And while they were reclining and eating, Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, one of you who is eating with Me will betray Me."
I. THE SHADOW AT THE FEAST, Not fear, as of a criminal under sting of conscience; nor over-anxiety, the specter that sits with the worldling at his board; but moral repugnance expressing itself in sympathetic sorrow. An inward sense of interrupted sympathy and fellowship.
II. THE BETRAYER INDICATED. It is necessary to declare what it is which prevents the full communion of the household of Christ. This is done in order:
1. To awaken the spirit of self-examination and self-distrust. "Is it I?" Therefore the indication given is general and anonymous.
2. To characterize and accentuate the moral hideousness of the crime. It was shown to be an evil foretold from afar. The betrayal is to take place, "that the Scripture (Psalm 41:9) may be fulfilled, He that eateth my bread [or his bread with me] lifted up his heel against me" (John 13:18). And so, anticipatively, a new evidence is furnished by which to identify Jesus as the Messiah (John 13:19). As done by one enjoying the benefits of the Christian household, and reclining in pretended communion with the Lord, it is declared to be an act of the basest treachery and ingratitude.
3. As a personal discovery determining the further action of the guilty one. The special sign given was perceived by Judas alone, although explicitly mentioned. In answer to John's inquiry (the question of spiritual love), the partaking, which is here spoken of as a general thing, is specialized in a definite way with respect to the individual meant (John 13:26). The further command is given, not to do the deed, but, as he is determined even then to do it, to do it quickly (John 13:27, 30). Thus the foulest crime against the Son of God is determined and accelerated amidst communion and sacred celebration - a psychological truth.
4. As an occasion for solemn lamentation over the miserable destiny of Judas. The "woe" is not spoken so much as a denunciation, but rather in commiseration. All the good of life is spoken of as forfeited - and more than forfeited. "The apophthegm is rather remarkable when microscopically examined, for, strictly speaking, nothing would be good to a man who never existed. But our Savior's meaning is not microscopic, but obvious, and most solemn. A man's existence is turned into a curse to him when he inverts the grand moral purpose contemplated in its Divine origination" (Morison). At the feast of love there is ever a sense of mingled reprobation and sympathy with respect to sinners.
III. THE PRINCIPLE OF THE INTERDEPENDENCE OF GOOD AND EVIL STATED. "The Son of man goeth," etc. Evil is overruled and made the occasion of good. Not that it is thereby necessitated: it is still the product of the free-will of the creature. Yet is it foreseen, and the operation of good is modified so as to produce the greater good. That Christ should die was foreordained; it was the expression of an eternal deterruination of the Divine nature; but the particular circumstances affecting the external character of his death were not foreordained. And, therefore, as freely committed, evil is not altered in its moral character by the result flowing from its being divinely overruled. Judas was a criminal awfully and uniquely wicked, and his "woe" is wailed forth by Infinite Love himself! - M.
Shall betray Me.
I. Suppose Judas to have been aware, as he might have been, both from ancient prophecy, and from the express declarations of our Lord Himself, that Jesus, if He were indeed the Christ, must be delivered to His enemies, and ignominiously put to death — might he not, then, very probably say to himself, "After all, I shall only be helping to accomplish what has been determined by God, and what is indispensable to the work which Messiah has undertaken?" I do not know any train of thought which is more likely to have presented itself to the mind of Judas than this. "The Son of man goeth as it is written of Him." But this determination, this certainty, left undiminished the guiltiness of the parties who put Christ to death. They obeyed nothing but the suggestions of their own wilful hearts; they were actuated by nothing but their desperate malice and hatred of Jesus, when they accomplished prophecies and fulfilled Divine decrees. Therefore was it no excuse for them that they were only bringing to pass what had long before been ordained. The whole burden of the crime rested upon the crucifiers, however true it was that Christ must be crucified. It did not make Judas turn trailer that God foreknew his treason, and determined to render it subservient to His own almighty ends. God, indeed, knew that Judas would betray his Master, but God's knowing it did not conduce to his doing it. It was certain, but the foreknown wickedness of the man causes the certainty, and not the fore-ordained performance of the deed, Oh! the utter vanity of the thought that God ever places us under a necessity of sinning, or that because our sins may turn to His glory they will not issue in our shame.
II. And now let us glance at another delusion to which it is likely that Judas gave indulgence. This is the delusion as to the consequences, the punishment of sin, being exaggerated or overstated. It may be that Judas could hardly persuade himself that a being so beneficent as Christ would ever wholly lay aside the graciousness of His nature, and avenge a wrong done by surrendering the doer to intense and interminable anguish. But, in all the range of Scripture, there is not, perhaps, a passage which sets itself so decisively against this delusion as the latter clause of our Saviour's address in the text — "It had been good for that man if he had not been born." There is nothing in the Bible which gives me so strong an idea of the utter moral hardness in which a man is left who is forsaken by the Spirit of God, as the fact that Judas's question, "Lord, is it I?" followed immediately on Christ's saying, "Woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed;" and that his going forth to fill his accursed compact with the priests was on the instant of his having been told that Christ knew him for the traitor. I pause on the word "then," and I am tempted to ask, could it, oh! could it have been "then?" Yes, "then" it was that, with the words, "It had been good for that man if he had not been born," — words vocal of an eternity of unimagined woe — then it was that, with these words rung out to him as the knell of his own doomed spirit, Judas proceeded to address Christ with a taunting and insolent inquiry, and then went out to accomplish the traitorous purpose which had called forth the tremendous denunciation. With what earnestness should we join in that prayer in the Liturgy, "Take not Thy Holy Spirit from us!"
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.A secret sin works insidiously, but with wondrous quiet power. Its hidden ravages are awful, and the outward revelation of their result and existence may be contemporaneous. Until that revelation was made, probably no one ever suspected the presence in the man of anything but a few venial faults which were as mere excrescences on a robust character, though these growths were something rude. Oftentimes a large fungus will start from a tree, and in some mysterious manner will sap the life power on the spot on which it grows. They were like that fungus. When the fungus falls in the autumn, it leaves scarcely a trace of its presence, the tree being apparently as healthy as before the advent of the parasite. But the whole character of the wood has been changed by the strange power of the fungus, being soft and cork-like to the touch. Perhaps the parasite may fall in the autumn, and the tree may show no symptoms of decay; but at the first tempest it may have to encounter, the trunk snaps off at the spot where the fungus has been, and the extent of the injury is at once disclosed. As long as any portion of that tree retains life, it will continue to throw out these destructive fungi; and even when a mere stump is left in the ground, the fungi will push themselves out in profusion.
(Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.)I. The first is, THE FACT SPECIFIED. "The Son of man is betrayed to be crucified." Do any ask, as those of old did, "Who is this Son of man?" This Son of man is none other than the very person, of whom the apostle spake as possessing in Himself "the great mystery of godliness;" He is "God manifest in the flesh." There is, first, the heinous character of the traitor that betrayed Him; secondly, the importance of hunting out and exposing the imitators of his black deed in the present day — and, God helping me, I mean to be faithful here; and then, in the third place, the sufferings of Him who was betrayed and crucified. Let me invite you to pray over these three things.
1. The heinousness of the traitor. He had made a glaring profession. He had attached himself to the disciples of Christ; he had become a member of the purest Church that ever was formed upon earth — the immediate twelve around our Lord. He was looked up to, a leading man. I beseech you, weigh this solemn fact — for a solemn one it is — that neither profession, nor diligent exertion, nor high standing among professors, so as to be beyond even suspicion, will stand in the stead of vital godliness. And there may be Judases even now, and I believe there are not a few, that are as much unsuspected as Judas Iscariot was. So artful was his deception, that none of the disciples suspected him. Nay more; the first feature of his character that is developed, the first view we have of him in his real character, is, that he was the last to suspect himself. All the others had said, "Lord, is it I?" — and last of all, Judas drawls it out, "Master, is it I?" Yet after all the standing he gained, after all the miracles he observed, after all the attachment he professed, this wretch, for thirty pieces of silver, is content to betray his Lord. Ah! only put a money bait in the way of the Judases, and you soon find them out; that will find them out, if nothing else will. Of course, His enemies are glad to have Him seized; but who would believe it possible, especially among those who have such a high opinion of the dignity of human nature, that this wretch, after eating and drinking with Christ, after following Him all His ministry through, can go and betray Him with a kiss? can say, in the very act of betraying Him, "Hail, Master?" — carrying on his devilism to the last.
2. But I want a word of interrogation with regard to imitators of Judas in the present day. Have you thrown "the bag" away? Have you done with carnal objects and pursuits? Do you scorn the idea of marketing about Christ, and selling Him — bartering Him? Are you really and honestly concerned about the truth of Christ, the interests of His cause, the purity of His gospel, the sacredness of His ordinances? Oh I try, try these matters. I would not for the world have a single masked character about me, of the Judas-like breed.
3. Let me now invite your attention for a moment to the other point — the sufferings of this betrayed and murdered Lord. "The Son of man is betrayed to be crucified." Is not this enough to make a man hate sin? If you do not hate sin in its very nature, you have never been to Calvary, and you have never had fellowship with a precious Christ. Wherever the blood of atonement is applied, it produces hatred of sin: oh that you and I may live upon Calvary, until every sin shall be mortified, subdued, and kept under, and Christ reign supreme!
II. I pass on to the second feature in our subject: THE OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT OF THIS FACT BY THE SUFFERER HIMSELF.
III. I pass on to the third particular of our subject — THE RESULT. "The Son of man is betrayed to be crucified;" but the matter did not end there. "The Son of man is betrayed to be crucified;" and then the powers of darkness have done their worst. "The Son of man is betrayed to be crucified;" and even death shall lose its sting, hell shall lose its terrors for all Mine elect, Jehovah shall get the glory of His own name, and I shall go through the valley of the shadow of death to My exaltation. To be brief I will just name three things as the result anticipated; for you know it is said, that "for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross." And what was it? The redeemed to be emancipated; Christ to be exalted; and heaven to be opened and peopled. These are the results; and I said, when I gave you the plan of my sermon, that He should not be disappointed in any of them; nor shall He.
(J. Irons, D. D.)
1. In His person. By vilifying Him, as do Turks, Jews, and heathen. Also, when any deny or oppose His Nature — either the Godhead or the Manhood, as do heretics. Also, when any profane the blood of Christ, by remaining unrepentant, or turning apostate.
2. In His office, as Mediator; putting any person or thing in His place.
3. In His names or titles; using them profanely.
4. In His saints and faithful members; wronging or abusing them.
5. In His messengers and ministers (Luke 10:16).
6. In His holy ordinances; the Word, sacraments, etc. (1 Corinthians 11:27). By this we may examine whether the love to Christ which we profess is true and sincere. Does this child love his father, or that servant his master, who can hear him abused and reproached?
(George Petter.)Seneca, no less than by Jesus Christ. Here is the place of religion: this is its need. We do not need to pray to God for what we can do ourselves. But what we cannot do for ourselves is to guide and keep and direct this hidden man of the heart. We have a right to come boldly to God for this; asking His spirit, and expecting to receive it. This is a promise we can trust in, that God will give His Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.
(J. Freeman Clarke.)I. LOOK AT THE QUESTION, "Lord, is it I?"
II. LOOK AT THIS QUESTION IN CONNECTION WITH THE REMARK THAT CALLED IT FORTH. What did Judas sell Christ for? The old German story reports that the astrologer Faustus sold his soul to the evil one for twenty-four years of earthly happiness. What was the bargain in this case? The auctioneer had tempting lists to show; what was it that tempted Judas? He sold his Lord for thirty somethings. What things? Thirty years of right over all the earth, with all the trees of the forests, all the fowls of the mountains, and the cattle upon a thousand hills? For thirty armies? Or thirty fleets? Thirty stars? Thirty centuries of power, to reign majestically on hell's burning throne? No, for thirty shillings!
III. LOOK AT THE QUESTION IN CONNECTION WITH THE SIMPLE UNSUSPECTING BROTHERLINESS IT REVEALED IN THOSE TO WHOM IT WAS SPOKEN. When Christ's declaration was made. "One of you shall betray Me," it would not have been wonderful, judging by a common standard, if such words as these had passed through various minds — "It is Judas; I always thought him the black sheep of the fold; I never liked his grasp of that bag; I never liked the mystery of that missing cash; I never liked the look of him; I never liked his fussy whisper." No such thoughts were in open or secret circulation. The disciples already exemplified the principle, and carried in their hearts the Divine music of the language, "Love suffereth long, and is kind....is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." With lips that were tremulous, and cheeks that were blanched, each one said, not, "Lord, is it he?" but, "Lord, is it I?"
IV. LOOK AT THIS QUESTION IN CONNECTION WITH THE FEAR FOR HIMSELF, SHOWN BY EVERY ONE WHO ASKED IT. A preacher in a certain village church once gave easy lessons in Christian ethics through a scheme of illustration taken from the letters of the alphabet. Rebuking his hearers for their readiness to speak evil of their neighbours, he said that, regarding each letter of the alphabet as the initial letter of a name, they had something to say against all the letters, with one exception. His homily was to this effect. "You say, A lies, B steals, C swears, D drinks, F brags, G goes into a passion, H gets into debt. The letter I is the only one of which you have nothing to say." No rustics can require such elementary education more than do some keen leaders of society. Pitiless detectors of sin in others, begin at home. Think first of that which is represented by the letter I. It is a necessary word, for you can never get beyond it, never do without it, while you live, or when you die. It is a deep word, for who can sound the sea of its deep significance? It is an important word, for of all words which can lighten us with their flash, or startle us with their blow, there is no more important" word to us than this. Who is there? "I." Who are you? Conjure up this mystery — this "you," symbolized by the letter "I." Face it, speak to it, challenge it, and know if all is right with it. If indeed you can say, "I am a Christian"; "I believe, help, Lord, mine unbelief;" "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me;" still you feel that two natures for the present war within you, and have need to offer 's prayer, "Lord, deliver me from the wicked man, myself." When the wind is rising, and the waves are treacherous, it is good for each man to look to his own ship, to his own ropes, to his own sails; not first to stand and speculate on the seaworthiness of other ships.
V. LOOK AT THIS QUESTION IN CONNECTION WITH THE LOVE THAT WORKED IN THE HEART OF THE QUESTIONER. Not one of them ever knew before how much he loved his Lord, but this shock brought the love out.
VI. LOOK AT THIS QUESTION IN CONNECTION WITH THE ANSWER TO IT. "Thou hast said." You can read what is on the open page, Jesus can look through the lids of the book, and read off the sheet — in print. You can see the whited sepulchre; He can see the skeleton within. You can see the fair appearance, He can see the wolf under the borrowed fleece. You can see the body, He can see the soul. Now the secret had come to light, as one day all secrets will.
VII. LOOK AT THIS QUESTION IN OTHER POSSIBLE APPLICATIONS. "One of you will go out of this place a lost spirit." "Lord, is it I?" "One of you, having refused the Divine love before, will refuse it again!" "Lord, is it I?" "One of you will go out with a harder heart than when he came in." "Lord, is it I?" "One of you, a waverer now, will be a waverer still." "Lord, is it I?" "One of you, now almost persuaded to be a Christian, will still remain only almost persuaded." "Lord, is it I?" "One of you, already a true disciple, will refuse, as you have refused before, to confess your faith!" "Lord, is it I?" Let us think, on the other hand, of certain happy possibilities in the fair use of these words. There will come a time, beyond what we now call time, when, in the rapture of immortality, and in the language of heaven, you will say, "Have I in reality come through death? Am I on the other side? Can it be that I am glorified at last? This, so wonderful beyond language to express, so bright beyond the most enchanted fancy to picture, what is it? Is it solid? Or is it a glory of dreamland? I used to sin, I used to be slow, I used to be weary, I used to have dim eyes, and dull ears! Now I see! Now I love! Now I can fly like the light! Lord, is it I?"
(Charles Stanford, D. D.)
I. BUT BEFORE ENTERING INTO THE PARTICULARS OF HIS HISTORY, A FEW GENERAL REMARKS ARE PERTINENT.
1. There is no evidence that Judas Iscariot was a man of bad countenance. Most men are much influenced by looks, and many think they can tell a man's character by the physiognomy. This may often be true, but there are many exceptions.
2. There is no evidence that, up to his betrayal of his Lord, his conduct was the subject of censure, complaint, jealousy, or of the slightest suspicion. His sins were all concealed from the eyes of mortals. He was a thief, but that was known only to Omniscience.
3. There is no evidence that, during his continuance with Christ, he regarded himself as a hypocrite. Doubtless he thought himself honest.
4. Let it not be supposed that Judas ought not to have known his character. He shut his eyes to the truth respecting himself. The aggravations of the sin of betraying Christ were many and great. The traitor was eminent in place, in gifts, in office, in profession; a guide to others, and one whose example was likely to influence many.
II. THE LESSONS TAUGHT US BY THE LIFE AND END OF JUDAS ARE SUCH AS THESE —
1. Though wicked men do not so intend, yet in all cases they shall certainly glorify God by all their misdeeds (Psalm 76:10). The wickedness of Judas was by God over-ruled to bring about the most important event in man's salvation. The wicked now hate God, but they cannot defeat Him.
3. From the history of Judas we also learn that when a man is once fairly started in a career of wickedness, it is impossible to tell where he may stop. In the next world surprise awaits all the impenitent.
4. All men should especially beware of covetousness (1 Timothy 6:10).
5. Did men but know how bitter would be the end of transgression, they would at least pause before they plunge into all evil. Oh! that men would hear the warning words of Richard Baxter, "Use sin as it will use you: spare it not, for it will not spare you; it is your murderer and the murderer of the world. Use it, therefore, as a murderer should be used."
6. How small a temptation to sin will at last prevail over a vicious mind. For less than twenty dollars Judas sold his Lord and Master. Those temptations commonly esteemed great are not the most sure to prevail.
7. Nothing prepares a man for destruction faster than hypocrisy or formality in actions of a religious nature. The three years which Judas spent in the family of our Lord probably exceeded all the rest of his life in ripening him for destruction. We should never forget that official character is one thing, and moral character another thing. All official characters may be sustained without any real grace in the heart.
8. The history of Judas shows us how man will cling to false hopes. There is no evidence that during years of hypocrisy he ever seriously doubted his own piety.
9. If men thus self-confident forsake their profession, and openly apostatize, we need not be surprised.
10. Thus, too, we have a full refutation of the objection made to a connection with the visible church because there are wicked men in her communion. The apostles certainly knew that among them was one bad man; but they did not therefore renounce their portion among Christ's professed friends.
11. How difficult it is to bring home truth to the deceitful hears of man. Hypocrites are slow to improve close, discriminating preaching. They desire not to look into their real characters.
12. The case of Judas discloses the uselessness of that sorrow of the world which worketh death, hath no hope in it, and drives the soul to madness. It is not desperation, but penitence, that God requires. Regrets without hatred of sin are useless, both on earth and in hell.
(W. S. Plumer, D. D.)
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