One of the facts of life is that familiarity can cause something that was initially extremely important to us to lose its significance and power with the passing of time. We need to take care that this does not happen to us as we gather each week to partake of the emblems of bread and wine to remember our Lord. There is little doubt that no sections of the Word would be read more regularly than those considered prior to partaking of the emblems. Many of us can now recite them without recourse to our Bible. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11 are one of these familiar sections.

Have you ever pondered why Paul had to remind the Corinthians of the importance of the emblems? He was sternly reprimanding the ecclesia because they had let slip the important reason for which they had gathered. The significance of the bread and wine had faded in their minds and the ecclesial meal was a higher priority. Thus Paul wrote: “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat… What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not” (1 Cor 11:20–22, esv).

“The same night in which he was betrayed”

The gospel writers, when recording how Jesus  instituted the memorials of the bread and wine, all  mention that Jesus said that one of his disciples  would betray him. Paul does likewise: “For I have  received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread”.

Paul saw in the betrayal by Judas a very  sober lesson for us all to consider as we share the  emblems.

  • v27 “Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink  this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of  the body and blood of the Lord”—as Judas was.
  • v28 “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.” When Jesus said that one of his disciples would betray  him they each asked, “Is it I?”—they examined  themselves and not others! (Mark 14:19)
  • v29 “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh condemnation to himself”— as Judas did: “Then Judas, which had betrayed  him, when he saw that he was condemned  repented himself… saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood” (Matt  27:3–4; Psa 109:7)

Betraying or Denying the Lord

We have seen the emphasis placed upon the term  “betray” in association with Judas. However let  us recall that it was that same night that Peter  “denied” his Lord. He did it very forcefully too: “He  began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this  man of whom ye speak. And the second time the  cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that  Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice,  thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought  thereon, he wept” (Mark 14:71–72). Peter denied  his Lord that night—but Judas betrayed him. Jesus  knew that Judas would betray him and that Peter  would deny him (John 6:71; Mark 14:30). What  is the difference? There is a very great difference.  Judas premeditated his evil action and executed it  with precision in a merciless way. However Peter  never intended to deny his Lord: “Peter said unto  him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not  deny thee” (Matt 26:35). Under the enormous  pressure of the moment he denied that he knew  Jesus, and then wept bitterly over his failure.

We all have similar challenges. None of us start  the day expecting to deny our Lord, but as we go  about our daily business sometimes when under  pressure, or when our pride or position is at stake,  we may crumble. Then, like Peter, we feel wretched  and remorseful that we have let slip an opportunity  to declare our love and loyalty to the One who gave  all for us. We may all at times deny our Lord, but  let us examine ourselves and determine if we have  any plan developing in our mind which, if executed,  will cause us to betray him.

Jesus Knew Who Would Betray Him

Our Lord studied the scriptures and knew every  detail about his betrayal, his crucifixion and what  his disciples would do. Consider his words as he led  the eleven out towards Gethsemane: “All ye shall be  offended because of me this night: for it is written,  I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock  shall be scattered abroad” (Matt 26:31). Here Jesus  cites Zechariah 13:7, and surely his mind would  have gone to that related prophecy of Zechariah  11:12–13: “If ye think good, give me my price; and  if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty  pieces of silver. And Yahweh said unto me, Cast it  unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at  of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and  cast them to the potter in the house of Yahweh.” Our  Lord knew this would be fulfilled in minute detail  by Judas and the rulers (Matt 27:3–8).

He knew exactly what Judas would do: “For  Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that  believed not, and who should betray him” (John  6:64). He said: “The Son of man indeed goeth, as it  is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the  Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if  he had never been born” (Mark 14:21); and again,  “That the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth  bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. Now  I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass,  ye may believe that I am he” (John 13:18–19).

Peter, when speaking to the 120 gathered in  Jerusalem after the ascension of the Lord, spoke  of Judas’ betrayal which fulfilled scripture: “Men  and brethren, this scripture must needs have been  fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit by the mouth of  David spake before concerning Judas, which was  guide to them that took Jesus.” Peter then quotes  Psalms 69 and 109 which foretell Judas’ betrayal  (Acts 1:16–20).

Judas—the Betrayer

The name Judas is the Greek form of the Hebrew  name Judah. If Judas had read the first words  recorded of his namesake in the Bible he would have  read this: “Judah said unto his brethren, What profit  is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?  Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and  let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content” (Gen  37:26–27). Quite a remarkable parallel with the  action of Judas!

Judas is always mentioned last in the naming  of the twelve apostles, and on each occasion  is mentioned as the one who betrayed Jesus or  “the traitor”. The only other place where Judas  is mentioned, apart from in the last week of the  life of the Lord, was at Passover time twelve  months earlier, following the feeding of the five  thousand, recorded in John 6. After Jesus had fed  the multitude, he sent his disciples over the lake  while he prayed. A fierce storm blew up and Peter,  seeing Jesus walking on the water, stepped out of  the boat to walk to him. As he began to sink Jesus  saved him, drew him into the boat and then stilled  the storm. Awestruck, the disciples worshipped  him and proclaimed, “Of a truth thou art the Son  of God” (Matt 14:33).

It was just hours later that Jesus taught in the  synagogue at Capernaum: “He that eateth my flesh,  and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him”  (John 6:56). This was too hard a saying for many  and they departed from following Jesus (v66). The  discussion that follows tells us much about Judas and  shows how the Lord knew his heart. It challenges  each of us to examine ourselves. In verse 64 Jesus  said: “But there are some of you that believe not. For  Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that  believed not, and who should betray him”. When  many turned away, Jesus said to the twelve, “Will  ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him,  Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of  eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou  art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John  6:67–69). Only hours earlier they had all said, “Of a  truth thou art the Son of God”. Peter believed he was  speaking on behalf of them all—he did not know that  Judas had “an evil heart of unbelief,” but the Lord  did. He said: “Have not I chosen you twelve, and  one of you is a devil?” Judas may have deceived the  eleven but he could not deceive his Lord!

“My spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof”

Judas next appears in the house of Mary, Martha and Lazarus and it is supper time. Mary takes  the expensive ointment that she had kept for the  occasion, and with it anoints the feet of Jesus and wipes his feet with her hair. Now this is a  remarkable incident in itself. No woman would choose to loose her hair and wipe dusty feet with  it… unless she saw the man as her Lord. Was Mary  expressing her love for her Lord as it is expressed  by the bride in Song of Solomon 1:12? “While the king sitteth at his table, [as Jesus was] my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.”

Judas instigated grumbling among the disciples at her action, so they asked: “Why was this waste of the ointment made?” (Mark 14:4). How easy for one with an impure motive to agitate and stir up others! Jesus  intervened: “Let her alone; why trouble ye her?”

It seems that Mary understood that the Lord’s death was at hand. Jesus answered the disciples:  “She hath wrought a good work on me… She hath  done what she could: she is come a forehand to anoint my body to the burying” (Mark 14:6–8). Mary also  knew he would rise again. She remembered what he  had said to Martha only weeks before when he came  to Bethany to raise Lazarus: “I am the resurrection,  and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were  dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25), and she had  seen her brother raised. It is possibly because of her  belief that we do not read of her coming to the tomb  to anoint the body of her Lord with the other women.  She believed he would rise—his body would not be  there. The faith of Mary and Martha was rewarded,  for it was from that little home in Bethany on the  Mount of Olives, where such love had been shown  to him, that the Lord ascended to heaven. “And he  led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up  his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass,  while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and  carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:50–51).

The Thief—the Son of Perdition

Unbeknown to the disciples, Judas was a thief  (John 12:6). His professed care for the poor was  impressive, so much so that when Jesus sent him  from the supper “some of them thought, because  Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him,  Buy those things that we have need of against the  feast; or, that he should give something to the poor”  (John 13:29). No doubt whenever he was asked how  much was in the bag Judas would point out it was  empty again because he had given to the poor. His  little record book would pass an Auditor General’s  inspection—but it didn’t pass the eyes of our Lord!  The lesson for us—we may be able to deceive our  brethren but we cannot deceive our Lord. So let us  continually examine ourselves.

It is interesting that Judas knew how much the  ointment was worth—300 pence or about a year’s  wages. Did his wife have expensive tastes for the  luxuries of this world?

The expression, “Why was this waste made?”  has an ominous ring to it. The word waste is the  same word rendered perdition in the prayer of the  Lord: “None of them is lost, but the son of perdition;  that the scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12). It  is the word Paul uses when he writes that those “that  will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into  many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in  destruction and perdition” (1 Tim 6:9). Surrounded  by a world of highflying materialism, we need to  examine ourselves and not become a “Judas”. Let  us beware lest materialism grasp us in its clutches  and so we betray our Lord.

The Lord quoted Psalm 41:9–10 in the upper  room as he told his disciples that he was well aware  of the evil intent of Judas. He said: “That the  scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread  with me hath lifted up his heel against me. Now I tell  you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye  may believe that I am he” (John 13:18–19). In doing  this Judas ate and drank condemnation to himself.  Interestingly this psalm commences with these  words: “Blessed is he that considereth the poor:  the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble” (Psa  41:1). Judas, the hypocrite, pretended to consider  the poor but his own financial interests consumed  him. And so for 30 pieces of silver he betrayed his  Lord. His avaricious ways drove him to be “guilty  of the body and blood of the Lord”. He examined  his financial situation and not his heart, and so  became a traitor.

A Prophetic Summary of Judas

Peter directs us to Psalm 109 as one of the  prophecies regarding Judas. In this psalm we have  many of the characteristics of Judas outlined.

The Psalm tells that:

  • Judas would be condemned, • which he was (v7; cp 1 Cor 11:29; Matt 27:3)
  • He would die young and another take his office or “bishoprick” as Peter explains (v8; Acts 1:20). He was unfit for the task of an overseer  or shepherd of the ecclesia.
  • He was married, and had children. It seems that like Achan and his family, Judas’ wife and family knew that he was a thief and  obtained money from the common purse  (v9–10,12–13).
  • Judas was in debt to the extortioner, or money lender (v11). He had overcommitted and now was desperate for money—a warning for us  today! (1 Tim 6:10)
  • He did not show mercy though he pretended to be merciful to the poor (v12).

The reason why he was condemned is given  in verse 16: “Because that he remembered not to  show mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy  man”. James says: “He shall have judgment without  mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy  rejoiceth against judgment” (James 2:13).

Let us Examine Ourselves

We have seen the very important reason why, when recording those events in the upper room, we have the Lord’s words, “One of you which eateth with me shall betray me” (Mark 14:18). These words are a sober warning to us today. Let us all examine ourselves and our loyalty to our Lord. If we have unwisely become embroiled in anything that will vie for our loyalty to Christ, let us extricate ourselves from it now. Remember—hypocrisy may deceive others but it will not deceive our Lord!

Paul said: “Let a man examine himself.” We must ask the simple but disarming question, “Lord, is it I?”—not, “Is it him?”, or even worse, “I think it’s him”. Let us examine our own hearts so that we may eat and drink in the confident knowledge that our Lord, who knows our hearts and our failings of the past week, will forgive us and strengthen us for the coming week.