Matthew 26:21-25; Mark 14:18-21; Luke 22:21-23; John 13:21-30
Jesus responded, "It is the one to whom I give the bread I dip in the bowl." And when he had dipped it, he gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. When Judas had eaten the bread, Satan entered into him." – John 13:26-27 NLT
It is easy to read the account of Jesus and His disciples having their Passover meal together and treat each of the various elements as separate incidents. We see the washing of the feet as one scene. Then we see Jesus breaking the bread and giving it to His disciples as another. The revealing by Jesus that one of them would betray Him is yet another separate scene in our minds. But they are all part of a whole. This was one solitary evening that revolved around the Passover meal. In and of itself, this was a significant occasion, one that held great value in the hearts and minds of the disciples. But on this particular evening, it had taken on much greater significance because of what was about to happen. There is a tension in the room that, for the most part, goes unnoticed by the disciples. They are oblivious to all that is happening behind the scenes on both an earthly and spiritual level, that will bring this week and Jesus' life to a climax.
It is important to remember that this was a spiritual battle. It had been since the day Jesus was born. Satan had been out to destroy Jesus from the moment He arrived in Bethlehem as a baby. You recall the efforts of Herod when he received news from the Magi that a king of the Jews had been born. This would have been up to two years after Jesus' birth. As the Roman-appointed king of the Jews, Herod took this news badly and had all the baby boys two-years and younger living in the vicinity of Bethlehem killed. Who was driving his actions? Satan. Because he knew who Jesus was and he was desperate to eliminate Jesus. At the beginning of Jesus' earthly ministry, immediately after His baptism, He was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness where He spent 40 days and nights fasting. At the end of that time, weakened by thirst and hunger, Satan showed up. His mission was to convince Jesus to give up His mission. He offered Him alternatives. He appealed to His senses, His vanity, His pride. All things any normal human being would have given in to. But Jesus was the God-man, and would not listen to the lies of the enemy. Eventually, Satan left Him, but he never gave up his quest to eliminate Jesus. He used the religious leaders to attack Him. He attempted over and over again to discredit Him. And finally, Satan would put it into the hearts of men to destroy Him. He believed that by killing Jesus he could destroy God’s plan. By eliminating the messenger, he could stop the message. You see, even Satan had a limited perspective. He didn't know the end of the story.
It was in the middle of the Passover meal that Jesus chose to reveal the sobering news that one of their own would betray Him. “But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me. For it has been determined that the Son of Man must die. But what sorrow awaits the one who betrays him.” (Luke 22:21 NLT). This news was shocking to the disciples. John records, "The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom he could mean" (John 13:22 NLT). Peter got John's attention and had him ask Jesus who He was talking about? They wanted to know who it was who would do such a thing. A few even asked if it was them. Jesus responded, "It is the one to whom I give the bread I dip in the bowl" (John 13:26 NLT). This is significant.
There are many elements to the Passover meal that carried special significance and meaning. Everything had a purpose and was a symbol that was meant to communicate a spiritual truth. At this point in the meal, Jesus more than likely took a piece of unleavened bread, wrapped in around a small portion of the sacrificial lamb and then dipped it into a solution made with bitter herbs. Each of these elements on their own would have carried specific symbolism related to the release of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. The lamb represented the innocent, spotless lambs the people had killed and whose blood they had sprinkled on the door posts and lintels of their homes in order to turn away God's wrath in the form of the death angel. The unleavened bread had always represented the haste by which the people departed Egypt. They had no time to add yeast to their flour. But during the meal, Jesus would state that the unleavened bread now represented His own body, which was going to be broken for them. The bitter herbs were symbolic of the suffering of the people. Do you catch the symbolism as it relates to Jesus? The broken body of the sacrificed lamb, wrapped in sinlessness and dipped in suffering.
It says that Jesus took the bread, dipped it into the bowl and handed to it Judas. What is amazing is that Judas ate it. You would have thought that he would have rejected it and vehemently denied that he was the one. But instead, he took the bread, wrapped around the small piece of lamb, dipped in the bitter herbs and ate it. And John makes it clear that it was at this point that Satan entered into him. He had already made up his mind to do what he was going to do long before Satan entered into him. But Satan is an opportunist and he sought to utilize Judas' hardened heart to his advantage. The deal between Judas and the high priest had already been struck. Now it was just a matter of following through on his commitment. "So Judas left at once, going out into the night" (John 13:30 NLT). The sinless, innocent Son of God, was about to have His body broken and undergo the most severe suffering known to man. Satan thought this was all his doing. He thought he had come up with the perfect plan, but little did he know that this was all the preordained work of God Himself. Peter makes this point clear in his sermon preached immediately after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Addressing the predominantly Jewish audience, he said, "But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed" (Acts 2:23 NLT). This was all part of God's perfect plan. It all happened just as God had orchestrated it, long before the foundation of the world. We don't know what Judas was thinking or what his motivation was. But he had a limited perspective. So did Satan. He is not omniscient or all-knowing. He truly believed this was the beginning of the end of Jesus, but he would prove to be so wrong. This was beginning, but of the end of him. Jesus was going to conquer sin, death and Satan with His actions. His betrayal was part of the plan. It had to happen just the way it did. And Jesus had to die in just the way He did. It was all part of God's perfect plan of redemption.
Father, I can't thank You enough for what You planned and Your Son accomplished. At no point were you ever out of control. There was never a moment when Satan had the upper hand. You were working Your plan to perfection, down to the last detail. And so I should trust that You are still working Your perfect plan perfectly today. Amen.