Infinite Love in the Face of Unimaginable Betrayal
Text: John 13:21-35
Main Idea: Jesus’ love command shows us the source of our love is not the worthiness of our brother or sister in Christ but the perfect example of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.
I. What does Judas’ betrayal reveal about the heart of Jesus Christ? (John 13:21–30)
II. How does Jesus’ love command relate to Judas’ Betrayal? (John 13:31–34)
III. How then should we live? (John 13:35)
Good morning Church. We are going to be pausing our new study in the book Acts for the next two weeks so that we can rightly observe the apex of our Christian calendar—the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet, instead of preaching from the most familiar accounts like, the triumphal entry and the empty tomb; I thought it would be helpful to preach on Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s Restoration this Easter season. Because these two accounts reveal the very heart of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
So as we begin this morning, I’d like to ask: How many of you have been betrayed by a close friend? And by close, I’m not talking about a person you might hang out with for 30-minutes after church or a person you might share an umbrella with during a little league game. I’m talking about the kind of friend that knows the “real you.” The friend that knows you fears and failures as well as your hopes and ambitions. The friend that is has been there to celebrate your success and uphold you in your failure and loss. That’s the kind of friend I am talking about. How did it feel to be betrayed by that person?
I’m asking this because this is the kind of betrayal that we see in out text today. Judas was a full-fledged member of the 12-disciples. He had a front row seat to everything Jesus ever taught and every miracle he ever performed. He had been sent out to proclaim the good news of the kingdom and cast out demons. He got to see who the “real Jesus” was as he navigated the peaks and valleys of his three-and-a-half-year ministry. Even more, he knew what was like to be truly loved —loved— by Jesus Christ.
And I have to admit that the explicit manifestation of Christ’s love in this passage hit me like a ton of bricks, this week. And to help you see it, I’ve organized today’s sermon around the two questions that helped me see this amazing love and one question that propels us to live in light of this love.
- What does Judas’ betrayal reveal about the heart of Jesus Christ? (John 13:21–30)
- How does Jesus’ love command relate to Judas’ Betrayal? (John 13:31–34)
- How then should we live? (John 13:35)
What does Judas’ betrayal reveal about the heart of Jesus Christ? (John 13:21–30)
The Context (John 13:21)
Before we examine this verse, we need to place it in its proper context. In the previous chapter, John recorded: Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (John 12). And his declaration that he was about to die (John 12:23–33) even though no one believed him (John 12:34–43). But as John transitions from chapter 12 to 13, he shifts his focus from the public ministry of Jesus to the final, private moments that Jesus had with his disciples. And as he does this, he slows the narrative down to a crawl. Whereas chapter 12 quickly surveys a period of roughly six-days; time seems to stand still in chapters 13–17 as John painstakingly records the last moments that Jesus and his disciples spent together. And he does this because he wants his readers to see something about the very heart of Christ.
John 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
Did you catch that? Jesus loved his disciples throughout his ministry. And he loved them until the very end. This is why John slows the narrative down. He wants us to see how Jesus loved his disciples to the end— even though he is fully aware his time has come, and he is going to be betrayed by Judas.
I want you to see this, because it is easy to lose John’s emphasis after Jesus washes the disciples’ feet because the conversation quickly turns to the issue of Jesus’ betrayal.
John 13:18–19 I am not speaking of 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.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.
Now if we stopped reading here, it would be hard to tell if this is a significant problem for Jesus. Right? His tone in these two verses comes across as if he is simply preparing his disciples for his impending death… that is until we get a glimpse into the heart of Christ in verse 21. Jesus is deeply affected by his imminent betrayal. In fact, he seems to be so unsettled, disturbed, and shaken (ταράσσω) by it that he repeats himself in terms that his disciples simply cannot miss.
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.”
The Emotional Life of Christ
What do we see in this verse? We see that Jesus did not go through his life as an emotionless android OR a fictional Vulcan from Star Trek. No, this verse is a constant reminder that Jesus knows the full range of our emotions and our human experience. Even more, it’s a reminder for Christians of every age that a settled faith in and submission to God’s sovereign plan doesn’t erase our grief or shield us from the heart-breaking loss of betrayal. Jesus was (and will forever be) the perfect man and he was deeply affected by Judas’ imminent betrayal.
But why? If this betrayal was prophesied? If Jesus always knew he would betray him? And if this sinful betrayal was necessary for the redemption of sinful man? Then why —why— is Jesus so torn up about Judas? I think we can identify, at least, two reasons:
To begin with, Judas’ betrayal is completely unwarranted! Just read through the Gospel’s. Jesus never held Judas at arm’s length. He never restricted his influence. And he never treated him as he truly deserved. No. To the contrary —even though he was fully aware of Judas’s treachery from before the foundation of the world— Jesus loved Judas and ensured that he was a full-fledged participant in his ministry until the final moment.
But I think there is something more —much deeper—in Jesus’ anguish. To use the words of Tim Keller, this verse helps us see that “when you and I sin, we do not just break God’s law, we also break his heart.” And this is because sin is so much more than breaking a black-and-white standard— it’s infinitely more. It’s trampling and abusing, and betraying a relationship with the creator and King of the universe. This is why Jesus is deeply troubled!
Yet, the most amazing thing in this passage is that Jesus’ anguish and sorrow over Judas do not metastasize into bitterness, malice, and contempt toward Judas— as if Jesus was like you and me. No, the following verses make it abundantly clear that Jesus continued to love his treacherous, two-faced, sellout of a disciple until the very moment he was betrayed.
The Continuing Love of Christ (John 13:22–30)
For the sake of our time this morning, I’m going to skip over the disciples’ fumbling and embarrassed response in these verses SO THAT I can help you see three ways that Jesus continues to love Judas at the Last Supper.
The first way that Jesus reveals his love for Judas is (in fact) by disclosing his imminent betrayal. Now, I admit that this is a little counter-intuitive to us as sinful humans, but it is perfectly consistent with character of Christ and everything Judas has witnessed in his ministry.
When Jesus discloses his betrayal in verse 21 he is clearly distraught but he isn’t angry and vengeful— he is broken-hearted. He is, in fact, appealing to Judas’ conscience and offering him a chance to come clean. He is telling Judas, “Hey I know what you are doing. But look I’m not throwing you to the wolves. I’m opening the door for repentance. It’s not too late. No one is making you do this.” But, Judas is not moved by his master’s revelation or his agony. No, instead of repenting of his evil and begging for forgiveness, he chooses to feign ignorance in the hope that he can still press on with his treacherous plot.
The second way that Jesus reveals his love for Judas is by honoring Judas in front of the other disciples at the Last Supper, in fact, we see this cultural honor expressed two different ways:
Number one, when we examine the seating arrangement —or more properly, the reclining arrangement— of the Last Supper, scholars tell us that it is Judas (not Peter or John) who appears to be occupying the place of honor. And this is because the only way for John to lean on Jesus’ chest in verse 25 and hand Judas the morsel of food in verse 26 is if John was reclining to Jesus’ right and Judas to reclining to his left. Don’t miss this, in his sovereign purposes and in his scandalous love, Jesus made sure that Judas had the best seat in the house on the night he was betrayed.
Number Two, Jesus doesn’t just give Judas the most honored seat around the table, he goes out of his way to publicly extend one of the highest marks of love and friendship to Judas in front of his fellow disciples in verse 26. What I mean by this, is that one of the highest marks of honor and friendship in the First-Century was for a host to personally select a piece of food from the table and hand it to a guest. In fact, D.A. Carson goes as far as to say that the morsal of food in verse 26 is, in fact, Jesus’ “final gesture of supreme love” for Judas.
I wonder, how did he receive the morsel of food in verse 26? Were his eyes filled with tears or were they clear as polished glass? Was his face twisted in pain or was it as calm as meadow in the morning? Did he look Jesus in the eye OR did he make every effort to avoid Jesus’ gaze? John doesn’t tell us. But, what John does tell us is that Judas didn’t not crack under the obvious weight of the moment. His heart does not melt in the blazing heat of Jesus’ uninhibited and gratuitous love. And this is because he didn’t really love Jesus. Jesus was a means to “an end.” And when Judas realized that Jesus was not going to help him reach that end, he cut his losses and betrayed him for a pocket full of silver.
Don’t miss this, no one made Judas betray Jesus. Satan didn’t make him betray Jesus. No. Judas did what he did because he loved something more than Jesus. And no other event reveals it clearer than the moment he willingly receives the morsel of food from Jesus, in that, he doesn’t even try to redirect Jesus’ honor to another disciple… He received the morsel, but not the love with which it was offered, and it is only after this that Satan entered into him and Judas slipped out into the darkness of the night.
How does Jesus’ love command relate to Judas’ Betrayal? (John 13:31–34)
A Quick Note on Jesus’ Glory
Now while we could spend a significant amount of time unpacking the numerous ways that Judas’ betrayal brings glory to both Jesus and to Father. I’m going to limit myself to the most obvious and salientpoint or we will never get to the Jesus’ commandment in verse 34. The simple answer is that Judas’ betrayal initiates the series of events that will fulfill the Father’s saving plan in death and resurrection of his Son. Nothing can stop it, in fact Jesus speaks of it as if it has already occurred (‘Now is the Son of Man glorified’).
On the one hand, Jesus will be glorified is his substitutionary death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead.
And on the other hand, Jesus has glorified the Father in that he is freely obeying the Father’s will AND actively revealing the true nature of the Father’s love and justice in the cross.
An Underlying Question
But, this brings us back to our question, “How does Jesus’ love command relate to Judas’ betrayal?” Well to determine this answer, we need to answer an underlying question first. Why does Jesus call this a “New Command” in the first place? After all, this is not the first love command in the Bible is it?
Leviticus 19:17–18 You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
Well, if we compare the historical context and the content of these two commands, we can identify three “new” things that distinguish Jesus’ love command from similar commands in the OT.
Number One: Jesus indicates that Christian love is to be directed toward a new object. God’s love command in Leviticus was directed toward the covenant community of Israel, whereas Jesus’ love command is directed toward the new covenant community of the Church. Notice, the newness of this command is that it extends far beyond the old command to believers of every possible class, race, or nationality. And this means that, more often than not, we will need to show love not only to those that are difficult to love BUT to those that we would often choose to avoid at all costs.
Number Two: The second distinction we see in verse 34 is that this love is defined by an entirely new standard— “just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Now, when we hear this comparison, it’s really easy for us to jump to Jesus’ instruction in John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” And while this comparison is true, I’m not convinced that it is Jesus’ point in this passage… How has Jesus loved them? His love was not conditioned on their prestige, their performance or their personality. No. He loved them and continued to love them through their insufferable stupidity, perpetual arrogance, and litany failures. And even though the disciples do not realize it in the moment, they have witnessed the greatest display of love in the history of mankind.
Number Three: The final distinction in this command only becomes clear as we read the next four chapters BUT is absolutely necessary if we are going to succeed. This new community will be infused with a promised new power (the Holy Spirit) after Christ’s death and resurrection. And while we do not have the time to survey the promises in these chapters, let me highlight how this new power gives birth to an entire new kind of love.
When a sinner is born again and believes in Jesus, the Holy Spirit performs a radical, regenerating, act in the heart of the believer. He gives birth to the active life and love of Jesus in their heart. And in this he supernaturally enables us to do what we would never chose to do Or love whom we would never chose to love on our own and apart from his active work in our life.
The Simple Link
So what’s the link between Jesus love command? It’s simply this, Jesus’ love for Judas (and the rest of the disciples) was not motivated by the Judas’ worthiness but the glorious and unchangeable character of Jesus himself.
1 John 4:8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Love takes the initiative. Love bears insufferable costs for the good of the one loved. This is how Jesus loved Judas and he loved us in the cross (1 John 4:9–10). Main Idea: Jesus’ love command shows us the source of our love is not the worthiness of our brother or sister in Christ but the perfect example of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. And if this is not enough, Jesus tells us that this new love is the defining mark of his New Covenant people.
How then Should we Live? (John 13:35)
Notice, what is the defining mark a Christian? Is it that he or she will ascend in affluence and worldly power? Is it that he or she will enjoy health, wealth, and overall prosperity? The answer is clearly no.
Rather, when a diverse community of Christians is united by their mutual love for one another in the midst of all their differences, pet-peeves, disagreements, imperfections, and sin; the world will know that we are disciples of Jesus Christ. And what does this love look like in practical terms?
1 Corinthians 13:4–7 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Friends, of all the things that we might do in our Christian life, these behaviors will never fail to build unity and peace in the church AND likewise prove our discipleship to Jesus Christ.
 Walter Bauer et al., A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (University of Chicago Press, 2000). Cf. 11:33; 12:27.
 William F. Cook, John: Jesus Christ Is God, Focus on the Bible Commentary (Ross-Shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2016), 209.
 Timothy J. Keller, “The False Disciple,” in The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive, 2016–2017 (New York: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2016).
 D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England : Grand Rapid: Inter-Varsity Press ; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 472.
 Cook, John: Jesus Christ Is God, 209.
 Carson, The Gospel According to John, 474.
 Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, ed. Eckhard J. Schnabel (London: Inter-Varsity Press, 2017), 335.
 Adapted from, Richard D. Phillips, John: Volumes 1&2, Reformed Expository Commentary, ed. Philip Graham Ryken and Daniel M. Doriani (Phillipsburg, N.J: P & R Publishing, 2014), 2:178–80.