determine Judas to the sin by any fatal necessity; for, though the event did follow according to the prediction, yet not from the prediction. Christ is not the author of sin; yet as to this heinous sin of Judas, 1. Christ foresaw it; for even that which is secret and future, and hidden from the eyes of all living, naked and open before the eyes of Christ. He knows what is in men better than they do themselves (2 Kgs. 8:12), and therefore sees what will be done by them. I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, Isa. 48:8. 2. He foretold it, not only for the sake of the rest of the disciples, but for the sake of Judas himself, that he might take warning, and recover himself out of the snare of the devil. Traitors proceed not in their plots when they find they are discovered; surely Judas, when he finds that his Master knows his design, will retreat in time; if not, it will aggravate his condemnation. 3. He spoke of it with a manifest concern; he was troubled in spirit when he mentioned it. He had often spoken of his own sufferings and death, without any such trouble of spirit as he here manifested when he spoke of the ingratitude and treachery of Judas. This touched him in a tender part. Note, The falls and miscarriages of the disciples of Christ are a great trouble of spirit to their Master; the sins of Christians are the grief of Christ. “What! One of you betray me? You that have received from me such distinguishing favours; you that I had reason to think would be firm to me, that have professed such a respect for me; what iniquity have you found in me that one of you should betray me?” This went to his heart, as the undutifulness of children grieves those who have nourished and brought them up, Isa. 1:2. See Ps. 95:10; Isa. 63:10.
V. The disciples quickly take the alarm. They knew their Master would neither deceive them nor jest with them; and therefore looked one upon another, with a manifest concern, doubting of whom he spake. 1. By looking one upon another they evinced the trouble they were in upon this notice given them; it struck such a horror upon them that they knew not well which way to look, nor what to say. They saw their Master troubled, and therefore they were troubled. This was at a feast where they were cheerfully entertained; but hence we must be taught to rejoice with trembling, and as though we rejoiced not. When David wept for his son’s rebellion, all his followers wept with him (2 Sam. 15:30); so Christ’s disciples here. Note, That which grieves Christ is, and should be, a grief to all that are his, particularly the scandalous miscarriages of those that are called by his name: Who is offended, and I burn not? 2. Hereby they endeavoured to discover the traitor. They looked wistfully in one another’s face, to see who blushed, or, by some disorder in the countenance, manifested guilt in the heart, upon this notice; but, while those who were faithful had their consciences so clear that they could lift up their faces without spot, he that was false had his conscience so seared that he was not ashamed, neither could he blush, and so no discovery could be made in this way. Christ thus perplexed his disciples for a time, and put them into confusion, that he might humble them, and prove them, might excite in them a jealousy of themselves, and an indignation at the baseness of Judas. It is good for us sometimes to be put to a gaze, to be put to a pause.
VI. The disciples were solicitous to get their Master to explain himself, and to tell them particularly whom he meant; for nothing but this can put them out of their present pain, for each of them thought he had as much reason to suspect himself as any of his brethren; now,
1. Of all the disciples John was most fit to ask, because he was the favourite, and sat next his Master (John 13:23): There was leaning on Jesus’s bosom one of the disciples whom Jesus loved. It appears that this was John, by comparing John 21:20, 24. Observe, (1.) The particular kindness which Jesus had for him; he was known by this periphrasis, that he was the disciple whom Jesus loved. He loved them all (John 13:1), but John was particularly dear to him. His name signifies gracious. Daniel, who was honoured with the revelations of the Old Testament, as John of the New, was a man greatly beloved, Dan. 9:23. Note, Among the disciples of Christ some are dearer to him than others. (2.) His place and posture at this time: He was leaning on Jesus’s bosom. Some say that it was the fashion in those countries to sit at meat in a leaning posture, so that the second lay in the bosom of the first, and so on, which does not seem probable to me, for in such a posture as this they could neither eat nor drink conveniently; but, whether this was the case or not, John now leaned on Christ’s bosom, and it seems to be an extraordinary expression of endearment used at this time. Note, There are some of Christ’s disciples whom he lays in his bosom, who have more free and intimate communion with him than others. The Father loved the Son, and laid him in his bosom (John 1:18), and believers are in like manner one with Christ, John 17:21. This honour all the saints shall have shortly in the bosom of Abraham. Those who lay themselves at Christ’s feet, he will lay in his bosom. (3.) Yet he conceals his name, because he himself was the penman of the story. He put this instead of his name, to show that he was pleased with it; it is his title of honour, that he was the disciple whom Jesus loved, as in David’s and Solomon’s court there was one that was the king’s friend; yet he does not put his name down, to show that he was not proud of it, nor would seem to boast of it. Paul in a like case saith, I knew a man in Christ.
2. Of all the disciples Peter was most forward to know, John 13:24. Peter, sitting at some distance, beckoned to John, by some sign or other, to ask. Peter was generally the leading man, most apt to put himself forth; and, where men’s natural tempers lead them to be thus bold in answering and asking, if kept under the laws of humility and wisdom, they make men very serviceable. God gives his gifts variously; but that the forward men in the church may not think too well of themselves, nor the modest be discouraged, it must be noted that it was not Peter, but John, that was the beloved disciple. Peter was desirous to know, not only that he might be sure it was not he, but that, knowing who it was, they might withdraw from him, and guard against him, and, if possible, prevent his design. It were a desirable thing, we should think, to know who in the church will deceive us; yet let this suffice—Christ knows, though we do not. The reason why Peter did not himself ask was because John had a much fairer opportunity, by the advantage of his seat at table, to whisper the question into the ear of Christ, and to receive a like private answer. It is good to improve our interest in those that are near to Christ, and to engage their prayers for us. Do we know any that we have reason to think lie in Christ’s bosom? Let us beg of them to speak a good word for us.
3. The question was asked accordingly (John 13:25): He then, lying at the breast of Jesus, and so having the convenience of whispering with him,saith unto him, Lord, who is it? Now here John shows, (1.) A regard to his fellow-disciple, and to the motion he made. Though Peter had not the honour he had at this time, yet he did not therefore disdain to take the hint and intimation he gave him. Note, Those who lie in Christ’s bosom may often learn from those who lie at his feet something that will be profitable for them, and be reminded of that which they did not of themselves think of. John was willing to gratify Peter herein, having so fair an opportunity for it. As every one hath received the gift, so let him minister the same for a common good, Rom. 12:6. (2.) A reverence of his Master. Though he whispered this in Christ’s ear, yet he called him Lord; the familiarity he was admitted to did not at all lessen his respect for his Master. It becomes us to use a reverence in expression, and to observe a decorum even in our secret devotions, which no eye is a witness to, as well as in public assemblies. The more intimate communion gracious souls have with Christ, the more sensible they are of his worthiness and their own unworthiness, as Gen. 18:27.
4. Christ gave a speedy answer to this question, but whispered it in John’s ear; for it appears (John 13:29) that the rest were still ignorant of the matter. He it is to whom I shall give a sop, psomion—a morsel, a crust, when I have dipped it in the sauce. And when he had dipped the sop, John strictly observing his motion, he gave it to Judas; and Judas took it readily enough, not suspecting the design of it, but glad of a savoury bit, to make up his mouth with. (1.) Christ notified the traitor by a sign. He could have told John by name who he was (The adversary and enemy is that wicked Judas, he is the traitor, and none but he); but thus he would exercise the observation of John, and intimate what need his ministers have of a spirit of discerning; for the false brethren we are to stand upon our guard against are not made known to us by words, but by signs; they are to be known to us by their fruits, by their spirits; it requires great diligence and care to form a right judgment upon them. (2.) That sign was a sop which Christ gave him, a very proper sign, because it was the fulfilling of the scripture (John 13:18) that the traitor should be one that ate bread with him, that was at this time a fellow-commoner with him. It had likewise a significancy in it, and teaches us, [1.] That Christ sometimes gives sops to traitors; worldly riches, honours, and pleasures are sops (if I may so speak), which Providence sometimes gives into the hands of wicked men. Judas perhaps thought himself a favourite because he had the sop, like Benjamin at Joseph’s table, a mess by himself; thus the prosperity of fools, like a stupifying sop, helps to destroy them. [2.] That we must not be outrageous against those whom we know to be very malicious against us. Christ carved to Judas as kindly as to any at the table, though he knew he was then plotting his death. If thine enemy hunger, feed him; this is to do as Christ does.
VII. Judas himself, instead of being convinced hereby of his wickedness, was the more confirmed in it, and the warning given him was to him a savour of death unto death; for it follows,
1. The devil hereupon took possession of him (John 13:27): After the sop, Satan entered into him: not to make him melancholy, nor drive him distracted, which was the effect of his possessing some; not to hurry him into the fire, nor into the water; happy had it been for him if that had been the worst of it, or if with the swine he had been choked in the sea; but Satan entered into him to possess him with a prevailing prejudice against Christ and his doctrine, and a contempt of him, as one whose life was of small value, to excite in him a covetous desire of the wages of unrighteousness and a resolution to stick at nothing for the obtaining of them. But,
(1.) Was not Satan in him before? How then is it said that now Satan entered into him? Judas was all along a devil (John 6:70), a son of perdition, but now Satan gained a more full possession of him, had a more abundant entrance into him. His purpose to betray his Master was now ripened into a fixed resolution; now he returned with seven other spirits more wicked than himself, Luke 11:26. Note, [1.] Though the devil is in every wicked man that does his works (Eph. 2:2), yet sometimes he enters more manifestly and more powerfully than at other times, when he puts them upon some enormous wickedness, which humanity and natural conscience startle at. [2.] Betrayers of Christ have much of the devil in them. Christ speaks of the sin of Judas as greater than that of any of his persecutors.
(2.) How came Satan to enter into him after the sop? Perhaps he was presently aware that it was the discovery of him, and it made him desperate in his resolutions. Many are made worse by the gifts of Christ’s bounty, and are confirmed in their impenitency by that which should have led them to repentance. The coals of fire heaped upon their heads, instead of melting them, harden them.
2. Christ hereupon dismissed him, and delivered him up to his own heart’s lusts: Then said Jesus unto him, What thou doest, do quickly. This is not to be understood as either advising him to his wickedness or warranting him in it; but either, (1.) As abandoning him to the conduct and power of Satan. Christ knew that Satan had entered into him, and had peaceable possession; and now he gives him up as hopeless. The various methods Christ had used for his conviction were ineffectual; and therefore, “What thou doest thou wilt do quickly; if thou art resolved to ruin thyself, go on, and take what comes.” Note, When the evil spirit is willingly admitted, the good Spirit justly withdraws. Or, (2.) As challenging him to do his worst: “Thou art plotting against me, put thy plot in execution and welcome, the sooner the better, I do not fear thee, I am ready for thee.” Note, our Lord Jesus was very forward to suffer and die for us, and was impatient of delay in the perfecting of his undertaking. Christ speaks of Judas’s betraying him as a thing he was now doing, though he was only purposing it. Those who are contriving and designing mischief are, in God’s account, doing mischief.
3. Those that were at table understood not what he meant, because they did not hear what he whispered to John (John 13:28, 29): No man at table, neither the disciples nor any other of the guests, except John, knew for what intent he spoke this to him. (1.) They did not suspect that Christ said it to Judas as a traitor, because it did not enter into their heads that Judas was such a one, or would prove so. Note, It is an excusable dulness in the disciples of Christ not to be quick-sighted in their censures. Most are ready enough to say, when they hear harsh things spoken in general, Now such a one is meant, and now such a one; but Christ’s disciples were so well taught to love one another that they could not easily learn to suspect one another; charity thinks no evil. (2.) They therefore took it for granted that he said it to him as a trustee, or treasurer of the household, giving him order for the laying out of some money. Their surmises in this case discover to us for what uses and purposes our Lord Jesus commonly directed payments out of that little stock he had, and so teach us how to honour the Lord with our substance. They concluded something was to be laid out, either, [1.] In works of piety: Buy those things that we have need of against the feast. Though he borrowed a room to eat the passover in, yet he bought in provision for it. That is to be reckoned well bestowed which is laid out upon those things we have need of for the maintenance of God’s ordinances among us; and we have the less reason to grudge that expense now because our gospel-worship is far from being so chargeable as the legal worship was. [2.] Or in works of charity: That he should give something to the poor. By this it appears, First, That our Lord Jesus, though he lived upon alms himself (Luke 8:3), yet gave alms to the poor, a little out of a little. Though he might very well be excused, not only because he was poor himself, but because he did so much good in other ways, curing so many gratis; yet, to set us an example, he gave, for the relief of the poor, out of that which he had for the subsistence of his family; see Eph. 4:28. Secondly, That the time of a religious feast was thought a proper time for works of charity. When he celebrated the passover he ordered something for the poor. When we experience God’s bounty to us, this should make us bountiful to the poor.
4. Judas hereupon sets himself vigorously to pursue his design against him: He went away. Notice is taken,
(1.) Of his speedy departure: He went out presently, and quitted the house, [1.] For fear of being more plainly discovered to the company, for, if he were, he expected they would all fall upon him, and be the death of him, or at least of his project. [2.] He went out as one weary of Christ’s company and the society of his apostles. Christ needed not to expel him, he expelled himself. Note, Withdrawing from the communion of the faithful is commonly the first overt-act of a backslider, and the beginning of an apostasy. [3.] He went out to prosecute his design, to look for those with whom he was to make his bargain, and to settle the agreement with them. Now that Satan had got into him he hurried him on with precipitation, lest he should see his error and repent of it.
(2.) Of the time of his departure: It was night. [1.] Though it was night, an unseasonable time for business, yet, Satan having entered into him, he made no difficulty of the coldness and darkness of the night. This should shame us out of our slothfulness and cowardice in the service of Christ, that the devil’s servants are so earnest and venturous in his service. [2.] Because it was night, and this gave him advantage of privacy and concealment. He was not willing to be seen treating with the chief priests, and therefore chose the dark night as the fittest time for such works of darkness. Those whose deeds are evil love darkness rather than light. See Job 24:13