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Timothy Cross

Even My bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of My bread, has lifted his heel against Me (Psalm 41:9).

Judas Iscariot

That this Scripture refers ultimately and specifically to Judas Iscariot, the Lord's betrayer, is patent from Jesus' Own precise quotation of it in John 13:18, at the Passover meal and first 'Lord's Supper.' At the Lord's Supper, when the Lord Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread... (1 Corinthians 11:23), the Saviour applied the verse to Judas' impending act of betrayal of Himself to the authorities to be put to death. Judas' betrayal has gone down as one of the most dastardly acts—if not the most dastardly act—in history. The name 'Judas' is infamous. No right-minded person would give it to their son. The name is synonymous with treachery and hurt.

Who killed Christ?

There is no glib answer to the question 'Just who was responsible for the death of Christ?' Behind all of the secondary causes, ultimately it was the sovereign providence of God which did not spare His Own Son but gave Him up for us all (Romans 8:32). We also have to remember that Christ Himself was actively obedient unto death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8). To our shame, we have to say also that we were responsible for Christ's death. It was our sin which necessitated Christ's redeeming blood being shed.

The secondary and immediate causes of Calvary however are recorded in the historical records of the four Gospel accounts. From these we see that the immediate cause of Calvary was the Roman authorities under Pontius Pilate. It was the Roman soldiers—supervised by a centurion who later confessed his faith in Jesus—who actually hammered the nails into Christ's flesh. It was the Jewish religious authorities however who handed Christ over to be crucified. They did so, in their own words, because 'It is not lawful for us to put any man to death' (John 18:31). Yet—and now we reach our point—it was Judas Iscariot who was responsible for betraying the Lord Jesus to the Jewish authorities. His motivation was monetary gain. Hence we see that Judas, humanly speaking, played a central role in the chain of events which brought about the Calvary Event.

Judas Iscariot is certainly one of the most enigmatic figures of history. Yes, the Bible teaches, Calvary was foreordained by God. Yes, Judas' betrayal of Jesus was also foreordained—hence it was prophesied well in advance in the Scripture on which we are focusing. Yet also, it is equally true to state that Judas was fully 'free' and wholly responsible for what he did. Jesus said: 'The Son of Man goes as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born' (Matthew 26:24). Judas himself, before he committed suicide, obviously felt pangs of personal guilt and remorse, for he confessed 'I have sinned in betraying innocent blood' (Matthew 27:4).

Whilst we are unable to reconcile the divine sovereignty and human responsibility that is taught in the Bible, we can still bow before a God Who is unable to sin. The God of the Bible is omniscient, omnipotent, thrice holy, all righteous, all loving, all wise and all good.

The Sympathy of the Saviour

The Lord Jesus Christ then was betrayed by his bosom friend in whom He trusted. Of the thousands who followed Jesus, with varying degrees of commitment, the Scriptures record that He chose twelve men to be His special, intimate followers and disciples. And He appointed twelve, to be with Him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons (Mark 3:14,15). Mark next enumerates the list of twelve. Last on the list he puts Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him (Mark 3:19). John's Gospel also revealingly contains these unsettling verses: Jesus answered them, 'Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?' He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was to betray Him (John 6:70,71).

Consider carefully that the twelve men whom Jesus chose lived with Him at close quarters for three whole years. They all ate together, learned together, worked together, suffered together, went to weddings and funerals together and worshipped in the same synagogue together. They got to know each other's autobiographies well, and both banded and bonded together. Humanly speaking then—and our Saviour was human as well as divine—Jesus' betrayal by a close friend whom He knew so well, must have come as a very painful blow to Him. John says He was troubled in spirit, and testified, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me' (John 13:21). (The verb 'troubled' here means 'disturbed, upset, terrified.')

Psychologically, betrayal by a friend is more hurtful than the hostility of an enemy. In all of this, we do well to recall the Saviour's full humanity. From all of this we can say 'He walked where we walk.' The Saviour is no stranger to pain, be it physical, psychological or spiritual. When we too experience the darker, more perplexing sides of God's providence, we will do well to recall our Saviour's sympathetic humanity. Jesus wept (John 11:35). For we have not a high priest Who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but One Who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:14).

The Last Supper: The Lord's Scriptures

Notice carefully that our verse specifically prophesies that he who ate of My bread, has lifted his heel against Me. That this Scripture was fulfilled down to the detail at the original Lord's Supper can only be explained by divine inspiration. In his account of the Lord's Supper, Mark relates in Mark 14:17 ff.

And when it was evening He came with the twelve. And as they were at table eating, Jesus said, 'Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me, one who is eating with Me'... He said to them, 'It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with Me.'

In the book Manners and Customs of the Bible, James Freeman elucidates the above custom most helpfully:

"The Orientals at their meals made no use of knives, forks or spoons. The animal food is so thoroughly cooked as to be easily separated by the fingers, and with the fingers the food of all kinds is mainly taken from the dish. When, however, the food is in a semi-fluid state, or so soft that the fingers cannot conveniently hold it, a piece of bread is dipped into the dish and made the vehicle by which soft food is conveyed to the mouth. (This bread is known variously as the 'sop' or 'morsel')." (p.402)

John's account of the intimate table fellowship which Judas Iscariot enjoyed with Jesus over the years is the most graphic of all. The atmosphere in the Upper Room though certainly changed when Jesus announced that one of them would turn traitor. The disciples anxiously wanted to know who this traitor could possibly be. Jesus answered 'It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it.' So when He had dipped the morsel, He gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him &ldots; so after receiving the morsel, he immediately went out, and it was night (John 13:26 ff.). So we return again to our text: Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted his heel against me (Psalm 41:9). The verse can easily be read in the light of Jesus giving the 'sop' or 'morsel' to Judas. Rev James Freeman again on the 'sop':

"It was customary for the host to give to such of his guests as he chose a 'sop' or thin piece of bread dipped into the food in the dish, and saturated with its fluid part...

"This verse (that is, John 13:26 re. Jesus giving Judas the sop) is of interest, since... it indicates the position of Judas at His feet. He must have been very near to Jesus since he was within reach of His hand. He was very probably next to Him; and since John lay to the right of the Saviour, Judas in all probability was at His left. If so, the Saviour must at times have laid His head on the traitor's breast; and thus the base treachery of Judas is seen in a most revolting aspect. While the Master was pillowing His head upon him, he was meditating on the chances of securing the blood-money for which he had contracted to betray his Lord!" (p.434/5)

The Betrayer

Judas was paid thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15) for eternally blotting his copybook. The Scriptures had prophesied it all. In Judas, we see the sin of man at its starkest. Yet, paradoxically, in Judas we see the grace of God at its greatest too. Why? Because in the providence of God, Judas' betrayal led to Jesus being condemned to the death of the cross, and Jesus' death on the cross wrought the eternal salvation of all who, acknowledging their hearts to be no less sinful than Judas', put their trust in the crucified Saviour for the eternal salvation of their souls. Such wonders of God's providence and redemption—and His providential redemption—are truly fuel for our heartfelt praise. Man's very worst wrought God's very best!

© Timothy Cross 2006 <>

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