BetrayalOctober 7th, 2013 by Anthony Bosman
“I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.’ Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”
When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke.
Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke.
Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, “Lord, who is it?”
Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.
Reading this, I’m left with a question: Did Judas have a choice?
Growing up, I’ve been repeatedly exposed to the question of free will, not just in philosophy classes, but also in popular movies (such as ‘The Matrix’) that pit a character’s ‘choice’ against ‘fate’.
What does Scripture teach? On the one hand, it teaches God knows the “end from the beginning” and “things that are not yet done” (Is. 46:10). On the other hand, it presents people as having authentic choices that determine their future (for example, Eze. 18:24, Jer. 18:5-11).
This might appear paradoxical to us today, and we might be tempted to compose a complicated philosophical theory that explains divine sovereignty and human freedom (many have tried), but the writers of Scripture seemed content not having one. They simply affirmed both truths: God is in control. We have choice.
Which brings us back to Judas. Perhaps we’re asking the wrong question. Maybe John’s purpose in recording Judas’ fulfillment of the prophecy–“He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me”–has nothing to do with an academic debate about free will.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
The prophecy Jesus quoted comes from an ancient Psalm. Here’s the context:
All who hate me whisper together against me;
Against me they devise my hurt.
“An evil disease,” they say, “clings to him.
And now that he lies down, he will rise up no more.”
Even my own familiar friend in who I trusted,
Who ate my bread,
Has lifted up his heel against me.
These words were first written by King David, likely when he had to flee his kingdom after one of his close companions joined his son’s uprising against him (see 2 Sam. 15).
In quoting from it at the last supper, just prior to his death, Jesus seems to be joining in the painful song of David, “Even my own familiar friend in who I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”
This isn’t a philosophical word game, but a glimpse into the heart of Christ. Regardless of if he knew it was coming, Jesus was pained by the betrayal of his friend Judas.
For three and a half years Jesus had walked with Judas and called him friend. Even on this night, he had bent down and washed Judas’ feet–perhaps as a final attempt to reach his heart. But Judas had rejected that all.
John’s gospel isn’t teaching us philosophy. Rather, it’s revealing to us the incredible joy God takes in us and the deep pain He experiences at our rejection of Him.
All history is open before God, but in the gospel, God’s heart is open before us.