And it was Night
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on November 6, 2016
Open your Bible to John 13:18-30. If you recall from last week, we began our study of Jesus’ last night with the disciples before his arrest and crucifixion. John 13- 17 narrates the teachings of Jesus in the Upper Room the Thursday night before his death. To say that this night was a night of high drama would be an understatement, as we will see from out text today.
Last week we unpacked how Jesus set the tone for the night. Jesus, the Son of God, wrapped a towel around his waist and took the form of a servant and washed the filthy feet of the 12 disciples. After doing so he then commands his disciples to do the same to each other. As we examined this text we was that Jesus was revealing the means by which the Church would internally operate. Jesus, as the head of the Church, was teaching that leadership in the Church would be one of humility and self-sacrifice. When we come together we are not to be focused on ourselves, but instead focused on each other. And our focus is not to be on the physical, but on the spiritual. The washing of feet by Jesus had nothing to do with the physical, but was merely the object lesson he used as an example. We saw that foot washing represents Holiness. Jesus indicates that he has made completely clean those whom he has chosen. This is justification. Romans 5:18-19 sums up this truth, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”
The washing of feet that takes place between Christians has nothing to do with justification, but instead has everything to do with sanctification. Sanctification is the process of becoming more and more like Jesus in your life. It is the process of being Holy, as God is Holy. It is the process of sinning less and glorifying God more. As we saw last week, justification and sanctification go hand and hand. You can’t have one without the other. Hebrews 10:14, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” If Christ has made you perfect through his death on the cross, than you are being sanctified. If you are being sanctified, then you have been made perfect through Jesus death on the cross. Lastly, the way in which this is achieved is not through volunteering to do the most demeaning task at the Church, it is done through the Word of God. The way our feet are washed, the way we are transformed to be more like Jesus, the way we are sanctified is through the Word of God. The Bible. Once again, this is why we do what we do at Cornerstone. We are Bible people. Why? Because we don’t want stinky feet. We want to smell like the aroma of Christ.
After this, the events of the night become even more unusual with a pre-ordained twist. So with that let us read out text, pray and examine the Scriptures.
Preaching and Proclaiming
Let us begin by reminding ourselves of who was present at this special meal. This gathering was an intimate one. Jesus was there with his 12 disciples. This group was an inner group closely connected with Jesus. In fact, Jesus gave them a special name, apostles. The word apostle means, a delegate, a messenger, one sent for with orders. We see the alluding to this fact in verse 20 when Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” This is the nature of the apostles role, to go an proclaim the Gospel. Not only are they to be feet washers, concerned about the Holiness of the Church, but they are to be sent out from the Church to go and share the Gospel.
In a way, this is a terrific understanding for what it means to be a Church. It can be boiled down to two basic functions. First, we are to be Holy, as God is Holy. And second, we are to go out and proclaim the Gospel. That is the blue print, or the DNA of Church. Sanctification and evangelism. After being chosen by God, this is our heartbeat. This morning we are gathered together to scrub each other’s feet through the preaching and teaching of the Word. At around 11:30, we will put back on our sandals and we are to go in the name and power of Jesus to proclaim the good news of Jesus life, death, and resurrection. If a group of people are meeting regularly and there is no preaching of the word of God and no evangelism, then that is not a Church.
Proximity to Christ
These events, we must remember are taking place during a formal supper. During these types of meals where you sat was of some importance. We actually see this in some of Jesus teaching, specifically Luke 14:19 where Jesus says, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him.” For the sinful culture of Israel, where you sat was an indication of your greatness. If you recall John and James had asked this specific question in Mark 10:37, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” In the minds of the disciples, proximity equals power.
During this supper, however, we see something very interesting regarding who is sitting by Jesus. If you look at verse 23, “One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side,” This is the first time we see John mention a disciple “whom Jesus loved.” John uses it again in John 19, John 20, and John 21. For some reason, John does not want to mention this disciple’s name, however, he had no problem mentioning Judas’ or Peter’s. So the most likely answer the disciple whom Jesus loved, was none other than John himself. The author of our text. This is how John defined himself, not by a name, but by Jesus’ agape, self-sacrificing love towards him.
Now on the other side, we have a stark contrast. On the left side of Jesus was Judas. The reason we say this is because of the exchange verse 26, “So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.” Because of how they ate this meal, they would have been reclining and to hand a morsel of bread would have meant he was sitting right next to Jesus. Now why? Why were these two sitting right next to Jesus during the last meal that Jesus had with his disciples? The answer lies in verse 18 and 19, “I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.”
I love this. Every event, even the betrayal of Jesus, is dripping with God’s sovereignty. Jesus has set the stage. He is pulling back the curtain on his betrayer before the betrayal so as to increase the faith of his disciples, and he has John and Judas sit next to him so that our faith can likewise be increased. Jesus gives John inside access to the treason, providing evidence that Judas’ betrayal is not random, or unforeseen, but according to plan.
And this is not the first time that Jesus has pulled back the curtains on his betrayal. He also mentions it in John 6:71 right after the feeding of the 5,000 by saying to the disciples “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” Why does he say this? Once again, to demonstrate that Jesus willfully lays down his life.
However, it should be understood that not only does Jesus know of his betrayal, but it is etched in stone, more specifically etched in Scripture. Verse 18, “But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.” This is a quote from Psalm 41:9 which says, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” This was a Psalm of David written 1000 years before the last supper. And Jesus is saying that this Psalm foreshadow's Judas betrayal.
This is not the only place in scripture that points to Judas betrayal of Jesus, we also see hints of it in Pslam 55:12, and Zechariah 11:12-13. God wants to make it clear to us that He is completely in control.
Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
What is interesting about the betrayal of Jesus, even though Jesus knew it was Judas, no one else seemed to know. Verse 22, “he disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke.” The disciples were clueless that it was Judas. He apparently showed no obvious outward signs that he was not a true follower of Jesus. He was a wolf in sheep's clothing.
As I stated, this night he was sitting in a seat of honor, right next to Jesus. In John 12:6 tells us that he was in charge of the money bag. Judas was a modern day deacon in the Church of Christ, yet his heart was not for Jesus, but for himself. Even though he was a part of the 12, he was never a part of Christ.
Now if you go back to John 13:2 we are told, “During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him,” This type of statement may cause you to think, that Judas is not to blame for his behavior, but Satan made him do it. But this is not the way we should understand how sin works and how we are accountable. The way we should think about
this is that Satan and Judas are co-conspirators. They were working together against Christ.
And this is how all betrayals of Christ work. In Genesis 4:7 God says to Cain, “sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” Likewise in 1 Peter 3:8 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” This is what had occurred to Judas. Satan had been lurking, and looking for an opportunity to work his way inside the inner circle of the twelve disciples. Crouching, prowling, looking for an opportunity. Then what does he see, he sees Judas helping himself to the money out of the money bag, then he sees, Judas mocking Mary for “wasting” an expensive jar of ointment. Satan observed that Judas cared more about money then following Jesus, so he put an idea into Judas' heart.
If I were to guess, the idea of betrayal would have gone something like this. “The gig is up. Jesus is going to be arrested. This revolution is over. He isn't going to be the strong, powerful, rich Messiah that we thought he was going to be. He tricked us. I better join the side of the Pharisees, before I get pulled down with him.” My guess is that Judas had rationalized every thought in his mind, because this is exactly how sin works. To us it makes sense, but in reality it makes no sense.
The triggering event of Satan's demonic possession of Judas was the morsel of bread. That was Satan's que. His permission of sorts. After this Jesus says, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” This leads to the question, who is Jesus speaking to, Judas or Satan? I believe the answer is both. Even though Satan has entered him, Judas is still a rational actor, a co-conspirator. However, I also think Jesus is speaking to Satan. Which gives us another glimpse into Jesus' sovereignty. He commands Satan and Satan obeys. Too often we wrongfully see Satan and Jesus as equals. In fact, Mormonism calls them brothers, which is absolute blasphemy. Jesus and Satan are not equals. Satan is a creature, created by God through Jesus for the glory of Jesus. In this moment we see that Satan is just a dog on a leash doing the will of Christ, and Judas leaves the fellowship of the 12, never to return again.
And this is a reality of a wolf in sheep's clothing. False Christians, never endure. They never make it to the end. They never persevere. As we studied about last week in Sunday School, from Luke 8. The Word of God gets choked out by the cares of this world, or persecution causes them to abandon their faith. We are told that this is how we can tell who is a true and a false christian, their endurance, or lack thereof.
Our author, John, wrote about this in 1John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” There are many people who say they believe in Jesus, maybe they will come to Church for a while, perhaps join a small group, perhaps even become a member, or even a deacon or a pastor, but if they don't have true, living faith, they will not make it to the end. Satan will tear them apart, and they will turn their back on the community of believers and go it alone. With each step away from the Church they will rationalize their separation, but the truth is they are not saved. They are deceiving themselves.
I have seen it dozens of times at Cornerstone, and if I continue to preach here for 30 years I will see thousands more. People who claim to be Christians, but are merely wolves in sheep's clothing.
And it was Night
And with that we read the words in verse 30, “And it was night.” These four words are not just descriptive of the scene, but are descriptive of redemptive history and the eternal state of Judas.
Despite the betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion of Jesus all being according to God's plan, let us not belittle the wickedness of this moment. As we saw earlier, the death of Christ is a judgment of this world. Humanity has turned on its maker with the betrayal of Judas the dominoes have begun to fall; Christ would be dead within 24 hours. The Sons of Adam are about ready to murder the Author of life. This is the absolute darkest moment of all of history.
As it relates to Judas, this is the greatest sin ever to be committed by an individual. The murder of God for 30 pieces of silver. This is blood money, and this is the blood of God. Jesus says in Matthew 26:24, “The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” As Judas stepped out of the upper room and into the night, he would never see Jesus again until judgment day. He had spent three years walking in the light of Christ, but the patience of Christ had come to and end, and he was sent away from Jesus and into the physical and spiritual night.
Judas had chosen to live the rest of his short life, not in the Kingdom of the Beloved Son, but instead in the domain of darkness, in love with this world, a co-conspirator with Satan. A short while later, once Satan was done using him, he drove him to commit suicide. And when he opened his eyes, what did he find? Hell, a place that is described as outer darkness. In this moment as I preach, Judas is weeping and gnashing his teeth, being eternally tormented for his sins.
So where does this leave us? I believe there are three things we can take from this. First, the death of Christ was orchestrated down to the morsel of bread. Jesus proclaimed it, before it happened. And this reality should increase our faith in Jesus. Once again, let us be clear, faith is not built upon wishful thinking, the faith of the Bible is built upon strong irrefutable evidence. Christians are the ones with the evidence, not the world.
Second, we must recognize that there will also be a Judas among us. They will come into this Church and will look like a Christian, smell like a Christian, and talk like a Christian, but they are not Christian. They are wolves in sheep's clothing. As Jesus has told us, Satan will always sow tares among the wheat. And at times, their fall from Grace will be great, but it should never undermine our confidence in the Lord. When Judas' are exposed, it does not change who Christ is, nor does it change our mission. We are called to be Holy and make disciples.
Third, some of you in this room may be Judas, and this sermon is meant for you to wake up before it is too late. You think you are part of the God's people. You are enjoying the benefits of God's grace through fellowship with believers, but inside your heart is still dead and cold towards Jesus. You are a hypocrite. And unless you repent and believe in Jesus, there will come a moment when Jesus' patience with you will run out and he will order you out of his presence, and in that moment you will enter into an eternal night. If that is you, I pray that God would grant you repentance.
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