Believing for Betrayal (John 13:21–38)

“I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.”

“After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.'”

—John 13:19, 21

John tells us once more that Jesus was troubled. Why was Jesus troubled? Throughout His earthly ministry, as John presents it, Jesus has seemed so calm, so in control, despite volatile and tangible hostility and misguided zeal. But beginning with Lazarus, we read of Jesus being troubled. “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” (John 11:33).

I think there were other days of trouble in Jesus’ earthly life, but John is wanting to tell us something profound. As the cross nears, the soul of our Lord is increasingly said to be troubled. “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour” (John 12:27). There, the anguish of soul Jesus speaks of relates to the cross in general and receiving the cup of wrath from the Father’s hands. But here, in John 13, the trouble of soul is much more focused. Jesus is troubled in soul “after saying these things.” He has just spoken of Judas’ betrayal. Also, He is troubled in His spirit and testifies. He testifies of Judas’ betrayal. What Jesus has said and what He will say speaks as to why He is troubled. He has washed the disciples’ feet, but not all of them are clean. Not all are blessed. Not all are chosen. One will lift his heal against Jesus. One will betray Him. And this troubles our Lord, (v. 21).

See and marvel at our Lord’s tender humanity. As God, He, with the Father, eternally willed this betrayal. And yet, as a man, this betrayal stings. It is no strain to see David’s pain as anticipating that of our Lord. “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9). We don’t need to take liberal poetic license to see how that song is fulfilled here. Jesus’ sorrows included those of betrayal by a close friend.

In His divine nature, our Lord, is impassible. His joy is indestructible. He isn’t moody. He isn’t moved by outside forces. He moves all. He does all that He pleases. All that He pleases, He does. The incarnate Son reveals something of this to us when He tells the disciples that He was glad that Lazarus was dead and not merely sleeping, (John 11:14–15). Our God doesn’t wring His hands. He has never pulled His hair. He has never sought treatment for anxiety. Because He needs no comfort, He is the comforter, the God of all comfort.

But our Lord Jesus, remaining what He was (God), became what He was not (man)—one person with two natures. In His divine nature, Jesus remains impassible. In His human nature, He was “troubled in his spirit.” He was troubled in spirit, and without sin. He is troubled because one of these disciples, one of these men who He has spent years with, teaching, laughing, praying, rebuking, eating, sharing, and communing—one of these will betray him. One of the twelve. One of those whose feet He has washed. Judas is His close friend. And his betrayal troubles Him.

There are tares among the wheat. There will be apostasy. There will be betrayal. It will be unexpected. It will come from those we trust. It is not for us to figure out ahead of time. It will sting. It will trouble our souls. It will confuse and befuddle. Take comfort. Our Lord knew such pain. He knew the betrayal would come and still it stung. He divinely ordained it, and yet, in His humanity, it troubled Him. But don’t forget that your God works all things together for good. The betrayal of His close friend was for the redemption of His true friends for whom He laid down His life.

When You Should Just Eat What You’re Trying to Serve (Jeremiah 7:16–8:3)

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the flesh. For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Jeremiah 7:21–22).

Here’s a confusing command, unless you’re reading your Bible carefully. For those who wonder what’s with all the details about the sacrifices in Leviticus, well, here’s one example of where the dictionary of Leviticus makes for quite a dramatic story later on.

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On the surface God seems to be saying two contradictory things in vv. 21 and 22. “Add another one to the fire.” “I never asked for any.” The catch is that burnt offerings were to be consumed whole on the altar; whereas, there were sacrifices of which the offerer partook. God tells them, that when they make a sacrifice, of which they may eat, to add a burnt offering to it, and go ahead and eat that as well. They might as well please their own palate because they’re not pleasing Yahweh. He told them in 6:20 that “their offerings are not acceptable, nor [are their] sacrifices pleasing to [Him].” Since they’re not worshipping, they might as well have a BBQ. Because the lamb is wasted as a sacrifice, they should eat it up so that it’s not a complete wash.

If our baptisms are more about getting the excited wet, rather than signifying the death and resurrection of disciples, we might as well turn the baptistry into a hot tub so that it serves some practical purpose.

Many churches are right to replace congregational worship with concerts, because worship of the true God is far from their hearts and thus cannot be on their lips.

If we’re not going to raise our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, let’s deck out the minivan of the church with the entertainment package so that they can be amused as they are driven to hell.

If you give offerings as though they are indulgences, you might as well have kept them for yourself.

Because such sacrifices are full of idolatry, Judah might as well eat the world whole and quit trying to play religion. Many “churches” should follow suit.

When God Takes You to Court (Jeremiah 2:1–37)

“The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who handle the law did not know me; the shepherds transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal and went after things that do not profit.” —Jeremiah 2:8 (ESV)

When God takes you to court, beware, for the Prosecutor is your Judge. Further, the apostate church should realize that the one prosecuting is the one she claims as her husband. The visible church’s infidelity is obvious, yet she claims innocence.

When God brings forth the charges, the only sensible plea is “Guilty, your Honor.” His questions pierce and expose. You have no shot at injustice by fooling the system. Make no countersuit. Hang you head in shame or He will bow it. Repent or perish.

In this court everyman has to give account for his own sin, but God lays primary responsibility where responsibility lies. As when man sinned in the garden, God first questioned Adam, so now, when His bride has been unfaithful, God explicitly brings forth the sins of the priests, shepherds, and prophets.

The church today is full of infidelity. Woe to the pastors, who as priests, have falsely comforted us that all is well. Woe to the overseers, who as kings, have led us into idolatry. Woe to elders, who as prophets, have called evil good and good evil. The church has been unfaithful, because of our Hophni and Phineases who dip into the pot to feed their own bellies. The church has been unfaithful, because our Solomons have many wives leading their hearts astray. The church has been unfaithful, because our Zedekiahs strike any Micaiahs speaking God’s judgment on the cheek, while proclaiming a false message of triumph.